Two recently published books, Of Thee I Zing by Laura Ingraham and Demonic by Ann Coulter, remind us of how much their lively and intelligent authors have brought to news comment and the spirit of public-policy discussion in America. They are certainly not interchangeable in their personalities or their opinions, and I fuse them here only because they are recent authors already high on the New York Times bestseller list, though that is not a newspaper that reviews their books or often has a cordial word to say about them. (The Times did run a relatively civil feature piece some months ago about Ms. Coulter after she was well received as a paid speaker to a gay group and effectively debunked the theory that she is a gay-basher.)
What they have in common is that they are both attractive, blonde, witty, never-married, heterosexual, practicing Christian, conservative women commentators who have hugely enlivened political discourse. Laura Ingraham is a radio-talk-show host, frequent fill-in host for O’Reilly and others, and frequent guest on various conservative news-comment programs. She has adopted three children, two from Russia and one from Central America, and is a convert to Roman Catholicism.
Ann Coulter is a more frequent author, produces a lively weekly column, and uses frequent television guest appearances with Hannity and other conservative commentators to promote her books. Where Ms. Ingraham is a day-in, day-out radio and TV host, and takes all comers among radio callers, always with great vivacity of wit, Ms. Coulter is less constantly before the public but is a specialist in shocking the heavy-footed liberal lumpenbourgeoisie.
Coulter attracts greater leftish opprobrium because of her more frequent recourse to reflections that she well knows will, as she says, “stir the pot.” Thus, John Edwards was a “faggot,” by which, she explained, she only meant a “wuss,” and Christians were “perfected Jews” because the New Testament was “like Federal Express.” When an airline was boycotted for yielding to passenger concerns and disembarking six Muslim imams before takeoff, she said that if the Muslims would boycott all the airlines, there would be no need for any airport security. And when a Muslim questioner objected to this comment at one of her speeches, in Canada, she replied, “Take a camel.” More of a jolt to conventional sensibilities was her lamentation that Timothy McVeigh did not bomb the New York Times building instead of a federal building in Oklahoma, after, she explained as the intended controversy erupted, “everyone had left the building except the editors and reporters.” The mindless reflexiveness with which the soft Left responds to Coulter, especially, is premeditated by her and is a vastly entertaining send-up of the boring, high-minded liberals that she can turn on like a spigot at will, to her own amusement and profit.
Despite the constant grumbling of detractors, both are formidable in debate and are very well-informed and forensically capable. Both are well-educated lawyers (Dartmouth and Virginia for Ingraham, Cornell and Michigan Law for Coulter) and clerked for senior judges, and both are accomplished showmen, including in their book covers: On Ingraham’s latest, her face is on George Washington crossing the Delaware. Coulter has been, among other guises, a leather-vested, authoritarian school teacher on one of hers. Despite the shrill efforts of Rachel Maddow and others on the left, these two, in particular, have cornered the market in vigorous female political opinion for the Right and have been un-dislodgeable for a decade.
Laura Ingraham has perhaps a third of Rush Limbaugh’s radio audience of over 25 million, and has a broader net for the center-right and a gentler and more humorous technique than Limbaugh. Ann Coulter is essentially a one-person industry, a television guest and frequent paid speaker who drums up her book sales by her peppy aphorisms. Ingraham’s latest book is a very entertaining exposé of the shallowness and platitudinous newspeak of current popular culture; it is sharply witty, as she is in conversation, on air and in person. And she somewhat seriously presents the fatuity of consumerish excess and absurd euphemism as illustrative of cultural deterioration and national decline. “Silence has become the enemy of our culture. . . . An abusive soundtrack runs under every aspect of lives now. At times, it feels like we are extras in a Rihanna video, without the rehearsal or the paycheck.”
The newest offering from Ann Coulter is her latest lashing of the inanities of liberalism, and of the threat they pose to the country. These women are not just controversialists. They give a glamorous face and style to the Right, and lift the discussion far above the mere blowhardism of O’Reilly, Hannity, Savage, and many others, and are stylish and intelligent women who are completely unabashed, but rational, proponents of patriotism and Christianity.
Most conservative commentators attack high taxes, meddlesome government, deficit spending, and foreign adventurism, and leave it at that. They are essentially Coolidgeists: laissez-faire, individualistic, agnostic isolationists. Ingraham and Coulter share most of that ambition to roll back the state and the depredations of taxes, but they are not unrealistic about the great world largely full of countries and people that do not wish America well. And they know that the backbone of this civilization is composed of the Judeo-Christian ethos and belief, the spirit of enterprise, the notion of service to the nation, the pursuit of literacy in all things, a carefully directed martial capability and spirit, and the rule of law (which they do not confuse with the racketeering of gonzo prosecutors, and the national addiction to frivolous and vexatious litigation). Each wears a cross that represents credence and not decoration, and, contrary to the customary insinuations of the Left, not because they think the earth is flat and that everyone who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus spends eternity in hellfire.
Ingraham is naturally heavy on the Catholic issues, and Coulter gets a little carried away about Joseph R. McCarthy, and commits the widespread conservative fallacy, beloved of the country-club locker rooms and club billiard committees, that FDR was an outright socialist. Her view that Darwin has been overemphasized and applied far beyond what he had himself intended, is rigorous, and deserves a greater hearing than the arch-secularists and worshippers of science give it.
There is nothing like them in other countries, nor much like them in this one. The packaging is leggy women with bright teeth and eyes and lots of blond hair, and they are charming, though not demure. The message is God, Christ, learning, and country. They are outstanding bearers of that timeless message that has reprehensibly few public champions, certainly not including the incumbent president. It is a pleasure to commend their books.