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Thursday | February 06, 2003

Cheney's endorsement of "great ideas"

Last week I wrote about Cheney's speech at the annual CPAC gathering, arguing that by his presence, the VP was endorsing all sorts of heinous right-wing causes. (Much as the Right has used ANSWER's sponsorship of anti-war rallies to imply that protesters are lending legitimacy to that organization's hard-left views.)

Well, thanks to Salon we have an inside view of the conference, and it wasn't pretty. (Subscription required. I'll excerpt liberally.)

First of all, we can quickly address the "giving legitimacy" issue -- Cheney said so outright:

CPAC has consistently championed those ideas that make America great.
So who are the devotees of this organization, whose ideas make America great?

Lou Sheldon. Noted anti-gay activist and all-around nasty person.

Rev. Lou Sheldon, the founder of the Traditional Values Coalition and sworn enemy of homosexuality, put it best. Asked if Bush was in sync with his agenda, he replied, "George Bush is our agenda!"

But Sheldon, a plump, pink man with pale blue eyes, wasn't out celebrating the Bush presidency. Instead, the man who has pledged "open warfare" against all things gay, stood in the exhibitors hall before a makeshift carnival game called "Tip a Troll," in which players were invited to throw gray beanbags at toy trolls with the heads of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Hillary Clinton and Tom Daschle, or trolls holding signs saying, "The Homosexual Agenda," "Roe V. Wade" and "The Liberal Media."

Ahh. Hurtful bigotry against homosexuals. Violence against Hillary and Daschle. Ideological intolerance. Those must be some of the ideas that "make America great".

The Free Republic: these guys are ground zero of the VRWC on the web, and apparently full of "ideas that make America great".

Tim Weigel, who was manning the Free Republic booth, described compassionate conservative initiatives like Bush's plan to address AIDS in Africa as, "throwaways, put out there to keep the left quiet while he takes care of Iraq." Behind him hung a picture of Hillary Clinton's head Photoshopped onto the body of a pig.
So AIDS in Africa is a "throwaway". Check. And Hillary's head on a pig. Got it. At the Wellstone Memorial, the Right freaked out when the crowd booed Trent Lott (boy, does that seem appropriate in hindsight!), but Hillary's head on a pig? That's just another day in the land of "ideas that make America great".

Religious Fundies: The Christian Coalition has been on a gradual death spiral for years, but there are plenty of other fundamentalists ready to take up arms.

In the exhibitors' hall, Freedom Village USA, an upstate New York-based Christian drug-treatment center hoping to get federal money under Bush's faith-based initiative showed just what faith-based drug treatment really means. "Other programs teach you relief," said Robert A. Neu, assistant to Freedom Village president Fletcher A. Brothers. "Freedom Village offers a cure. It's a one-step program of getting on your knees and accepting Jesus Christ." Neu claims a 75 to 80 percent success rate, which he says measures the number of Freedom Villagers who have become born-again Christians.
Wow. Yet another "idea that makes America great" -- a drug treatment center that measures progress not by curing drug addiction, but by religious conversions.

Of course, the conference had Ann Coulter raging on us treasonous Democrats, and how we violated "every single one of the Ten Commandments". Definitely "ideas that make America great". And Tom DeLay, and Mitch McConnel, and other GOP VIPs were all in attendance cheering this gaggle on. And though Cheney's people asked the show organizers to stop selling anti-Muslim paraphanelia, such items still sold briskly (though under the counter, not in full display).

But it was not all fire and brimstone at the conference. There were actual moments of light-hearted joking:

At a Thursday seminar titled "2002 and Beyond: Are Liberals an Endangered Species?" Paul Rodriguez, managing editor of the conservative magazine Insight, warned that the liberal beast wouldn't be vanquished until conservatives learn to be merciless. "One thing Democrats have long known how to do is play hardball," he intoned, urging Republicans to adopt more "bare-knuckle" tactics. The next day, Frank Gaffney, assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, told a rapt crowd about the "well-financed media campaign against the Bush White House."
Ha ha ha! Say what you will, but those CPAC crazies do have a sense of humor!

In any case, my original point still stands -- this gaggle of conservative attendees reveled in the muck of their hate and spite -- all cheered on by the leading lights of the GOP establishment. And what can be more legitimizing than the presence of a vice president who not only honors CPAC with a keynote speech, but also tells them their ideas "make America great"?

(Thanks to reader DB for alerting me of this article.)

Posted February 06, 2003 09:31 AM | Comments (92)


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