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Eleven years ago, Pamela Geller declared war on savages who were trying to take over the world. This November, she admits she lost.
Pamela Geller believes America is at war. Not a figurative one or an ideological one, but a literal one that calls for guns and missiles and planes and tanks and troops. One that has and will cause the deaths of innocents, of men, women, children, and, eventually, of nations.
She believes we are in a worldwide war between good and evil itself. She believes we are losing.
She believes, truly believes, that this evil—Islam—is upon our shores and that the time it takes for Islam to overrun what she calls the greatest country in the history of mankind can be measured not in decades or years but in months. She believes the re-election of President Barack Obama on November 6 has all but assured it.
Geller, 54, one of the most polarizing women in the country, is but a foot soldier in this war—a cog, but a large one that grows larger every day. When I meet her at an upscale coffee shop blocks away from her tony midtown apartment, she is in full combat gear.
"You're a kid!" she cries when I reach out to shake her hand. Her Long Island accent, thick from her childhood, is distracting from the start. I'm not a kid, but I decide it doesn't matter, because she's absolutely giddy. Geller's mouth is parted in a silent laugh, and she raises both of her hands like she doesn't know whether to hug me or touch my face. I feel like a baby Labrador. It's not a terrible feeling.
We buy coffee and take a table near the back of the shop.
There's a reason why Pamela Geller's name is almost invariably preceded by "The Beautiful" at her speaking events. Today, she's wearing a chic leather jacket over a form-fitting black turtleneck, and her trademark diamond-encrusted "Love" charm is hanging from a necklace. She's wearing loose curls, tawny locks falling over her shoulder. It's almost December, and even though she posts 10 to 15 times a day from home on her wildly successful blog, atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com, her golden skin is still sun-kissed, and her large light-brown eyes peer from behind impossible eyelashes that rest upon her sculpted cheekbones whenever she blinks or winks or bats her eyes at the kid 30 years her junior.
When she speaks, she does so passionately, leaning in and lowering her voice, then pushing back in her chair and pointing with both hands. She never breaks eye contact, even to take a sip from her lip-gloss-smudged coffee lid. When we agree on a point or I amuse her with a quip or turn of phrase, she applauds. She's charming, magnetic even. I decide I like her, and then I decide that I hope she likes me.
She's viewed by "leftists," as she calls her critics, as a monster, the animalistic id of the racist, paranoid right, a supremacist leader of arguably the most extreme wing in the Tea Party, who knowingly interacts with bigots and xenophobes. She's the face, literally, of the Southern Poverty Law Center's national anti-Muslim hate-group page. Of the six New York City anti-Muslim groups listed on the page, she founded three of them herself (Stop the Islamization of America, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, and her blog, Atlas Shrugs). Most recently, she has drawn ire for a series of public-transit ads she has run in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Most read: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."
Geller fights her war on two fronts. The first is against Islam itself, which she calls "the most radical and extreme ideology on the face of the earth." The second is against Barack Obama. Geller, a secular Jew, is a pro-choice, pro-marriage-equality Manhattanite raised by liberal parents. But when it comes to the president, Geller holds nothing back. She has devoted the past four years of her life to fighting his re-election, because the war is already here, and we've already lost if the most powerful man on the planet is, as she calls him, "an Islamophiliac": a lover of Islam.
She helped launch the birther movement before the president was even elected. And in a 2009 blog post, she wrote that Obama had slept with a crack whore and posted nude photos of Obama's mother, supposedly taken in 1960 by alleged black communist Frank Marshall Davis. They turned out to be fakes. Keith Olbermann has twice named her Worst Person in the World. In 2010, she led protests against the Islamic community center near Ground Zero and published a book with her openly anti-Muslim partner in crime, Robert Spencer, called The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War on America. She stops short of calling Obama a Muslim in public, though she tells me, "He clearly favors Islam."
Looking at her now, though, she doesn't seem like a monster. I know it's all for show, of course, her beauty and her charm. They're her main weapons in the war, along with her website, and how she has been able to navigate and thrive in the far-right, old-white-man-dominated world of the Tea Party and the American anti-Islam movement. When you're a symbol, appearances matter. And her very appearance, the fact that someone like her—a pretty, secular, socially liberal New Yorker—would be on the front lines of the war, adds credibility to the cause.