It?s official: The United Nations has become the right?s other red meat.
At the 33rd annual Conservative Political Action Conference?the largest annual gathering of conservatives, which took place last month?the UN garnered more passion, more intensity, and more stage time than any other was an issue. Two years ago, it was barely a blip.
Because of its unique mix of heavy-hitter beltway insiders, rank-and-file activists from around the country, and highly motivated college students, CPAC is the best leading indicator of where the conservative movement is headed. And that means the United Nations had better brace itself.
On the first of the conference?s three days, the final three sessions on the afternoon schedule all specifically took aim at the UN. First up was Wayne LaPierre, Executive Director of the National Rifle Association, who railed against the body?s attempted international gun grab. The anti-UN panel that followed inherited a wildly revved-up crowd, and the UN-bashing block was completed by Dore Gold, who talked in detail about Kofi Annan?s complicity in the genocide in Rwanda.
Slogans such as ?US out of the UN? have been around a while, and back in the 90?s, many conservatives supported the efforts of Sen. Jesse Helms to withhold back dues to the body. But the UN was only truly important to a small fringe. Most conservatives frankly didn?t care that much.
Such disinterest was in part a reflection of the ambivalence most Americans felt toward foreign policy, but even a year after 9/11, anti-UN sentiment on the right was still modest, at most. Even at the 2003 CPAC?held on the eve of the Iraq war?most of the anger was directed at France and Germany for their obstructionism.
What seems to have turned the tide is the oil-for-food scandal. Though largely ignored by the mainstream media?despite appearing to be the largest accounting scam and outright theft in recorded history?oil-for-food has finally gotten conservatives to consider the UN as one of the most important issues, behind taxes, spending, and guns.
And now that oil-for-food has put the UN firmly in conservatives? crosshairs, all its other transgressions have become fair game as well.
Discussed on the main stage were the UN?s aggressive pursuit of international criminal courts, the body?s efforts to rid the world of all handguns, the Law of the Sea treaty, its inability to distinguish morally between democracies and tyrannies, and of course, the oil-for-food scandal.
Particularly irking to CPAC attendees, though, was that the UN commits its abuses with the financial assistance of U.S. taxpayers, who pay for nearly one-fourth of the body?s bloated budget. Conservatives would love to shrink the UN?s massive bureaucracy, but for now, they?re just grateful to the man seen as responsible for hitting the UN head-on.
Receiving the prestigious Defender of the Constitution award?which was presented following Vice President Dick Cheney?s keynote address?was Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) for his valiant efforts as chairman of a special Senate panel investigating oil-for-food. Not bad for a guy who two years ago was unknown to those outside the Twin Cities.
Sen. Coleman?s star likely will rise even further as more and more salacious details regarding the oil-for-food scandal?including one involving Kofi?s son Kojo receiving kickbacks that is forthcoming?come out. No doubt these should-be headlines will be relegated mostly to blogs and talk radio, but that will not mean less glory among conservatives for the junior Senator from Minnesota.
The brighter spotlight on the UN is already resulting in concrete action. A coalition of more than a dozen conservative groups sought to exploit the anti-UN momentum generated by CPAC, holding a press conference on Friday, the event?s second day, announcing firm opposition to the Law of the Sea Treaty.
The treaty, which has re-emerged after more than 20 years in the wilderness, would globalize the world?s oceans, giving the UN powers of regulation and taxation. Instead of being opposed primarily on grounds that it would infringe on U.S. sovereignty?as Reagan did in killing it back in 1982?the new coalition is resting its case on what is glaringly obvious after oil-for-food: the UN can?t be trusted to manage anything, let alone the oceans.
Despite enjoying the support of many Republicans?including its primary sponsor, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?the Law of the Sea Treaty looks headed for choppy waters.
If the treaty doesn?t get ratified?and its prospects aren?t bright?then the finger should be pointed in one direction: the right?s reinvigorated contempt for the UN.