Conservatives should cringe over Coulter


BY LEONARD PITTS JR.
lpitts@MiamiHerald.com
Posted on Mon, Jun. 12, 2006

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/living/columnists/leonard_pitts/14796761.htm

Apparently, it's news that Ann Coulter is a nasty
piece of work.

I had rather thought that was the attraction, at least
for those people who find her attractive. So forgive
me for being mildly mystified by last week's headlines
about her most recent spasm of trash mouth, i.e., her
attack on four women who lost their husbands in the
Sept. 11 attacks. But then, the attack is vicious even
by Coulter's standards: In her latest book, whose
title you won't read here, she savages the widows as
''self-obsessed'' and ``witches.''

''These broads are millionaires,'' she writes,
'lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling
in their status as celebrities and stalked by
grief-arazzis. I've never seen people enjoying their
husbands' deaths so much.''

Evidently, the widow's sins are that they pushed for
an independent commission to investigate 9/11
intelligence failures, they are critical of the Bush
administration, and they endorsed John Kerry for
president.

The nerve of them.

Coulter's tirade has drawn bipartisan condemnation --
New York Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton called it
''vicious,'' while the state's Republican governor,
George Pataki, declared Coulter ''far worse than
insensitive'' -- but c'mon. This is all part of the
shtick for this chick. I mean, we're talking about the
woman who said Timothy McVeigh's only mistake was in
not blowing up The New York Times building and that we
should invade Muslim countries, kill their leaders and
convert the people to Christianity.

EASY TO DO

Frankly, it's easy to do what Coulter does. Just say
the most outrageous thing in the most inflammatory
way. Just give moral and mental cover to that
small-minded, anti-intellectual strain of the
electorate which recoils like Superman in the face of
Kryptonite from complexity and incertitude. And when
people call you on it, just wrap yourself in the flag
and declare yourself a straight-shootin' conservative
under siege by that mean ol' liberal media.

It plays like gangbusters in Peoria. And never mind
that it's a brazen lie.

Meaning that Ann Coulter is not reviled because she is
conservative. Some of the best and most respected
pundits in the country are conservative: George F.
Will, Kathleen Parker and Charles Krauthammer, to name
just three.

They offer smart, snarky, cogent analyses of world and
national events and if you disagree with them, as I
not infrequently do, you will be required to do some
mental heavy lifting to dismantle their arguments.
They challenge you.

SHE IS MEAN

No, Coulter is reviled because she is mean, malicious,
the barbed-wire frontwoman for a cabal of bloviators,
bully boys, and blowhards (Rush Limbaugh, Bill
O'Reilly, Michael Savage and too many others) who are
pleased to regard themselves as the guardians of
conservatism's soul.

Conservatism's soul should sue for slander.

But again, it plays in Peoria. And why not? It is
loud, simple, stupid. Not unlike The Jerry Springer
Show.

The nation's political discourse has never been as
polite and decorous as we like to think. Abraham
Lincoln's political foes called him a baboon; Lyndon
Johnson once said that Gerald Ford played too much
football without a helmet.

LINES CROSSED

When, however, even widows (and orphans?) become fair
game for a viperous harridan with an ax to grind and
books to sell, maybe decent people should wonder at
the lines we have crossed and the type of nation we
have become in the process.

Coulter's victims, by the way, felt compelled to
release a statement. It said in part: ``Contrary to
Ms. Coulter's statements, there was no joy in watching
men that we loved burn alive. There was no happiness
in telling our children that their fathers were never
coming home again.''

In a better nation, that would go without saying.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Deadly Intent: Ann Coulter, Word Warrior
Published: June 12, 2006

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/12/business/media/12carr.html

ONCE again, Ann Coulter has a book in need of
flogging, and once again, people are stunned by what a
"vicious," "mean-spirited," "despicable" "hate-monger"
they say she is.

Ms. Coulter, who seems afflicted by a kind of
rhetorical compulsion, most recently labeled the
widows of 9/11 "harpies." It is just one in a series
from a spoken-word hit parade that seems to fly out of
her mouth uninterrupted by conscience, rectitude or
logic.

But Ann Coulter knows precisely what she is saying.
Her current book, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism,"
is heading to the best-seller lists in part because
she has a significant constituency and in part because
no other author in American publishing is better at
weaponizing words. With five books and more than a
million copies in hardcover sales, she plays to win
and is happy to take hostages along the way, including
the women she calls "The Witches of East Brunswick."

"These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in
articles about them, reveling in their status as
celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis. I have never
seen people enjoying their husband's death so much."
That typical Coulter sortie was hardly a misstep on
some overamped talk show. That doozy of a sentence was
written, edited, lawyered and then published. By now,
she, along with Crown Publishing, have come up with a
dexterous formula for kicking up the kind of fuss that
sells books. It looks something like this:

She did not come out of the gate with such ruthless
aplomb. As published at the height of the
Clinton-Lewinsky scandal in 1998, "High Crimes and
Misdemeanors" reflected her background as a lawyer and
was fairly scholarly, considering what came after it.
But once her lethally blond franchise became part of
public consciousness, or at least the lower stem of it
that feeds off cable talk, she quickly learned that
hyperbole is best sold by the ton.

She has since suggested wistfully that Timothy McVeigh
should have parked his truck in front of The New York
Times, joked that a Supreme Court justice should be
poisoned, and said that America should invade Muslim
countries and kill their leaders. And she recently
admitted that she is "no big fan" of the First
Amendment that allowed her to say all of that.

"She is so smart that none of it is by accident," said
Adrian Zackheim, the publisher of Portfolio, a
business imprint, and of Sentinel, a conservative
political imprint. "She knows that a few things she
says are bound to get attention. She just probably
doesn't know which one."

But once attention, negative or otherwise, turns
toward her, she is all knuckles and know-how. When
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested that her
attack on the widows was "vicious," Ms. Coulter went
casually nuclear, saying that the senator "should talk
to her husband, who was accused of rape by Juanita
Broaddrick."

The second-stage rollout  picking a fight with
Senator Clinton is a way, as they say in politics, to
"activate the base." Only the returns will be
financial, not political.

"Every single book she has done has become an instant
best-seller," said Bob Wietrak, a vice president for
merchandising at Barnes & Noble. "Her fan base is
phenomenal and she is in the media constantly. When
she is in the media, it creates more media coverage.
And every single day, the book sells more."

You get the idea. Wagging tongue, wagging fingers and
before you know it, soon enough you have hundreds of
hits on Google News for days to come (this column
among them).

And just when things threaten to slow down, Ms.
Coulter will saw into Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son
in Iraq, describing her as "a C-list celebrity
trolling for a book deal or a reality show," or accuse
a disabled Vietnam vet she was arguing with on a talk
show of being part of the reason the United States
lost the war there. Her attacks on the maimed or the
bereft engage the thermodynamics of the media
marketplace to send her to even loftier heights.

An explosive device is now baked into every book. For
"Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right
(333,000 in hardcover sales, according to Nielsen
Bookscan), she called Katie Couric "the affable Eva
Braun of morning TV." We all tuned in for the ensuing
cage match, in which Ms. Couric maintained both the
higher ground and the upper hand. (That interview came
to mind last week when Ms. Coulter, back on a
Couric-less "Today" program, treated Matt Lauer like a
cat toy.)

When she was pushing "Treason: Liberal Treachery From
the Cold War to the War on Terrorism," (almost 400,000
in sales), it was all about the misunderstood genius
and patriotism of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. In "How
to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must)", she let readers
in on the playbook: "You must outrage the enemy. If
you don't leave liberals in a sputtering impotent
rage, you're not doing it right." And her sales of
301,000 for what was basically a collection of columns
seem to indicate that she has mastered the form.

"Godless," which is already doing gangbuster business
according to the folks at Barnes & Noble, suggests
that liberalism "is the doctrine that prompts
otherwise seemingly sane people to propose teaching
children how to masturbate, allowing gays to marry,
releasing murderers from prison, and teaching children
that they share a common ancestor with the earthworm."

Does she believe any of this stuff? I doubt she even
knows. When I profiled Ms. Coulter a few years ago, I
never figured out the line between her art and her
artifice. She picked at her plate of lobster ravioli
before serving up Fred Flintstone-size slabs of red
meat. For the duration of the media opportunity, she
was playful and on point, other than fibbing about her
age, because she cares deeply about the franchise.

Her sincerity is beside the point as long as people
keep taking the bait. Mrs. Clinton, who is the perfect
foil for Ms. Coulter  ambitious, allergic to irony,
loathed by the people who will line up for "Godless" 
simply added fuel to a fire that she was presumably
trying to douse. All manner of televised talkfests,
including "Today," welcome Ms. Coulter's pirate
sensibilities back aboard whenever she has something
to peddle, in part because seeing hate-speech pop out
of a blonde who knows her way around a black cocktail
dress makes for compelling viewing.

Without the total package, Ms. Coulter would be just
one more nut living in Mom's basement. You can accuse
her of cynicism all you want, but the fact that she is
one of the leading political writers of our age says
something about the rest of us.








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