Coulter Clash

Why, then, she would ever write a book is beyond me. Words just sit there. They don’t move. They don’t go away. The author’s media-genic advantages and her theatricality are nullified. Her speed of thought and speech are useless. The pages accumulate, revealing every inconsistency, every mistake, every bad habit, every crutch. If I were Ann Coulter, and Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right was the best book I could produce, I would never write another word.

Slander is basically a tour d’horizon of recent American politics during which Coulter reviews liberal commentary about personalities and events and attempts to show how very, very, very wrong liberals have always, always, always been. And not always just wrong, but also mean, and unkind, and unfair. At the same time, she attempts to show how conservatives were always right, and how they were also scrupulous, precise, and consistently aboveboard and high-minded. The book does not try to argue, say, that Ronald Reagan was a great president, or that George W. Bush is a capable leader, or that Al Gore would have been a poor leader, or that the Republicans won the Florida election in 2000 fair and square. To argue those points would be too timid. Coulter’s approach is to treat these and other precepts of the right as immutable laws of nature, and then to treat anyone who would object to them as un-American or heretical or lunatic

“[Liberals] are painfully self-righteous, they have fantastic hatreds, and they could not see the other fellow’s position if you prodded them with white-hot pokers. . . .They are completely unhinged.”

Read that last sentence slowly; has she been eavesdropping at the Secret Liberal Club meetings? And how about this one? “For about twenty years now, all new ideas have bubbled up from the right wing.” All new ideas? All? Air Jordans? The Macarena? Pizza Hut’s Stuffed-Crust Pizza?

“Liberals have been wrong about everything in the last half-century,” she writes. “They were wrong about Stalin (known as “Uncle Joe” to Franklin Roosevelt) . . . They were wrong about Reagan. . . . They were wrong about the Soviet Union . . . They were wrong even about their precious Abraham Lincoln brigade’ in the Spanish Civil War . . . Nicaragua. . . . welfare . . . crime . . . the sexual revolution.” For the sake of argument, let’s say liberals were wrong about all those things, although it’s really hard to say that Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson were “wrong” in any fundamental way about Stalin or the Soviet Union. But let’s see–I believe that still leaves liberals being right about civil rights, equal rights for women, Israel, Nixon and Watergate, and Hitler. (Okay, I’m stretching the half-century time frame a bit, but she’s the one who mentioned Franklin Roosevelt.)

But history doesn’t seem to be her strong suit. She says liberals think all Republican presidents are “dumb”–Coolidge, Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Quayle (standing in for Bush 41) and Bush 43. It’s amusing that she starts with Coolidge, ignoring Harding, who was manifestly stupid and corrupt, as well as Hoover, who was obviously smart, but a failure. People thought Stevenson was smart; nobody thought Eisenhower was dumb. And nobody thought Nixon was dumb.

Other examples? Twice she mentions that when Sen. Jeffords left the Republican party, the Los Angeles Times wrote “Sen. Jim Jeffords now walks in the footsteps of Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, and Abraham Lincoln.” She is aghast that some obviously liberal editorial writers would taint the name of her beloved Ronald Reagan and two other certified Great Men of History by mentioning this lightweight in the same breath. Indeed, in nearly all cases it would be a spurious inclusion, but as it happens, all four of these fellows are people who switched parties. The Times’ comment is hardly spurious. Coulter just didn’t get it. Griping (not wholly without reason) about the media’s willingness to hire members of Democratic administrations to serve as reporters and anchors, she jumps on George Stephanopoulos. Saying that he was part of morally corrupt administration, she writes, “Hiring Stephanopoulos would be the equivalent of a major network hiring Chuck Colson immediately after Watergate.” Apart from the fact that Colson did hard time in prison for his role in a criminal conspiracy, yes, they might be exactly the same.

There are other howlers in this book. She writes with gusto about how lucky we were, after September 11, and after were attacked Afghanistan, that we didn’t have a micromanager like Gore in the White House. Yeah, at his August 6 briefing, when he was told about suspicious al Qaeda activity, a micromanager might have asked the CIA if any FBI field offices had anything to add. A micromanager might have asked Gen. Tommy Franks why he thought we could rely on Pakistanis to catch Osama when he scoots out of Tora Bora.

Anybody can be snide. Anybody can be small, and mean, and disdainful. Coulter’s especially good at it. And she has a lot of unassailable examples of Democrats being good at it. All of which is so useless now. The American people were tired of this bickering and this partisanship before September 11, and they understand completely that it serves no purpose whatsoever in our present predicament. We can no longer afford to luxuriate in insipid gamesmanship. Coulter’s book is a waste of time.

Jamie Malanowski

Jamie Malanowski is a writer and editor. He has been an editor at Time, Esquire and most recently Playboy, where he was Managing Editor.