No one since P.T. Barnum has been more skilled at drawing a crowd and selling snake oil than writer Ann Coulter. And woe be to any poor soul in the vicinity of a book vendor who gets between Coulter and a camera.
Coulter is hawking “Godless,” her latest book in a series of mostly one-word titles – “Treason and Slander” among them – which makes the point ad nauseam that conservatives are good and liberals are bad.
Conservatism is anything she thinks. Liberalism is whatever anyone she dislikes thinks.
Coulter is a conservative Republican and cheerleader for the Bush administration. She would have her readers believe that Democrats are against America, liberals are against God and anyone who’s not a Bushie is a devil.
Her book advances the slim premise that liberalism is a religion.
Here’s an example of the way she develops her idea: “Of course liberalism is a religion.”
It takes no more than a quick read of her pages or a viewing of one of her 20-second sound bites to understand the kind of child Coulter must have been. She writes like a kid throwing a tantrum – yelling for what she wants, repeating it ever more loudly and stamping her feet for emphasis.
Like a spoiled child, she doesn’t care who she offends. And, if a passage of her book causes a brouhaha, all the better to sell books with, my dear.
The dust up on the eve of the release of this publication centered on her rude remarks about four women whose husbands died in the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
“These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefparazzis,” writes Coulter.
The women she savages are the “Jersey Girls,” who lobbied Congress under the name “Just Four Moms from New Jersey” for the 9/11 Commission and succeeded over the objections of the Bush White House.
“I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ deaths so much.”
And Coulter’s attacks did not end there. She called the brave women “self-obsessed” and “rabid” and “harpies.” She suggested that their husbands might have been ready to divorce them, that is, had they survived the murderous attacks.
What did the Jersey Girls do to offend Coulter? They did not back her presidential choice.
When Coulter was promoting her book on television, one interviewer ventured forth with the mildest suggestion of a rebuke, mentioning that his wife thought some of Coulter’s characterizations of the 9/11 widows were a little mean.
“Mean?!” Coulter bared her teeth and grabbed onto the word like a big cat ripping flesh from the body of a small rodent. “Mean?!” The host tried to reorient her to the setting – she was in her home territory, a Fox News studio, after all, and didn’t need to be combative.
She dropped the mouse on the floor, welled up with tears and mumbled something about not being mean. Then she was back: People should buy the book because it’s great.
A kindred spirit on another cable show tried his very best to squeeze a drop of humanity from her, asking if she had any regrets about her remarks about the 9/11 widows.
“No regrets,” she said. “These women got paid. They ought to take their money and shut up.”
Keep in mind that Coulter is not married and is not a mother. She most certainly is not a widow having to raise children without a father, and obviously lacks compassion for those in that situation. The only apparent tragedy in her life is the unfortunate Adam’s apple that must have kept her from being a supermodel.
What Coulter seems to resent is any interruption in her privileges – the privilege of the middle and upper economic classes, the privilege of the dominant race and, now, the privilege of the ruling political party. She’s so used to getting her way and having her privileges trump all arguments and persons that she stands amazed when she is trumped.
In print, Coulter covers her backside in a manner commensurate with her legal training and skills, so her precise assertions usually fall within the bounds of the literal truth. One can imagine her gleeful perusal of passages that are damning but not easily actionable.
But she tells a tale like the witch girls of Salem, with reckless abandon, with disregard for the overall impression and with an absolute intent to do harm.
She hates the Jersey Girls because they have the moral high ground. She calls them and others on a pedestal “human shields” and is plainly frustrated that she can’t confront them head-on, so she writes a book to justify doing that very thing.
Some Coulter fans have tried to take her part in this latest flap – mostly political hacks who are cut of the same petty, jealous and privileged cloth as she. Listen to her broader point, they say. And just what is that broader point?
It’s some hocus-pocus about “liberal infallibility.”
“If these Democrat human shields have a point worth making,” writes Coulter, “how about allowing it to be made by someone we’re allowed to respond to?”
Another of these “human shields” is Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii. She’s mad at him because he did a commercial for the opponent to her candidate for president and, it seems, because her team wouldn’t let her respond.
She’s mad at him because he has the moral high ground of a wounded World War II hero and his assessment of war is worth listening to for that very reason.
She’s mad at public school teachers because they are the “only group in society that must be spoken of in reverential terms at all times, no matter what,” she writes.
“We are simultaneously supposed to gasp in awe at teachers’ raw dedication and be forced to listen to their incessant caterwauling about how they don’t make enough money.”
Oddly, she doesn’t sound so mad at the man who blew up the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 and murdered 168 men, women and children. In fact, she writes like she hates liberals more than the killer and that liberals love murderers.
“Timothy McVeigh’s Aryan features ensured that no liberals would weep for him. In fact, McVeigh’s swift trial and execution illustrate how all death penalty cases might proceed in this country if we could just get rid of the liberals.”
What Coulter doesn’t get is that to have the moral high ground, you’ve got to have the moral high ground. But that’s the privilege of privilege. You don’t have to get much to get a lot and you don’t have to take the moral high ground to have a best-selling book.
<i>Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, is president of the Morning Star Institute in Washington, D.C., and a columnist for Indian Country Today.