Am I allowed to utter a heresy here? Will you bear with me if I do that?
I've read the cover story on Ann Coulter in Time.
I don't think it's that bad.
What I mean is that I expected worse. I read a lot of the criticism before I read the article, and I expected puffery on the level of the 2002 George Gurley interview in which Coulter fantasized about Tim McVeigh blowing up the New York Times building.
That's not what this is. It's a more flattering portrait than she deserves -- the author, John Cloud, tries to be evenhanded, something she'd never do -- but it doesn't make her look very good. And I'm not talking about the cover photo.
I imagine a person reading the story who doesn't know the first thing about her. First impression: She's half drunk and chain-chewing Nicorette. Next: You learn she's compared all liberals to an alleged wife-murderer. Soon she's graphically describing a partial-birth abortion while people around her in a restaurant are trying to eat, after which she insists that her interviewer note for the record that she's getting sloshed.
You think this makes her look good?
This sounds like an episode of Behind the Music -- the part that comes shortly before the multiple stints in rehab.
Then there are the bon mots. See, you and I, we're used to them. If you're a lefty political maven, you've heard all of Coulter's greatest hits -- you can probably recite a few from memory. But to the apolitical reader I'm imagining, this is brand new, and unless the person is far to the right, I think it must seem rather repulsive.
Coulter wrote that Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. is "a little weenie who can't read because he has 'dyslexia.'"...
Coulter's speech was part right-wing stand-up routine -- she called Senator Edward Kennedy "the human dirigible" -- and part bloodcurdling agitprop. "Liberals like to scream and howl about McCarthyism," she concluded. "I say, let's give them some. They've had intellectual terror on the campus for years ... It's time for a new McCarthyism."
COULTER: God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours.' ...
" ...Imagine the great slogans the airlines could use: "'Now Frisking All Arabs Twice!' ... "'You Are Now Free to Move About the Cabin Not So Fast, Mohammed!'"
There's even more in a sidebar.
She insults a disabled Vietnam veteran. She insults Pamela Harriman, who's barely cold in her grave. She implies that her Muslim boyfriend is a potential terrorist. She calls a historian who regards her work as sloppy a "chickenshit."
She wakes up at one in the afternoon. She sometimes wears a surgical mask when she flies. She's been engaged three times but has never married. She says that she lives on chardonnay and cigarettes, and that she makes out with men in public, but not that often (that's now -- she's in her forties).
I think she comes off as Middle America's stereotype of a well-heeled, flaky coast-dweller who's hopelessly screwed up -- Anna Nicole Smith with a higher IQ and a faster metabolism. I think John and Jane Doe are reading this and thinking they're glad they don't watch cable news talk, glad they don't read her column and books, and certainly glad she doesn't live next door.