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John Avlon Rips 'Far Right' Social Conservatives Over CPAC on CNN.com

CNN contributor John Avlon took yet another shot at mainstream conservatives in a Wednesday column on CNN.com. Avlon blasted the "far right" Family Research Council and other conservative groups for their opposition to GOProud's sponsorship of CPAC, and accused conservatives of being on "the wrong side of history" with homosexuals, just as they supposedly were with the "last great civil right movement."

The Daily Beast columnist, a known Tea Party critic, took delight that the "gay rights movement...has finally reached the Republican Party" in his column, titled "Gay group in conservatives' gathering splits GOP." He continued by noting how "former first daughter Barbara Bush made news by announcing her support of gay marriage, joining the former GOP presidential nominee's daughter Meghan McCain. Last year, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman came out."

A few paragraphs later, Avlon began ripping the conservative groups that decided to boycott CPAC over the GOProud issue:

The far-right Family Research Council pulled out, soon joined by Concerned Women for America, the American Principles Project, American Values, the Capital Research Center, Center for Military Readiness, Liberty Counsel and Maggie Gallagher's National Organization for Marriage. Most surprising was the boycott by the influential Heritage Foundation, a think tank that traces its roots to the Reagan administration and professes belief in the principles of small government and individual freedom - unless, apparently, it extends to the participation of gays and lesbians in conservative conferences.

Actually, the CNN contributor erroneously included Capital Research Center in that list. It is still listed as a "participating organization" for CPAC 2011 (perhaps he meant the Media Research Center, the parent company of NewsBusters).

Avlon then took the predictable route in all but saying that these groups had strayed from Ronald Reagan's example, a tactic he had earlier used against the Tea Party:

The American Conservative Union - the organizers of CPAC - has "gone libertarian, that's their focus," Mat Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, told the far-right website WorldNetDaily. "Libertarianism is right on the economy, often wrong on national defense, and doesn't care about social conservatism. Libertarians only respect one leg of the Reagan revolution, and you can't stand for long on one leg." The reference to Reagan is ironic and deserves closer scrutiny. In the 1970s, Ronald Reagan courageously campaigned against Prop 6, a ballot measure backed by social conservatives like Anita Bryant that would have blocked gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. Reagan did this despite planning a run for president as the candidate of conservatives - he was consistent. Self-styled small-government Tea-Party conservatives like Sen. Jim DeMint - who opposes allowing gays to teach in public schools and is boycotting CPAC this year - should take notes.


The CNN contributor, who is listed a "founding leader" of the supposedly centrist "No Labels" organization, then adopted one of the left's oft-used talking points against conservatives:

Conservatives - not all Republicans, but conservatives - got the last great civil rights movement wrong. They were on the wrong side of history. Some seem to be determined to make the same mistake again.

But other conservatives deserve great credit for standing up in favor of GOProud's right to participate in CPAC this year. Conservative figures like Mary Matalin, Andrew Breitbart and Grover Norquist - and especially American Conservative Union president David Keene - are consistent in their support for small government and individual freedom by standing with GOProud on its board. (Full disclosure: My wife, Margaret Hoover, also serves on the GOProud board.)

It's interesting, to say the least, that it took Avlon 10 paragraphs to mention this personal connection to the GOProud controversy. He then accused his conservative targets of hypocrisy for objecting to the homosexual group, but not to the John Birch Society:

It's telling that last year's co-sponsorship of CPAC by the John Birch Society was considered noncontroversial by conservative groups that are pulling out over GOProud's participation this year.

The John Birch Society, among with other fright-wing conspiracy theories it espoused, declared former President Dwight Eisenhower a "dedicated, conscious agent of the communist conspiracy." Members have not moderated their views much over the ensuing decades.

William F. Buckley had the decency to kick the John Birch Society out of the conservative movement in the early 1960s by recognizing that its crackpot views diminished the integrity of the rest of the movement. But lately, conservatives are reluctant to condemn the absurd right; they seem to be afraid that the fringe is blurring with the base. This lack of courage only empowers the extremes.

What is the Daily Beast writer getting at here? The John Birch Society is still a "participating organization" this year, and even though he cited how Buckley had the "decency" to kick them out of the movement, Avlon didn't take CPAC to task for letting them return.

In addition to this, the CNN contributor has a selective memory over the Birch controversy, as more than a few conservatives did criticize their appearance last year, including Tea Party backer Mark Levin and fellow CNN contributor Erick Erickson.

After devoting three paragraphs to replicating the talking points of his wife's colleague on the GOProud board, Chris Barron, Avlon sounded downright liberal as he used many of the left's favorite catch phrases to close his column, and repeated his earlier point that too many conservatives are on the "wrong side of history" in their opposition to the radical agenda of the homosexual lobby:

Whether you're conservative, liberal or centrist Democrat, Republican or independent - gay or straight - you should welcome open debate and cheer people who defend the pluralism that is the basis of civil society. You should applaud those who have the courage to challenge stereotypes and defend diversity of thought. The founders and organizers of CPAC deserve credit for allowing GOProud to co-sponsor its event in the face of so much criticism. Here's what's certain: Opposition to a gay group's participation in a conservative conference will look as bad in the eyes of history as those who resisted the last great civil rights movement. We evolve to form a more perfect union.

Avlon should stop pretending he's part of a "no labels" movement. He's a liberal who occasionally makes noises about lowering taxes.

- Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.