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Close Encounters with the Conservative Kind

Need a Hillary bobblehead? A discourse on the fallacy of global warming? Come on down to the Conservative Political Action Conference.

| Mon Feb. 11, 2008 4:00 AM EST
Day two started with President Bush's address to the conference at 7:15 am. Doors opened at 5 a.m., and attendees stumbled into the ballroom bleary-eyed but excited. At the front of the room, a young man named Dayton sat next to a row of sleeping college students. I asked him how early he and his friends had gotten in line. "Oh, about 3 a.m.," he said cheerfully. "A lot of people just stayed up."

During his speech, the president ticked off his accomplishments, but concluded by insisting that he isn't concerned with his legacy because "history's verdict takes time to reveal itself." Bush's speech, like Cheney's, received chants of "Four more years!"

"I think President Bush has been a superb president, probably the best in history," Frances Rice, chairman of the National Black Republican Association, told me afterward, when I asked her whether she would prefer another Bush term to a potential McCain administration. "I have not been a supporter of John McCain, but if he is our nominee I will definitely support him."

Another attendee told me, in reference to McCain, that the worst Republican is better than the best Democrat.

Later, I wandered into the CPAC exhibition hall, a good place to take the pulse of the CPAC crowd. It is the only space in the convention not stage-managed by the event's media-savvy organizers. There, attendees could purchase every book ever written by Ayn Rand and Ann Coulter, or, if they were in the mood for less weighty fare, the Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam. They could buy a Hillary Clinton bobblehead, featuring Hillary's face mounted on donkey's body, or bumper stickers that said, "Press 1 for English, Press 2 for Deportation" and "KFC Hillary Special: 2 Fat Thighs, 2 Small Breasts, Left Wing." There was also a t-shirt that read, "I'd rather be waterboarded than vote for John McCain."

A booth staffed by a friendly young man working for an anti-abortion group called the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, offered a flyer entitled "10 Reasons Why Abortion is Wrong." Number nine: "Addressing an abortionist. Once you were an enchanting child, as all babies are. Today you are an abortionist, a killer of babies. Do you not regret your wicked deeds? Do you not see the innocent blood of our children that stains your hands and cries out to God?" And an organization called America's Majority offered literature aimed at college students giving tips on how to "Defeat Radical Islam on YOUR Campus."

Unlike the speaking venues, which were crawling with reporters, the exhibition hall was primarily filled with conference attendees from around the country. I asked John Curry from Virginia for his take on the Democratic candidates. "Hillary is just a criminal, that's all," he said. "A criminal. She just wants to get back in the White House so she can steal the rest of the furnishings."

What about Obama? "I think if Obama becomes the obvious frontrunner, he will meet with a horrible accident like the other people that have perished because of the Clinton's animosity towards him. He'll be offed," he said. He paused. "Also, he doesn't have the experience to run this country."

During a 15-minute conversation, during which Curry managed to use the words "pakis," "japs," and "sandniggers," he delivered a lengthy discourse on the fallacy of global warming, blaming climate change on ice age cycles, sun spot activity, and the currents of the Artic Ocean reversing directions.

On a television screen nearby, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton was wrapping up a foreign policy presentation, claiming that the administration has proof that North Korea is assisting Syria with a nuclear program. (For evidence to the contrary, read Seymour Hersh's latest piece in the New Yorker.)

Next on the conference agenda was a panel discussion on the "Future of the Life Debate," headlined by Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America; Nigel Cameron, president of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future; and Representatives Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.). Wright spoke first, claiming that the world is awash in contraceptives—and that global family planning efforts are hopelessly ineffective because people in Third World countries are simply not using them. In the Philippines, she said, there are so many birth control pills that people use them to fertilize their orchids; in India, people use their extra condoms to waterproof roofs. She also suggested that Roe v. Wade "demands" sex selection abortion.

Cameron, speaking on how new technologies challenge the "culture of life," told the audience that scientific advancements giving people more information about their unborn children will create a "new eugenics," that will grade people on a number of different criteria, including intelligence and physical fitness. He also made references to potential technological developments that currently exist only in science fiction novels, such as blurring the human/animal line and downloading the human consciousness onto a computer hard drive. After Cameron's presentation, Trent Franks' remarks comparing abortion to the Holocaust and to slavery seemed relatively mild.

Later that day, Ann Coulter, who'd previously pledged to throw her support behind Hillary Clinton if McCain became the Republican nominee, told a room full of college students that Barack Obama's only notable achievement was "being born half-black" and that John McCain's greatest accomplishment was getting captured by the Vietnamese. "I know plenty of Republican POWs," she said. "We're not going to make them all president." Coulter got a huge round of applause when she advocated torturing terrorists. Afterward, I asked a young attendee named Katie about the "I want Ann Coulter" sticker she was wearing. "I love Ann Coulter," she said. "I think she's a role model for young women."

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