Editor’s Note: This post was first published on August 22.
Every once in a while, media outlets like to publish features on the “shocking” revelation that certain conservative personalities aren’t heartless monsters after all (perhaps out of a desire to appear less one-sided). Today’s example comes from the Daily Beast, where Matt Latimer introduces readers to a kinder, gentler Ann Coulter than they’re used to:
When informed she could not participate in a political conference if she kept a commitment to speak to a group of gay Republicans, Ms. Coulter told organizers just what they could do with their conference. Noting that she speaks to all kinds of groups whose views she does not necessarily agree with—“the main thing I do is speak on college campuses, which is about the equivalent of speaking at an al Qaeda conference”—Coulter, in her own style, stood for something that conservatives are supposed to believe in: the free exchange of ideas. Few, of course, have exercised that particular privilege with more vigor than the woman who famously labeled Katie Couric “the affable Eva Braun” of the liberal movement.
Well, okay, maybe “gentler” was a poor choice of words, but you get the point. For Coulter, protecting marriage is an important political issue, but it doesn’t extend to hating homosexuals and/or people who disagree. Ironically, that’s not the case for the activists on the other side.
Lately, in fact, Coulter has been making a habit of getting on the bad side of the right’s Dwight Schrutes, even at the risk of alienating some of her book buyers and website subscribers. She was, for example, an early and outspoken opponent of the Obama birther movement, calling its adherents a collection of “cranks.” And in response to commentator Bill Kristol’s haughty demand that Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele resign because Steele criticized the military surge in Afghanistan, Coulter turned the tables. “Bill Kristol Should Resign,” she wrote, thus fearlessly taking on one of the Grand Poobahs of today’s GOP and provoking a needed debate within the conservative movement over the dangers of supporting every military action at every time under every circumstance.
Ann’s attack on Birtherism was indeed an important stand against idiocy on the fringe Right, and it showed yet again that the Right is more principled and responsible than the Left. Her defense of Michael Steele, however, left much to be desired, because, among other reasons, the bit about “supporting every military action at every time under every circumstance” was a transparent straw-man. Last time I checked, we were involved in a grand total of two wars, both of which Coulter supported—hardly a large enough sample size to determine whether or not “neo-cons” support a state of “permanent war.”
[O]ne of the carefully guarded secrets of Ann Coulter world is how much she is not hated and—dare one say it—even liked by many within the dreaded liberal elite. Well-credentialed members of the mainstream media privately extol her. Among her friends is the decidedly unconservative talk show host Bill Maher, on whose cable program she frequently appeared. “Unlike so many people in America, she was not afraid to get booed,” Mr. Maher once said of his pal.
This was always one of the things I couldn’t figure out about Coulter—not that she could possibly be friends with people who disagree, but that she could extend that courtesy a miserable, disingenuous creep like Bill Maher. Wishing Glenn Beck dead? Smearing Pope Benedict as an ex-Nazi? Scapegoating parents for the failures of education bureaucrats? Sorry, Ann, but I just can’t imagine how you stomach the guy.
Some years ago, a geeky political nerd from Michigan came to Capitol Hill with grandiose dreams and a debilitating shyness. Few among the great potentates and perennial climbers of the United States Senate had much time for the lugs at the bottom. But Ann did. Though a senior aide to a U.S. Senator, she took the time to get to know the rest of us, ask our opinions, share stories, and be a friend. Even then I knew that Coulter would not be long for the dreary rituals and bloviating self-absorption of Capitol Hill. Instead she became a media star.
More than a decade later, when I wrote a book about my experiences in Washington I asked my publisher if Ann could read it. I figured she wouldn’t remember me and expected a polite rebuff. Instead Ann got to it quickly and wrote a generous blurb. When the book received criticism from prominent Bush aides and some conservative friends waited out the deluge from a comfortable distance, Ann Coulter stood by with her support, even appearing on Fox News to lend a hand and correct the facts.
What? You mean she doesn’t spend all her time burning crosses and beating homeless people?
None of this is to say that Ann Coulter hasn’t deserved the animosity or opposition she has received over the years—and which she sometimes has shrewdly cultivated. She knew well what she was doing when she boldly criticized the 9/11 widows or poked fun at Senator John Edwards before that particular sport became a national pastime. And most likely she wouldn’t take back a single offending word she has ever uttered.
Yeah, probably not.
But there is a reason why all the latter-day Coulter imitators on cable news channels have been about as cutting edge as a J.C. Penney commercial. People—at least those who matter—usually are more complicated than their caricatures. It’s too bad that politics doesn’t allow us to see more public figures that way.
My only major disagreement with Latimer is that he simply attribute’s Coulter’s public image to the nature of politics. There’s a little truth to that, but the main reason more Americans don’t know the Ann Coulter he knows is because the Left does everything in its power to keep them in the dark. It’s precisely because her writing is so fearless and well-researched in its identification of leftist fallacies, tactics, and pathologies that leftists fear the Conservative Chessboard Queen. There’s a reason they don’t pay half as much attention to, say, Michael Savage that they give her: they know a threat when they see one.