Dean Barnett

I really don’t feel like writing this essay. I was going to curl up with the Sunday Times this morning and cook myself a nice omelet. Instead, I find it sadly necessary to address the tired topic of Ann Coulter.

I’ve received your emails. I’ve read your comments. The verdict is undeniable – many people who bothered to weigh in on the subject either didn’t see anything wrong with what Ann did or didn’t like my criticism of her. To tell the truth, most often it was both. My favorite email was the following typically thoughtful missive:

Ann Coulter hit the nail on the head. John Edwards is a pussified a**hole and faggot. That's right, I wrote it and will say it in public. I don't mean it in the classic sense either. Edwards is an effeminate, back-stabbing, hide-behind-the-law, ambulance chaser who couldn't handle himself in a one-on-one fist fight. So, get your perfume out and go join him. Evidently, you aren't man enough to tell the truth either. You're just another neo-con hack who isn't worth his weight in dogs**t! Stop blogging because you're just making it worse.

Why was this one my favorite? Because it was addressed to Hugh. Heh.

THE OBJECTIONS TO MY objections fell into three main categories:

1) Ann didn’t really call Edwards a faggot.

2) What the left does is sooooo much worse. Rather than criticize Ann, Hugh and I should be saluting her for having the courage to fight back.

3) Ann can say whatever she wants. You know, freedom of speech? Besides, she’s a national treasure.

Okay, taking them in order:

I don’t think the first objection is meant as a serious one. Here’s Ann’s exact quote: “I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot,’ so I — so kind of an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards.” It’s too early and frankly I have too much writing to do today to seriously engage this objection. If you think that this is meaningfully different from just saying, “Edwards is a faggot,” then we’ll have to agree to disagree. I know, I know - it was a joke. The whole point here is that it was an astonishingly inappropriate one.

I find the second objection even further off the mark. Yes, the left engages in hysterical, overwrought, inappropriate and offensive rhetoric. No denying that. I think I can say, with all due modesty, that over the years I’ve made more of a sport of documenting these transgressions than anyone else.

The reason I document these things is because I believe they are collectively the smoking gun that shows how pathological the modern left has become. So tell me – why would I support similar behavior on the right? Yes, Bill Maher did his typically brain-dead and offensive shtick on Friday. But, you’ll note, “brain-dead” and “offensive” aren’t terms of praise. Assuming one thinks that publicly using the word “faggot” is offensive, why would one praise Ann Coulter for doing so just because she has opposite numbers on the other side of the political spectrum who are also embarrassments to their side? I must admit, the logic here is lost on me.

An additional point related to this complaint for you political pragmatists out there: One of the reasons the left lost in 2004 was because of its sweaty embrace of Michael Moore. The hysteria of the Daily Kos and the Huffington Post are ongoing liabilities for liberalism. I’m not entirely clear on why conservatives would cheer similar liabilities in their own ranks.

The final argument was the most ludicrous (although admittedly the competition was fierce). Many of my correspondents thought Ann should have been able to say whatever she wanted. To them, it was a free speech issue.

Yes, America is a free country. Obviously, Ann can do her Lenny Bruce-meets-Gordon Liddy “edgy” conservative comedy shtick if that’s what floats her boat (and sells her books). But when she goes out in public and enters a mature forum, Ann has to clean it up. On Friday, she was speaking from a stage that in all likelihood also hosted the future Republican presidential nominee. This wasn’t a college campus appearance. More dignity was required. Obviously the presidential candidates agree; they have attempted to distance themselves from Coulter, obviously failing to grasp the benefit of having such a putatively hilarious conservative firebrand on their side.

Determinedly clueless to the bitter end, Ann emailed the New York Times’ Adam Nagourney responding to the candidates’ seeking distance from her. “Did any of these guys say anything after I made the same remark about Al Gore last summer?” she asked. “Why not? What were they trying to say about Al Gore with their silence?” To provide the obvious answer of why her Gore comments went unnoticed, her Gore comments (which I don’t have any memory of) obviously came at a less prominent forum than CPAC.

ONE LAST POINT, AND THIS ONE HAS more to do with conservatives than the outspoken pundit. A lot of people wrote in saying something like, “Big deal. No one offended by the term ‘faggot’ is going to vote Republican, anyway.”

I don’t deny that there are people who don’t consider “faggot” an offensive term. Of course, there are people who don’t consider “kike” an offensive term either. In our current day, the former is a hateful slur word just as surely as the latter is. If you don’t agree with that, it’s important that you at least realize the following – the offensiveness of “faggot” is a certain truth in polite society. And impolite society. And just about everywhere in between. If this comes as news to you, you’ve got to get out more. Don’t quote me a Dire Straits song from 1985 – times have changed. It’s frankly an embarrassment that some conservatives are so eager and willing to embrace Coulter’s comment.

When Ann made her offending comment on Friday, it wasn’t greeted by boisterous laughter as many of you have suggested in your emails and comments. It was greeted by uncomfortable silence. That spoke well of the attendees. The audience at CPAC knew that Ann had transgressed.

Some conservatives, or at least some of the conservatives who have flooded my inbox, think that her transgression was perfectly acceptable. It wasn’t. The use of a hateful slur word in a public forum is beyond the pale. It saddens me that we can’t have unanimity on such a simple and basic point.

As for me, in spite of all the thoughtful emails I’ve received to the contrary, I’m sticking with my original assessment of Ann and her “joke”: Idiotic. Disgusting. Stupid. Moronic.

Compliments? Complaints? Contact me at


UPDATE: Anti-Romney conservative (poor misguided thing) Jennifer Rubin has thoughts on this matter at Politico that are well worth reading.

Dean Barnett

Dean Barnett blogs almost daily at He has also been a frequent contributor to the Weekly Standard's online edition, The Daily Standard. He can be reached for comment at

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