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Saturday 11 February 2012

The True Face Of Conservatism

The modern conservative movement in the USA comes together each year at the Conservative Political Action Conference, generally known as CPAC. Among those most prominent in CPAC’s organisation is the Young America’s Foundation (YAF), in whose image the Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF) in the UK was formed. We’ve looked at the YBF recently (HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE).

CPAC happens every year in Washington, DC, and the 2012 event has been held this past week. For GOP Presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, attending and speaking was obligatory. For pundits like the increasingly scary looking Ann Coulter, it was a necessary way of maintaining their profile among those on the right. And kicking Barack Obama was de rigueur.

But the Prez was not the only public figure on the receiving end of right-wing ire, as was demonstrated by Cal Thomas, a pundit on Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse), who was speaking at a panel debate on contraception, and the latest ruling by the current administration. After a video of the previous Sunday’s Meet The Press was played, there was hissing and booing from the crowd.

This was because the show had featured a contribution from top rating MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who is hated by the right not merely for being liberal and gay, but also articulate and popular. Thomas, to significant applause, responded that Maddow was the “best argument in favour of her parents using contraception”. The moderator, from the Heritage Foundation, was not unhappy to hear this news.

This unpleasant and gratuitous smear allowed the debate to bodyswerve Maddow’s point, which was that the GOP was “waging war on contraception”, and apparently taking a position in opposition to the one many of them took as recently as 2001. Instead, Thomas’ remark took centre stage, with Fox host Greta van Susteren calling for him to personally and publicly apologise.

Meanwhile, Maddow turned Thomas’ remarks back on him: “Mr. Fox News person speaking there, I am sorry that you feel that way about me that you wish I had never been born. Personally, I'm glad that you were born. Otherwise how would Republicans get the special Fox News bat signal that it's time to be outraged now, about what used to be Republicans' own policy idea?

Fortunately, Thomas saw sense and called Maddow to apologise, as she confirmed at the end of her Friday show. This is to be welcomed unreservedly. But the joy on the face of the moderator from the Heritage Foundation – a group that boycotted CPAC last year over the presence of LGBT Republican group GOProud – along with all the enthusiastic applause, had let the world see the reality.

And that reality was the baying, intolerant nastiness that is modern Conservatism.

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