Right before lunch, one of the architects of the Iraq War and a great villain of our time was found guilty of four felonies.
Elsewhere, a Senate hearing unmasked the Bush Administration and its cronies as the world's highest-profile organized crime syndicate. The Democrats' Congressional takeover no longer felt like an academic exercise or a win for the team. It feels like a redemption for democracy.
And yet I like Ann Coulter.
This remark was her most recent offense:
I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' so I—so kind of an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards.Via the excellent Digby's Blog, here was a typical response from my team:
Coulter stepped over the line because she used a bad word. But nobody on the right and most people in the media don't blink an eye at the implication of what she said. All this Claude Rainsing among certain rightwing bloggers and the press is just a little bit overdone, if you ask me. Being a "faggot" in common braindead GOP locker room parlance simply means being a Democrat and everybody knows it.Point taken, but this is melodramatic response to a hyperbolic comment.
At its most basic level, Coulter was doing something that I, my close friends, most other people I know, and everyone I would like to know do at least once a week: saying something extremely offensive and over-the-top solely for the sake of saying it. This behavior is not the hallmark of statecraft or maturity. But it's part of the fun of being a person who likes to chop it up.
The best way to confront it isn't a lot of pansy-assed concern about what this means for America's political culture or media narratives. The best way to confront it is to be like Rude Pundit, who writes posts with titles like "Why Ann Coulter is a Cunt (Faggot Edition), Part 1." Much more fun and effective than impotent finger-wagging, and a legitimate excuse to write both "cunt" and "faggot" in the same sentence.
Second, and more seriously, Coulter was going to something a little more subtle than using a fourth-grade slur against John Edwards. As noted by Jack Schafer on Slate, "Coulter was probably riffing off actor Isaiah Washington's recent — and calculated — entry into rehab after he called one of his Grey's Anatomy co-stars a 'faggot.'" (Don't ask me how I already knew this, but somehow I did.) Absurditywise, this Grey's Anatomy development was on par with weeping over Janet Jackson's nipple: right-wingers are upset by boobs, left-wingers are upset by words. To give Ann Coulter more credit than she probably deserves, at some level she was decrying excessive sensitivities, and the response by serious people on the left has been excessively sensitive, not unlike a kindergartener crying at being called a crybaby.
The Slate article linked above recites more of Coulter's greatest hits:
(I don't know a thing about Patricia Duff, but, in fact, before Pamela Harriman was made ambassador to France, her ascent to power was possible only because of an extensive history of romantic entanglements with extremely powerful men. Blame it on the era of if you want.)
"[Clinton] masturbates in the sinks."—Rivera Live, Aug. 2, 1999
The "backbone of the Democratic Party" is a "typical fat, implacable welfare recipient"—syndicated column, Oct. 29, 1999
"Women like Pamela Harriman and Patricia Duff are basically Anna Nicole Smith from the waist down. Let's just call it for what it is. They're whores."—Salon.com, Nov. 16, 2000
If these kinds of comments make you outraged (outraged!) the following might hit you differently:
Not the kinds of remarks that will go down in the annals of discourse, true, but pretty much on par with the kind of language used on left-wing blogs every day, and more demure than what I said at lunch yesterday.
"Donald Rumsfeld masturbates in the sinks."
The "backbone of the Republican Party" is a "typical fat, implacable, over-religious NASCAR fan."
"Women like Harriet Miers and Elizabeth Dole are basically Anna Nicole Smith from the waist down. Let's just call it for what it is. They're whores."
I can never figure out how she hits the nerves that she does. I find her comments so bombastic, immature, and over-the-top that they're impossible to take seriously. More often than not, she's mildly amusing, and the real fun comes when her adversaries unleash their confused sanctimony. As the Rude Pundit seems to recognize, the fun comes from swinging back on her level. People who allow themselves to feel outraged let her win.
I'm pretty sure that I'd love to get drunk with her.
There are, of course, a couple of problems.
First, I wish her delivery were a little less self-important. If she uttered her statements with more of a wink, she'd be a right-wing Bill Maher. Instead, she straddles some weird gray area of disgraced public intellectual, right-wing folk hero, and left-wing booby-trap.
Second, any public official is fair game for verbal bullying of any type at any time, but there's no honor in going after little guys. Like 9/11 widows.
Maybe it's that, despite all of the coarseness that goes on in major media, everyone is more sanctimonious and delicate than ever. It's always fun to see a shiv stabbed into this sanctimony, even when the sanctimony is your own.
Maybe it's the same impulse that made me like fighting with my high-school principal or showing up my bosses. It's never not fun to see people in power squirm.
Or maybe I just think that crude bitches are fun.