Wednesday, May 27, 2009
UGARTE (to Rick, sadly): You despise me, don't you?
RICK (indifferently): If I gave you any thought, I probably would.
Anyway, I wrote a comment over at The Other McCain that I decided to turn into a bit of a post.
I like Max Boot's work. I also like Ann Coulter, both her work and as an individual (regular readers know that we were friends in law school more years ago than she would want published). She is not in any way a "clown," and she is a serious person, so Boot is wrong. However, Ann very much enjoys not being serious, which is a different thing entirely. The same, by the way, can be said of Jon Stewart, for example, or Stephen Colbert.
Sadly, it is fashionable among certain righty intellectuals to make a point of distancing themselves from Ann Coulter. Too bad, and not because they risk her wrath. She is a great wit, and even if she crosses some imaginary line occasionally -- and what great wit does not? -- she gives conservativism a certain light-hearted vitality that it would not otherwise have.
The question is, why do righty intellectuals have this need to run from Ann? There are at least two reasons, one offensive and one genuine. The offensive reason, of course, is to establish their bona fides as "reasonable" conservatives so that they do not destroy their social lives. It is, after all, tough enough being a conservative in a university without having to deal with anti-Coulter blowback. So you can both understand their motive and notice that it lacks a certain, well, character.
The more legitimate reason is that Ann, along with Rush, has been so successful promoting a sort of "low brow" conservativism (see John Derbyshire on this taxonomic classification and Rush Limbaugh's impact on it) that the middle-brow version has been terribly diminished by comparison. This might be the subject of a much longer post (although I'm not sure there is much to add to Derb's effort), but there is something to the idea that conservativism needs to be made safe for amateur (and even professional) intellectuals again, just as it was in the day of William F. Buckley. Ann, by virtue of her huge success and charismatic personality (not to mention her relentless, and largely justified, attacks on academic liberals), makes that much harder.
Of course, your results may vary.
One may lose patience with Ideological comfort food, and begin to wish for a diet of "hearty intellectual fare", but don't you think that the hearty intellectuals have more interest in analysis and rigid purity on minor beside-the-points than in winning elections? I do.
Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and their fellows, by contrast, are very good at distilling the issues of the day into headlines, and by so doing they develop serious thematic impact that the pundit intellectuals can't manage. You need both the serious and the popular intellectuals, but what conservatism most needs is a leader who can attract the devotion of both camps. Once a leader can move to the fore, these sorts of minor disputes among minor actors will be reduced to off-stage noise.
In the meantime, I would ask, who has greater popular impact on constitutional issues, Max Boot or Mark Levin? Hard to argue with Levin, no matter how unserious one might claim him to be.
PS, I think it's cool to have been firends with Ann Coulter even though I think he sometimes looks slightly unhinged when she really gets going on some subjects. I would never be brave enough to tell her that though,if ever we met, since I am well aware she could rip me into small pieces with nary a thought and hardly any effort at all.
To build up what Anon said above; One would be hard pressed to find a column that is better researched than Ann's each week. Actually, I think her "schtick" actually takes away from her seriousness of thought. There are times when she is being interviewed when a listener has to really work hard to hear some of her pearls amidst the never-ending stream of witty put-downs.
What I find really funny is that for most liberals they cannot even stand to listen to her for one second and yet they will listen to a complete duschebag like Bill Mahrer or Keith Olberman for hours on end. Somehow their low-brow with is OK, and hers is not? Somehow their facts are actually checked (which they usually are wronge) and her sources are suspect?
I love Ann, and incidently TH, both the banner up top, and on the right are for Ann.
My favorite was when Ron Kuby (talk show guy in NYC who defends scumbags) was on Hannity years ago, bitching and moaning about the Patriot Act, and Ann was abusing him. She suckered him into it, calmly mentioned that she actually was a Constitutional Laywer, had read the entire document, and asked which element specifically he was concerned about, since virtually all of it was simply consolidation of existing law.
Kuby (whose 'mommy is a commie') shut up quickly.
She's too damned smart, and too quick on her feet for most Lefties, which is why she's hated.
That was talking point #26.2.b, right? "Portray Andrew...sorry Ann...Coulter as a comedienne. A jolly raconteur." Talk about maximum booting.
"It's not about being right or wrong; it's about being Right or Wrong."
Wow Dawnfire, that sort of philosophy'd be right at home in, let's see...among mullahs in Iran, in a cave in Pashtun, in the Furhrerbunker, in Spain around 1939, Chile...a Klan meeting (full of regular citizens, businessmen, cops)...a business lunch with Roy Cohn and Sen. McCarthy...potty time for Dick Cheney. Funny how adaptable it can be...
Gotta run to teach a summer school class here in Jesuit land. In the words of the late great Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (who loved pissing off your forbearers) "auf Wiedersehen, baby." I'll check back for the vitriol.
Chris ... it's because the other weirdos already have TV shows on leftist media outlets, and because there aren't any lefties with the balls or intellect to actually come on and have a serious debate/discussion.
"Wow Dawnfire, that sort of philosophy'd be right at home in, let's see...among mullahs in Iran, in a cave in Pashtun, in the Furhrerbunker, in Spain around..."
That's exactly my point, you idiot. I was specifically responding to the prior comment about verification of facts vis a vis ideologically opposed/friendly pundits.
TH or anyone else, I'm genuinely interested in links to what you consider the best and wittiest of Coulter's work.
She clearly used to be an intellectual, but my impression of her work is snidely calling John Edwards a faggot (turned out to be wrong on that one, too). Her claiming to not believe in evolution strikes me as an outright lie, as well. I think the broad humor she uses, which unlike Colbert and Stewart is actually believed by her fans to be accurate and not parody, abandoned any real thinking.
But maybe I've missed her best stuff.
I love Ann Coulter, but her ability to drive liberals insane means that one has to keep mum on the subject if one wants to keep one's liberal friends. This is a very pressing issue for someone like Boot whose work lacks any academic standing, so he is that much more dependent on the goodwill of the chattering classes for his status. This is in contrast to a Victor Davis Hanson, whose work is also lousy (albeit well-written), but at least enjoys academic respectability for the debate his Western Way of War thesis has sparked among serious scholars.
Leif, I just read your profile -- Princeton and Michigan Law School? Can it get any more brilliant? I submit that it cannot. And now, working on a PhD in military history? That is my unfulfilled fantasy. You are living my life. Live it well.
Lief, sign up for Ann's weekly column and after a month of reading, try to tell me that she is not the most well researched columnist out there. All of her articles, not her TV appearances, typically cite actual references, publications, etc.
On a personal note, this is what makes her so challenging to defend is the TV person and the columnist. If you recall when she first started appearing on "Politically Incorrect" she was witty, but she stayed on the topic. Like Bill Mahrer at the time, they both were entertaining, provacative and not over the top. Evidently, that does not sell so well? Which is a shame because the intelect and pursuasiveness has been lost to some degree.