Blaming of the Shrew
By Richard Cohen
Thursday, August 15, 2002; Page A25
May I say something about Ann Coulter? She is a half-wit, a termagant, a dimwit, a blowhard, a worthless silicone nothing, physically ugly and could be likened to Eva Braun, who was Hitler's mistress. As it happens, these are all descriptions or characterizations Coulter uses for others in her book, "Slander." It ought to be called "Mirror."
The book is now the No. 1 bestseller in the nation. If I were writing this column as she has written the book, everything I wrote above would be footnoted. For instance, the deft Eva Braun crack was aimed at Katie Couric. Coulter calls the "Today" host "the affable Eva Braun of morning TV." You can, as they say, look it up (p. 181).
In fact, you can look up almost anything you want in this book. It has 780 footnotes and makes frequent references to LexisNexis, the computerized research service. The effect is to give the book a scholarly air, but the method is to cast as wide a net as possible for every idiotic remark made by anyone -- and I do mean anyone -- on the left or who happens to be pro-choice or, worse, a feminist.
Thus, Christie Todd Whitman, the former governor of New Jersey and the current head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is called a "dimwit" (p. 53) and a "birdbrain" (p. 51). Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) is a "half-wit" (p. 50). Gloria Steinem is a "deeply ridiculous figure" (p. 37) who "had to sleep" with a rich liberal to fund Ms. magazine (p. 38) -- all of which makes her a termagant, which is a shrew (p. 39). For some reason, though, someone found her attractive.
On the other hand, conservatives -- real, true, authentic conservatives like Coulter -- are the sweetest, nicest, most moral people alive. No one could put it better than Coulter herself: "The point is that conservatives are the most tolerant (and long-suffering) people in the world" (p. 204).
This may explain how Coulter came up with a really tolerant way of dealing with the Islamic world: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity," she wrote last fall in her National Review Online column. For some reason, the intolerant National Review fired her.
Is it time for an intervention? I ask this because such anger, such intolerance, such rage, such a compulsion to denigrate and to distort is hardly based on any reality. If, as Coulter says, liberals control the media and much of the animal and plant kingdoms, then how is it that the president du jour and others of recent times -- Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush the Elder -- happen to be conservatives? I must be missing something here.
Such harrumphing says something not only about Coulter but about her audience. Who are the people who read such tripe, who listen to talk radio and its chorus of conservatives (nary a liberal on the air) and who buy books such as the one under examination today?
What explains their rage and, while I am asking questions, could you think of another commentator -- especially one on the left -- who could have written what Coulter did about Muslims and go on to bestsellerdom? Being conservative is like being criminally insane: You can't be held accountable.
Could it be -- is it remotely possible -- that the anger and demagoguery Coulter assigns to liberals is really what the shrinks call "projection"? I mean, almost everything Coulter says about her ideological enemies could be said about her.
She is the master of the half-fact and the semi-story. She blames the liberal press for not revealing that Bob Packwood was forever hitting on his female staffers, but then neglects to mention it was the odiously liberal Washington Post that broke the story. She uses David Brock's book on Anita Hill to skewer Clarence Thomas's critics, but fails to mention that Brock himself renounced the book.
Ah, but I am one of the people she skewers -- maybe one of the "pathetic little parakeet males" who are always liberals. (For some reason, Coulter has a need to question the manliness of liberals; against all evidence, she even refers to Bill Clinton as "IMPOTUS.") And yet, some of what she writes about me is true. I have not always been wise (pp. 16, 60-61,128,149,185) and at times I have strayed from liberal orthodoxy (pp. apparently edited from the manuscript).
I concede that at one place in the book I scribbled "good point!" in the margin (p. 108). I tell you that so you can turn to that page in the bookstore and skip the painful rest.
See, Ann, liberals can be compassionate.