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ISSUE 118 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/22/2005

Pushing buttons: Coulter’s speech provokes liberals

By Emelie Heltsley
News Editor

Friday, April 22, 2005

Conservative columnist, author and lawyer Ann Coulter spoke Sunday evening to students, faculty and guests in a packed Boe Chapel. Despite controversy surrounding Coulter's visit, the lack of air conditioning and tight security, over 1,000 people showed up for the talk.

"I don’t think I've ever seen Boe this full," Political Awareness Committee [PAC] coordinator Brandon Crase '05 said before introducing Coulter.

In her speech, "Liberalism and Terrorism: Different Stages of the Same Disease," Coulter listed what she considers to be problematic about the Democrat Party, beginning by saying, "Liberals have reason to be afraid."

She addressed her association of liberalism with terrorism, asking the audience, "Why can't you make generalizations? We make them every day." She said that playing in traffic is "generally" bad and that one "generally" goes to the bathroom when the need arises. In that same fashion, Coulter said, "Democrats are [generally] more likely to be this nation's enemy."

Throughout her speech, Coulter criticized Democrats, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter.

"Ted Kennedy is going down, and he's taking the party with him," she said.

After mentioning Dean's appointment to chair of the Democratic National Convention and receiving much audience applause, Coulter said that Democrats will "never see the White House again."

Coulter moved from chastising Democratic figures to criticizing the ideology of the party, focusing on the pro-choice stance and anti-war arguments. She chastised liberals for allowing 14 year-old girls to get abortions without parental notification and denounced complaints from liberals about funding for the war while troops fight overseas.

When audience members yelled obscenities during Coulter's speech or loudly booed a statement, she was never without a quick comeback.

"Well that was a clever retort," she said after one instance. "You liberals really are smart."

Coulter moved on to the war in Iraq, calling it a "magnificent success.” She reminded the audience that the national elections in January, the first legitimate Iraqi elections in 40 years, and added liberals are mad because democracy is breaking out everywhere.

While discussing the media's coverage of the Iraqi elections, Coulter said, "more Iraqis had hope for the future than liberals."

In her closing statement, Coulter stressed the need for conservative responses to liberals. "They've hit us and now we have to hit back – hard."

After her 30-minute speech, Coulter entertained questions from the audience, during which time students aggressively questioned Coulter and she responded with equally aggressive answers.

After one student asked for a definition of a "liberal," Coulter said, "Everyone knows what a liberal is," and called the student a liberal. When another student in the audience yelled, "I'm leaving," Coulter responded, "Yes, that definitely is a liberal."

Another audience member asked if Coulter could honestly consider herself an open-minded person, to which Coulter said, "I've learned how to sit through lectures without yelling and cat-calling."

Several students accused Coulter of picking a fight and asked why she speaks in public. "I'm just speaking. I wouldn't call it picking a fight," Coulter said. "I want to change the country and the world, and I think it's working."

One audience member brought up the genocide in Darfur and asked if the United States should send troops. Coulter argued that the United States should not send troops, saying that it "does not serve the national security interests of the U.S." She mentioned how liberals approved of Clinton's decision to send troops to the Balkans, disapproved of Bush's decision to send troops to Iraq and want troops to be sent to Darfur. Coulter stressed the security interests of the United States "We are not the world's policeman," Coulter said.

In a personal interview, Coulter expressed her pleasure in speaking to college students. "I meet the brightest students, the rebels, the kids who wake up in the morning thinking, 'What can we do to annoy liberals today?'" Coulter said. “Most often it is inviting me to speak at their school.”

Both Crase and Dean of Students Greg Kneser received a flood of feedback after Coulter's visit. Crase called his e-mail in-box "busier than usual" and Kneser received "a large number of requests to 'do something.'"

Kneser sent an e-mail to the student body Monday morning, in which he encouraged the St. Olaf community to "engage in thoughtful discourse," confident that St. Olaf would "find its way through controversies like this much better than the rest of the world."

Crase and his PAC committee decided that they would like to have a Conservative speaker as the last PAC event of the year, and many people suggested Ann Coulter. The committee thought that Coulter's viewpoints would be worthwhile to hear and her speech would bring an exciting end to the year.

He also said that controversial speakers like Coulter put PAC in a tough spot. On one hand, his committee wants to get popular speakers and engage more of the student body in political activities, but students often criticize the "popular" speakers (and PAC for hosting them) for not being "intellectual" enough.

However, fewer students attend the "intellectual" speakers. Crase mentioned previous guests like Michael McConnell, who drew an audience of under 100 and the debate between David Corn, editor of The Nation and Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, which drew around 300 – both relatively small audiences for the supposedly high demand for "intellectual" events.

Student response to Coulter's speech "says something about what people want," Crase said.

Crase does not see Coulter's speech as a call for heightened censorship of future PAC speakers. "We're not supposed to bring in some homogenous guy who says things that everyone agrees with," Crase said.

The controversial ideas in Coulter's speech were not unexpected for Crase, though the level of student response before, during and after the event was something he had never seen before.

"A large portion of the country agrees with her," Crase said. "She's not just some crazy lady."

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