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June 12, 2003

An Evening with Ann Coulter


by Anthony Gancarski

On the evening of June 3, 2003, conservative pundit Ann Coulter came to Jacksonville to address the Ponte Vedra Federated Republican Women's Club as part of a book tour in support of her latest, Treason. Without exception, the audience was comprised of serious local Republicans. Eminence Grise and State Representative Don Davis introduced Coulter, and the book signing after Coulter's address was replete with legendary names being dropped. A number of guests were intimates of one GOP superstar or another; names dropped included MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, Peggy Noonan, and former President Reagan [who was mentioned, time and again, as something of a cross between a great statesman and a deity in human form]. Former mayor and possible 2008 Vice-Presidential candidate, John Delaney, was not in attendance physically, though he was listed on the program card as the Honorary Chair. And this indeed was a John Delaney crowd. Men with serious juice abounded, adorned in linen suits ranging in color from Siena to Carolina Blue to basic white. Women wore jewelry that, if hocked, would've paid off many a local mortgage. The crowd was old-money rich, and well-mannered in a way unimaginable in far too many other milieus. People said please, thank you, and excuse me; for this writer, it was like stepping through a time warp to an era when people didn't routinely embarrass themselves in public. In a society given to instant gratification as a mode of distraction, the assembled Republicans seemed to look at things in the long view; the system was theirs, and it was their responsibility to protect it.

This writer has gone on record with trenchant, even fierce criticisms of the Drug War and War on Terror. That said, the folks in attendance and their counterparts around the nation must feel that they have no choice but to let their government do what's required to protect "American interests." These folks are the ruling class, and they would be letting down their legacies if they gave in to what one garrulous audience member called "socialist redistribution."

Most conservatives aren't willing to state the actual cases for racial profiling or even the Iraqi action that seemed so resolved just weeks ago. Ann Coulter is different though. She's an articulate, impassioned advocate for the neoconservative agenda; unlike many in the Old Right, Coulter believes that the Washington government can be a vehicle to service certain political agendas. That big-government conservative position is shared, of course, by the assembled dignitaries in Ponte Vedra, who paid upwards of $75 per person to listen to Coulter read from Treason. Big-government works for them, and in that context, it's easy to see why the days of conservatives looking to smash federal power have long since passed.

So, what did Coulter talk about? The same topics she addresses in her columns and on Fox News – the Terror War and all that goes along with it. An enthusiastic advocate for that action, Coulter's address was replete with witty half-truths in its support. In Coulter's reckoning, for example, the Iraqi war was "two-thirds of the War on Terror" and "went off without a hitch." The excerpt from Treason she read was replete with repeats of the seemingly-discredited "intelligence" information that provided just cause for the ground invasion. No worries for Coulter, though, who made an unsubstantiated claim that 9/11 itself justified deposing Hussein.

And Ann Coulter may be the best working writer when it comes to making statements so outrageous that they don't require backup. For example, she described Scott Ritter as one of those "liberals who clean up and cut their hair to meet underaged girls." She also was quite willing to make the case for going to war for oil. "Letting oil sit in the Middle East would be like letting food rot. . . We need oil – how else can Hollywood liberals get their cocaine?" Inquiring minds want to know.

No one flanks the angular, poised Coulter to the right on such issues. Likewise, she's the first person of substance I've heard say on the record that the Middle East is now "George Bush's bitch." And so are Muslim men, apparently: "when there's a one hundred percent chance that a terrorist is Muslim, it's not a racial profile, but a description." She added, seemingly to dispel doubt as to who she meant, that "they're all named Mohammed."

No one named Mohammed was in attendance that night in Ponte Vedra.

Coulter's message was tailored to those who envision conservatism as a force of entrenchment. Such political actors believe in the Washington system, and tailor their discussion under the assumption that system will live on in perpetuity. Ann Coulter is a Washington conservative in a sense that would've been anathema to the Robert Tafts of bygone times. But give her credit – at least she's honest about it.

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Anthony Gancarski, the author of Unfortunate Incidents, writes for The American Conservative, CounterPunch, and LewRockwell.com. His web journalism was recognized by Utne Reader Online as "Best of the Web." A writer for the local Folio Weekly, he lives in Jacksonville, Florida.

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