As I settled in my seat for an afternoon of speeches at the College Republican National Convention, I felt something crunch. It was an empty can of Busch Light, one of many strewn across the paisley-carpeted floor of the banquet hall in northern Virginia’s Crystal City Gateway Marriott. All around me sat the Republican Party’s future leaders: fresh-faced, nondescript white guys in blue suits, and slender blond girls in miniskirts and snug-fitting blazers, some with halter tops underneath. Later, these conservative cadres would vote for the next chairman of the College Republican National Committee (CRNC). It was the closest race since 1973, when a bespectacled boy genius named Karl Rove was elected.
On June 24 conventiongoers were treated to speeches from conservative stars like House majority leader Tom DeLay; antitax zealot Grover Norquist, who called Senator John McCain a “nut job” for compromising on Bush’s judge picks; and black right-winger Jesse Lee Peterson, who announced that “most black people–not all, but most–can’t think for themselves.” The high point of the day, however, belonged to the movement’s favorite red-diaper baby, David Horowitz. Horowitz reminded his fawning audience that he could “be sitting at home in the coastal mountains of California, watching horses and rabbits run across my neighbor’s yard.” Instead he chose to appear for free before a bunch of College Republicans because, as he told them, “The future of the free peoples of the world depends on the Republican Party–and ultimately it depends on you.”
In the past year, Horowitz has barnstormed universities across the country, organizing smear campaigns against leftist professors, advising conservative students on tactics to harass their perceived opponents and all the while raking in massive lecture fees. At the College Republicans’ convention, Horowitz harped on his time-tested theme: “Universities are a base of the left. Universities are a base for terrorism.”
To prove his point, Horowitz singled out Sami Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor on trial for allegedly funneling money to Palestinian terror groups through his now-defunct think tank. Horowitz neglected to mention that Norquist, the College Republicans’ former executive director and a speaker earlier that morning, funded Al-Arian’s think tank through his own Islamic Institute, which he founded with seed money from Qatar, Kuwait and other Middle Eastern sources, including a self-described supporter of Hezbollah, Abdurahman Almoudi. Horowitz was also mum about Al-Arian’s private June 2001 briefing with Karl Rove, who last week accused liberals of wanting “to offer therapy and understanding” for the 9/11 attackers. Nor did Horowitz mention the photo-op that candidate George W. Bush posed for with Al-Arian during the 2000 campaign. Nor did he note that Al-Arian boasted that he helped win the state of Florida for Bush by pulling its 90,000 Muslim votes into the Republican column.
But these facts were beside the point. Indeed, Horowitz’s campus crusade has little to do with fighting actual terrorism. If his work has produced any results at all, they are manifested not in the waning influence of terror lovers on campus–whoever they are–but in the acute sense of mission that drives today’s young conservatives. By Horowitz’s logic, College Republicans fight terrorism when they respond to professors who compare conservatives to Nazis by staging sit-ins in their offices, which he advised conventiongoers to do. And they are beating back the Iraqi insurgency when they demand that their university budget more money toward bringing conservative speakers (like Horowitz) to campus, which he also advised them to do. This equation holds a special appeal among College Republicans who are loath to risk their lives on the battlefield but don’t want to feel that they are missing the action either.