When Ann Coulter steps over the line and says something so outrageous that even fellow conservatives can’t defend it, their usual response is to say, well, after all, Coulter is an entertainer -- her stock in trade is comic hyperbole. You’re not supposed to take her seriously, as you would a more sober-sided conservative essayist.
One of those indefensible Coulter remarks came a few days after 9/11. Coulter said of Muslims in her weekly column,
We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.
An exaggeration, right? Bitter, angry hyperbole, not meant to be taken seriously -- right?
So why was William F. Buckley -- the sort of conservative we’re all supposed to take seriously -- saying nearly the same thing in his National Review Online column today?
Buckley had read a New York Times article about Islam-hating Evangelicals who want to preach Christianity to Muslims. The article makes clear that the goal of these people is conversion:
On a recent Saturday in a church fellowship hall here, evangelical Christians from several states gathered for an all-day seminar on how to woo Muslims away from Islam.
It also makes clear that they don’t have much respect for Islam:
"The Koran's good verses are like the food an assassin adds to poison to disguise a deadly taste," writes Don Richardson, a well-known missionary who worked in Muslim countries, in "Secrets of the Koran" (Regal Books, 2003). "Better to find the same food, sans poison, in the Bible." This month, he is scheduled to speak on Islam at churches in five American cities.
Buckley thinks what they’re doing is terrific:
The program initiated by sundry evangelical Christian ministers to accost Islam by teaching the tenets of the Christian faith to those who seek to bring that faith to Muslims is very good stuff, overdue....
One evangelist, from Beirut, advocates assembling passages from the Koran that establish that Islam is "regressive, fraudulent, and violent," to quote the Times report by Laurie Goodstein. "Here in the Koran it says slay them, slay the infidels. In the Bible there are no words from Jesus saying we should kill innocent people."...
Diplomacy is fine and is necessary but it sometimes demands politically correct professions of equality of faith, at the expense of right reason. Ronald Reagan saw through to this problem when he said that the Soviet Union was an evil empire and that Communism would end up on the ash heap of history. Something like that needs to be said about Muslims, to the extent that they are identifiable as agents of terrorism.
We know William F. Buckley thinks we should invade Muslim countries and kill their leaders -- we’ve just invaded two of these countries and tried our damnedest to kill their leaders, and he was all for it. And now we know he wants the people left alive converted to Christianity -- or, at the very least, told how sick and vile and morally repugnant their religion is, in contrast to the moral glories of Christianity.
So what’s the difference between him and Coulter?