Coulter and Republican hypocrisy

Romney, McCain, and Giuliani denounce Ann Coulter (after pausing, fingers to the wind, for 24 hours). Good.

1. Ann Coulter is a bigot. No surprise there, of course.

2. She’s still a headliner at the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual meeting, having referred to Arabs as “ragheads” at last year’s get-together and made the same gay-baiting reference to Al Gore previously that she made to Edwards on Friday.

3. The CPAC crowd loved it. (Michelle Malkin heard only “a smattering of applause,” but watch the video and judge for yourself. What I hear is a gasp of surprise, then a storm of laughter and cheers. Not a single boo or hiss is audible.)

4. “Moderate” Republicans understand that they can’t get a GOP Presidential nomination without pandering to the CPAC crowd.

5. Mitt Romney, who gave Coulter a friendly mention in his own CPAC speech, which immediately preceded hers, and whom Coulter more or less endorsed, couldn’t be found for comment after her speech. Twenty-four hours later, after noticing that no one was coming to Coulter’s defense, that respectable conservatives were denouncing Coulter furiously, and that the liberal blogs weren’t going to allow the mass media to continue to ignore what she’d said, Romney denounced her remarks. McCain (who skipped the affair) and Giuliani did the same, again having waited for a day with their fingers to the wind.

The civility policemen who drew nasty conclusions about the morals of liberals from a few boos directed at Republican politicians who had slandered the living Paul Wellstone at Wellstone’s memorial service are invited to draw similar conclusions about the morals of the right: not from Coulter’s remarks, but from the reaction to them by the CPAC crowd.

The rest of us should rejoice that Romney, Giuliani, and McCain decided they had to distance themselves from Coulter. Were they sincere in doing so? Their delay makes me wonder. But in this case, as in most cases, hypocrisy is better than shamelessness. It’s when vice thinks it can avoid paying tribute to virtue that we really have to worry. Coulter’s gaffe, and the reaction, may have finally put “faggot” jokes beyond the pale.


Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: