I was going to talk about Ann Coulter but I hear you have to go into rehab if you use the phrase “brain-dead fascist bimbo”.
Jesus. I can’t believe I have to waste time and energy talking about this but there’s something that needs to be said and nobody’s saying it.
Believe me, I’m pleased as punch that a furor has erupted over Coulter’s jab at John Edwards during her speech at the annual CPAC meeting. Nobody deserves it more. (Michael Savage, maybe, but that’s how low you have to go to get underneath Anorexic Annie.) But, really, what’s the big deal? Calling a Democrat a “faggot” is mild for her, and it was clearly a joke – or what passes for one at a right-wing gathering (it’s not like Republicans have senses of humor a normal human being can relate to). She wasn’t seriously suggesting Edwards is gay, she was just dissing him with her usual lack of class.
Now before you get all outraged righteous on my ass, don’t miss the point. I’m not defending her. I’m saying that in the pantheon of Coulterisms, this one wouldn’t rate so much as a footnote were it not for the response. I mean, this is a woman who wrote a best-selling eliminationist screed calling all Democrats “traitors” and advocating that True Americans go out and shoot themselves one or two. And unlike her CPAC quip, she wasn’t kidding when she wrote that. Yet that book raised not a single eyebrow in the media. Not only did no one but Democrats denounce it but she went on a lot of television shows and repeated her charges, using much of the very same language that’s in the book (she has a, uh, limited imagination), and was treated like a) nothing she said was a big deal, and b) everything she said was sane, rational, and correct when it was none of the three.
And it’s not like she hasn’t said all this before. She’s called Al Gore “gay” and a “total fag” several times and referred to Hillary as a “dike” and a “closet lesbo”. She’s even used the Edwards joke before – more than once, in fact, although not aimed at him. It was originally a retort to the announcement that Isaiah Washington was going to seek therapy for his anger issues after he called TK Knight a “faggot” and they got into a fight on the Grey’s Anatomy set. (Like all comics, she uses the same material over and over again for as long as she can get away with it.) On none of those occasions did her remarks cause her either embarrassment or consequences. In fact, she made the “total fag” comment on Chris Matthews’ Hardball, and when the interview was over, Matthews gushed:
“Thanks for coming on. And a smart lady. Her book’s called Godless. Sometimes being smart isn’t enough for a civil discourse. We’d love to have her back.”
So why the sudden firestorm over what anyone who knows Coulter’s act would have to call “innocuous” if they were being honest? There are three reasons, I think, and the last one is the most important.
1. No More Mr Victim
Unlike previous Coulter targets, Edwards’ people hit back immediately while the story was still fresh and in a way that had to scare the Pubs.
David Bonior, the former congressman and now Edwards campaign manager, responded in an email to supporters, “This is just a taste of the filth that the right-wing machine is gearing up to throw at us. And now that it’s begun, we have a choice: Do we sit back, or do we fight back?
“I say we fight. Help us raise $100,000 in ‘Coulter Cash’ this week to show every would-be Republican mouthpiece that their bigoted attacks will not intimidate this campaign. I just threw in 100 bucks. Will you join me?
“Coulter’s attack was no accident. It happened on national television at one of the year’s biggest conservative conferences….If we can raise $100,000 in ‘Coulter Cash’ this week, we can show that bigotry will only backfire on those who use it.”
This is essentially a right-wing pitch developed by Jerry Falwell and Newt Gingrich in the 90’s. They raised $$$millions$$$ from the faithful by raising the spectre of Hillary Clinton (just a couple of months ago, right before Hillary announced, Jerry said something to the effect that he hoped she ran because his contributions would double). The Right knows better than anybody, having used the tactic successfully for a decade, that there’s nothing like a bogeywoman to get your cash register merrily ringing with flowing rivers of cash.
But it wasn’t just the approach Bonior took. It was the speed of it. Bonior’s letter went out within 24 hrs of Coulter’s slur along with a press release.
“John was singled out for a personal attack because the Republican establishment knows he poses the greatest threat to their power,” said his campaign manager, David E. Bonior. “Since they have nothing real to use against him, Coulter’s resorting to the classic right-wing strategy of riling up hate to smear a progressive champion.”
It all happened so quickly that the vaunted RWNM was caught pretty well flat-footed. In fact, it still hasn’t responded.
2. Hey! It Wasn’t Us!
Before the RWNM could get geared up, the Left Blogosphere was all over Coulter like a cheap suit. They made so much noise that even normally compliant media puppets like the NYT’s Adam Nagourney were starting to ask embarrassing questions of the three top Pub presidential contenders. Faced with something that had all the earmarks of a potential scandal that Bonior was going to use to raise money against them, all three made the same decision: to put some distance between them and potty-mouth Ann, and quick.
Three of the leading Republican presidential candidates on Saturday denounced one of their party’s best-known conservative commentators for using an antigay epithet when discussing a Democratic presidential contender at a gathering of conservatives here.
The remarks by Ann Coulter, an author who regularly speaks at conservative events, were sharply denounced by the candidates, Senator John McCain of Arizona, Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.
Of the major Republican candidates, only Mr. McCain did not attend, but he denounced her remarks on Saturday morning. “The comments were wildly inappropriate,” said his spokesman, Brian Jones.
Mr. Giuliani said, “The comments were completely inappropriate and there should be no place for such name-calling in political debate.”
Kevin Madden, a spokesman for Mr. Romney, said: “It was an offensive remark. Governor Romney believes all people should be treated with dignity and respect.”
No, he doesn’t, not if his response to the legalization of gay marriage in Mass is any indication, but let that pass. The point is they all knew they were in for it if they didn’t condemn Coulter’s “joke”. Why, when much more intemperate and hateful comments had never before caused a ripple in the political firmament? Ah, that’s where it gets interesting.
3. Swing It!
There was a sea-change in November. Iraq may have been the precipitating cause but it’s clear now that the pendulum which has swung the conservatives’ way since Reagan is now swinging back in the other direction, and it’s affecting a lot more than just our attitude toward the war. Questioning the invasion and its aftermath has led directly to questioning everything the people responsible for that invasion have been doing all this time, and the American public is finally, belatedly, noticing the blatant corruption of the Republican Congress, the increasing nuttiness of right-wing figures like Coulter and Donohue, the militant denial of facts like global warming and evolution, and the stubborn refusal of the Bush Admin and its key figures (neocon leaders like Cheney and Rice come to mind) to acknowledge their errors or change their direction even after being clearly told to do so (along with the molten contempt a Cheney can’t hide when he’s talking about people who disagree with him, which means 70% of us).
Several years ago I wrote that eventually the radcons were going to self-destruct because they didn’t inherently recognize limits on their madness – or ours – and that, not knowing when to quit, would push way past the point where a centrist public would support them. I suspected we were on the cusp of that change when, in the darkest days after the invasion and at a time when it looked politically incorrect, Arianna Huffington – a woman with a nose like a bloodhound when it comes to anticipating where the political spotlight is going to fall next – did a complete 180 and went from a mouth-frothing conservative to a warrior liberal.
In hindsight, Arianna nailed it again. The pendulum is swinging back to the left. If you doubt it, I point you to Michelle Malkin’s response to Coulter. (Put your hand under your chin because I promise you your jaw is going to drop.)
Michelle Malkin expressed disapproval, and at her Hot Air site regular contributor “Bryan” wrote: “I’m no fan of John Edwards, but that’s just a stupid joke. It’s over the line. The laughter it generated across the room was more than a little annoying. Last year it was ‘raghead.’ This year it’s calling John Edwards a ‘faggot.’ Two years in a row, Coulter has finished up an otherwise sharp CPAC routine with an obnoxious slur that liberals will fling at conservatives for years to come. Thanks, Ann.”
Close your mouth.
OK, Malkin is making a bid for respectability, I understand that. But that just proves my point: being a mouth-frothing conservative attack-dog used to be respectable. It isn’t any more, and Malkin knows it. She “expressed disapproval” and even the usually reliable far-right crackpots commenting on her blog are feeling the pinch. Can you imagine Malkin “expressing disapproval” of Coulter’s name-calling 6 months ago? No, of course not. Before the election, she would have been leaping on top of the pig-pile. Now she pulls back and “expresses disapproval”.
A sea-change, indeed.
Unfortunately, the DLC-led Democrats are, as always, glacially slow to pick up on an advantage. They may not have a mandate yet but that’s where it’s going and they haven’t evinced the slightest sign that they’re aware of it. They’re still acting as if it’s 1984 and they’re going to get their asses handed to them if they cross the Right.
So even though the public is finally moving toward us instead of away from us, and even the Pubs can see that, the Dems – with the exception of Bonior, Edwards, Pelosi, Dean, and a few others – seem to be locked down in fear. Hillary won’t apologize for voting for a resolution she attacked before the vote, the Senate is caving in to Pub blackmail, and Obama is making a play for the religious right as if it still had power and influence when both are waning fast.
Apparently, cowardice has gotten to be a habit.
Update: John McKay at archy, in a post prior to one sparked by the fact that his visitors lately are coming through searches on “Ann Coulter nude”, which he would never encourage just to get a spike in viewers by putting “Ann Coulter nude” somewhere in a post (I agree – that would be wrong, wrong wrong wrong, and I would NEVER put “Ann Coulter nude” in a post of mine for that purpose), suggests an entirely different reason for Coulter’s sudden pariah status.
At this point, is anyone really shocked that Ann Coulter, presented with a hot microphone and an audience of panting young males, chose to take a cheap shot and dismiss it as humor? If nothing else, Coulter is predictable. The only surprise is that she chose to go after Edwards instead of Clinton or Obama. Nagourney and other reporters should have this story saved as a fill-in-the-blanks template: Coulter appears somewhere, takes an offensive cheap shot, liberals are outraged, her hosts are shocked, Coulter shrugs it off as a joke and schedules her next appearance to perform the exact same act she has been performing fo almost ten years.
Her act is old. It is predictable. It no longer has the power to shock or to outrage; it’s just tiresome. All she does anymore is remind us of something that we have all known for years: conservative humor is no laughing matter.
He’s got a point.