Mr. Chatterbox - April 2010
What I learned from Ann Coulter
I love it when I bring up Ann Coulter in front of my liberal friends. Their first reaction is an airy dismissal—“oh, her, she’s a nut case.” But they don’t stop talking. Or rather, they can’t stop talking. They glom onto one “idiotic” thing she said, and this reminds them of another, even more idiotic, and soon they have launched into a diatribe. The pitch of their voices rises, and soon they are screaming and can’t shut up. I have to sit there and listen until they get it all out. They shift from her political views to what she must be like as a human being and in no time are calling her the most vile, sexually charged and hate-filled names imaginable. I’ve seen it happen over and over.
So naturally, when I found she was appearing at the Lincoln Day Dinner, the major fund raiser for the Republican Party of Manatee County, I had to go. As a public personality, she’s fascinating. You have to be a very good communicator to do what she has done—to take her shtick so far and turn it into something so successful. Could I pick up any tips? After all, she and I are both basically in the same business. We criticize society.
She was speaking at the Municipal Auditorium up in Bradenton, but there was a cocktail reception first at Bishop Planetarium; and there, under full-scale replicas of giant dinosaurs, mingled the elite of Manatee’s Republican Party. The Lincoln Day Dinner is their major fund raiser and celebration of all things Republican, so every Republican of any importance has to attend, and the main topic of conversation had to do with the crush of the crowd. Clearly, Ms. Coulter was a major draw.
They placed her near the bar for a photo session, and as I stood next to the brontosaurus’s giant paw, I studied the famous persona. She is shorter than you’d think, but other than that, all her trademarks are there. The clingy clothes, the stick-thin figure, and most of all the long blond hair. She’s obviously very proud of it and flings it around and fiddles with it constantly.
Caroline Kennedy has a verbal tic; Ann Coulter has a hair tic.
We were introduced. She asked me if everybody in Bradenton was a Republican. As she did so our eyes met and—well, I don’t quite know how to say this, but I think she was coming on to me. There is something sexually aggressive in her aura, and on a one-to-one basis it can be quite flustering. For a moment I became a Bradenton Republican. “Yes,” I said, my voice quivering. “We’re all Republicans. Everybody in town.”
(Now, before you all write in and say how mean I was to poor Ann Coulter, let me point out that she can take it. This is the woman who called the 9/11 widows “witches” and said that Bill Clinton should not be impeached, he should be assassinated. Believe me, she can handle whatever is thrown at her.)
Before our budding flirtation could get any further, she was whisked away from me and trundled over to the auditorium, where even more Republicans awaited their very nice dinner, catered by Mattison’s. Various dignitaries spoke. Vern Buchanan gave a report from Washington and got the biggest hand of the night by declaring that English should be declared our national language.
Then came my old 9/11 buddy Adam Putnam—we were both with President Bush that day—who is retiring from Congress to run for Commissioner of Agriculture. Adam is famous for looking 12 years old, and as he gave us his Congressional report my mind kept wandering to Ann. What did I really know about her? About her personal life? I knew she was from an upper-middle-class family in Connecticut and that she had never been married. She has said she’s a “serial dater” and that she once had an Arab boyfriend. (“And how would you feel if he was racially profiled?” a liberal reporter once asked. “Safer,” she replied.) I also knew that she wrote her column in her underwear. Just like me . . .
After about a dozen other speeches, she finally came out. I got the vibe that about half the room was wildly on her side and the other half was a bit embarrassed that she was there. Her actual speech turned out to be a little disappointing. It was a series of one-liners criticizing Obama and the Democrats and didn’t seem to go very deep, and the jokes were pretty obvious. I was expecting my conservative side to be aroused, but it just didn’t happen.
Until she began to take questions, that is. That’s when the real Ann Coulter took over and the crowd began to get its money’s worth. She gave a ringing denunciation of our public education system, which she described as “Chinese style brainwashing: the heart of evil.” A few other lines I jotted down:
“I think we should tax poor people more.”
“Always vote for the most credible right-wing candidate.”
“I love Sarah Palin, but I don’t know if I want her to be our next President. Stop asking me that.”
“Illegal immigrants? Build a wall and deport the ones you catch.”
On the lack of a clear Republican leader: “We’re cranky individuals and we don’t need a leader. We have ideas, not leaders.”
In her favor, I must say that she rarely fell back on blind allegiance to the flag, God and motherhood, the way many right-wingers do. Hers is a law school kind of logic, like a brilliant professor who can figure out a way to shoot down any premise you come up with. When she discusses abortion, for instance, it’s never in moral terms. It’s always in political terms: “You can never lose votes being pro-life. Republicans should always be pro-life.”
But she’s too mean-spirited. And in the end I felt a little sorry for her. I kept picturing her in her underwear, finishing up her column and trying to get a date. It’s too bad we weren’t able to spend more time together, because I really feel that we made a connection. She needs somebody like me, a nice guy who would humanize her. In the meantime, though, I have learned my lesson well. I am now practicing my new sexually aggressive looks and gestures to bring me into contact with a larger, more conservative audience.