Much has been made in the blogosphere of Ann Coulter's off-the-cuff remark at the Conservative Political Action Conference that "there should be more journalists in jail." The obsession is a waste of bandwidth. Coulter was asked an un-serious question, and she gave an appropriately un-serious answer. Ann knows that freedom of the press is essential to the proper functioning of a democracy. She also understands a subtler point: that a sense of humor is no less essential, and much more elusive.
It feels strange to write this story. I'm not usually one to defend Ann Coulter -- I have abused the lady frequently in this very space, and look forward to doing so again. But it's hard to dislike the Coulter pictured in the CPAC video. Yes, she makes a tasteless joke about imprisoned journalists. Yes, she's abrasive, nasty, and dangerously jacked on Jesus Juice. But for those of us who have heretofore believed she was a cynical manipulator of others' ignorance, the much-maligned Ann Coulter of this years' CPAC is a stiff corrective. Here, she is thoughtful, articulate, sincere, and even brave -- at the end of the pictured Q&A, she issues an unsubtle challenge to her party's less tolerant fringe, and seemingly wins them over.
Which isn't to say Coulter isn't dead wrong on just about everything. Take this unfortunate ejaculation, in which she explains why Rhode Island shouldn't shorten its name to cease offending people with the word "plantation," which some say evokes slavery. (Rhode Island's full name is "Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.") Here, Coulter conflates the words "liberal" and "Democrat" in order to paint liberals as the natural inheritors of the Confederacy:
It's just like a liberal. They import slaves, they hold slaves, they fight for slavery, they go to war in a civil war to defend slavery; they then install legal discrimination against blacks for a hundred years -- and then, 20 years later, they act like it's Republicans doing it ... You know, we could really use a little help from the Democrats when it mattered.
That would make sense, if only President Lincoln hadn't been a godless heathen interfering with big business, and if only the civil rights movement hadn't been the work of self-professed progressives and socialists with widely publicized (and admittedly shameful) sympathies for communist Russia. But while a week ago I would have said that Ann Coulter was trying to mislead her unlearned audience, today I acknowledge that she probably means every word she says. Because just a few moments later, when asked about the presence of GoProud, the gay Republican outfit that stirred so much controversy by appearing at CPAC, she proudly proclaimed: "I was GoProud's first speaker!"
The remark did not earn much applause.
But Coulter pressed on, even though her time was up -- even speaking through her own closing ovation.
The left has used one group after another to destroy the family. Women ... blacks. (Congratulations, liberals -- you've just about destroyed the black family.) I was always a friend of the gays. Then liberals come along with some idea no one's thought of for a thousand years -- gay marriage -- and I go to sleep one night being friend of the gays, I wake up the next day -- homophobe. No! You can't do that! You just made up this gay marriage thing! And it has nothing to do with liking gays! They don't mind their little pals, the Islamic terrorists, dropping walls on gays! No. Only -- only to use gays as a cat's paw to attack the family. Because liberals want the family destroyed, they want religion destroyed, because then you have loyalty directly to the state.
This was greeted with thunderous applause, both because her audience really believes that "the left" (such as it is) wants total dependence on the state, and also because Coulter's time was up. But she wasn't budging. "I know I should end," she said, "but I'm not ending."
Look. I am as born again, as Evangelical Christian as they come. And I am friend of the gays. So on one hand -- I mean, look ... the gay argument is, 'Why do conservatives act like our sin is worse than any other sin? Do none of you have premarital sex? Do none of your children have premarital sex? You don't have friends who have premarital sex? All of you are tithing every year?' No. Of course not. So I think there is a little extra animosity toward the gays. But then the conservatives would say, 'Okay, fine. But we don't go to CPAC and have a group called Republicans Against Tithing. Or Republicans For Premarital Sex.' And to that I say: Yeah, but it's different being gay. You have all of culture telling gays you should be liberal. Just like all of culture used to tell women, oh, if you don't support abortion, you must hate women. This is the left trying to co-opt gays. So for now I'd like gays to just be part of conservativism, just like women are, just like blacks are, without a special designation ...
... We like the same music, the same cocktails, often the same men. There is a whole culture to it. And I both know gays who are chaste -- and I don't want to diss them, by saying, oh, forget about it, don't even try being chaste. I know chaste gays, and I honor them. I mean, God is saying to gays what he said to Abraham: 'Give up something you love for me.' That's a tough cross to bear, and I admire gays who do it. But, uh, I can't tell you that, that I'm without sin, as none of us are. So I guess that's the big point. The left is trying to co-opt gays, and I don't think we should let them. I think they should be on our side. We're for low taxes. We're against crime. We're against the terrorists who want to kill gays. Gays are natural conservatives. Now I will say thank you, and good night.
Disagree all you like. I know I do. But you ought to watch the video and see how profoundly nervous Ann looks as she mentions her own "sins" -- not because of the "sins" themselves, but because of how uncomfortable their frank discussion would make her audience. Standing on a stage at CPAC and claiming moral parity and cultural kinship with the gays was no small thing. This is an audience, after all, which would also be addressed by the execrable anti-gay fundamentalist, Ralph Reed.
Then again, it's also an audience which would shortly be addressed by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the beautiful apostate Muslim who now publishes atheist screeds with libertarian overtones. If Coulter meant what she said above -- and I figure she must have, since it certainly didn't win any points with her base -- then she must be equally happy sharing the stage with either figure. Reed hates gays, Ali rejects Jesus. Nobody's perfect, but Coulter will be their friend anyway. Her oft-offensive yammerings are, in their way, a celebration of diversity; a one-woman First Amendment pageant.
Incredibly, Ann is now to the left of the bulk of her audience. Despite Coulter's endorsement of GoProud's presence at CPAC, GoProud will not return next year. They have been uninvited for scaring off too many of Ann's co-religionists.
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