The Coulter culture


LAST weekend, conservatives held a national conference at which Vice President Cheney and most GOP candidates for president spoke. It was hijacked by a foul-mouthed narcissist.

In her remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, polemicist Ann Coulter said: "It turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' so I'm kind of at an impasse - I can't really talk about Edwards."

As she intended, that crack drew more attention from the news media than anything else said at CPAC. After Ms. Coulter, the person most delighted with the attention given her remark was John Edwards, currently a distant third in the race for the Democratic nomination for president. His campaign manager rushed out a fund-raising letter in which he said: "Friday afternoon, Republican mouthpiece Ann Coulter brought hate speech politics to a new low."

Ms. Coulter is the conservative those on the far left love to hate. This is in part because, in her substitution of invective for argument, she is the conservative who most resembles themselves. It is in larger part because her incendiary remarks can be used to taint all conservatives. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani made it plain Ms. Coulter does not speak for them. But the damage is done. Their remarks were overshadowed, and they are slimed by association with her, as are all others who attended CPAC.

This is unimportant to Ms. Coulter, whose focus is constantly and exclusively upon herself. Like Michael Moore, she learned long ago that hurling insults sells more books than reasoned arguments do. After Ms. Coulter's remark was slammed by conservative pundits such as Michelle Malkin, Laura Ingraham, and Hugh Hewitt, Sean Hannity invited Ms. Coulter to appear on both his radio and Fox News television shows to "explain" what she meant. (Mr. Hannity frequently makes protestations of Christian morality, but never lets it get in the way of ratings.) She is laughing all the way to the bank.

It depresses me that Ms. Coulter is being rewarded again for her vile mouth. But far more depressing is the number of conservatives who defended what she said. Reading the threads on the Web sites discussing the controversy was like wading through a sewer. Those comments thoroughly disabused me of the notion that the far left has cornered the market on mean-spirited morons.

If they didn't reveal so much inner ugliness, the defenses offered for Ms. Coulter's remark would be hilarious in their hypocrisy.

The first is that Ms. Coulter didn't actually call Mr. Edwards a "faggot." This from people who made fun of President Clinton for professing not to know what the meaning of "is" is.

The second is that Ms. Coulter was engaging in free speech. True. But so were Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan when they referred to Catholics as "Christofascist Godbags." Most of those defending Ms. Coulter had criticized Mr. Edwards for hiring (and subsequently firing and rehiring) Ms. Marcotte and Ms. McEwan as his campaign bloggers.

The issue is not free speech. The issue is associating oneself with offensive speech.

The third is that the moonbats on the left say more vile things, more frequently. Also true. "Comedian" Bill Maher was only one of many who expressed regret that Vice President Dick Cheney wasn't assassinated. But your mama should have taught you in elementary school that bad behavior by your playmates does not justify bad behavior by you.

The fourth is that conservatives should stick together. But if you defend the indefensible, people will come to think of you as indefensible, too. We should show the same consideration for Ms. Coulter that she showed for the presidential candidates she deliberately upstaged with her offensive remark.

These defenses of Ms. Coulter are merely pathetic and hypocritical. What was disgusting were the attacks many commentators launched on those conservatives such as Mr. Hewitt and Dean Barnett who were outraged by what she said. They were denounced as "RINOs" (Republicans in Name Only), and their masculinity and courage were questioned.

I've long suspected that because they've never done anything remotely courageous in their lives, moonbats confuse rudeness and profanity with toughness. It's evident they're not alone in that confusion.

Many conservatives have a lot of growing up to do. Name-calling is not argument. Incivility is not courage. It's no defense that liberals misbehaved first. We cannot win if we are not better than they are. We do not deserve to win if we are not better than they are.