Yes, you read that right. Mickey Kaus — once one of those respected “even the liberal New Republic!”-type contrarian journalists, now reduced to blogging for one of America’s sleaziest right-wing websites — was a panelist at CPAC this weekend. To double the CPAC’ers pleasure, he appeared alongside the sweet-tempered and ever delightful Ann Coulter. Imagine the thrill!

Roy Edroso — who deserves combat pay for covering the conference in general and this panel in particular — was at the scene of the crime:

“I’m confident that the Supreme Court will pin back his [Obama’s] ears,” said Kaus. “That’s one thing lawyers are pretty good at.” Thus he became the first live liberal ever to receive applause at CPAC. He also said Obama was “untrustworthy on immigration,” and that amnesty was supported by Democrats because it was “craven ethnic pandering.”

Kaus did add that Reagan didn’t really cut the deficit, that Paul Krugman gives good investment advice, and… advocated means testing on Medicare! Bet you didn’t see that coming. Coulter said the Reagan deficits were Tip O’Neill’s fault, and made a crack about the “browning of America.” She did not believe these new brown Americans would pay for her social security and Medicare.

Roy has more, but reading about it makes my skin crawl.

Kaus’s downward spiral of mounting degradation is one possible journey for neoliberals, I suppose. Sometimes in life, you make one wrong decision, and then other, and another, and the next thing you know you’re doing a liberal minstrel act for the CPAC yahoos. For heaven’s sake, even Alan Colmes has more dignity.

Fortunately, other journeys are possible. These days, some people who once espoused Mickey Kaus-type neoliberalism are finding their way back to a more traditional style of liberalism. One of them is Nicholas Lemann, who’s written an interesting essay in the new issue of The Washington Monthly that reflects on the question of what, exactly, was neoliberalism, and why it didn’t work out the way many of its champions had hoped. Do check it out — it’s well worth a read.

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Kathleen Geier

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee