I've read Ann Coulter's new book, published Oct 14, 2013, checking for flaws in her thinking and also to deduce philosophical substance. Some classify her books as entertainment, but Coulter at least pretends to be a serious thinker.
The difference in our attitudes hit me beginning with the book's title, Never Trust a Liberal over 3 – especially a Republican. It signaled a problem in the book concerning who is liberal and who is conservative, or what is conservatism and what exactly is liberalism. Labels can be overly simplistic, and Coulter wrote as though any Republican who differs with her on any point is a liberal and no Democrat has even a small conservative bone in his body. Coulter ignores complexity and specificity.
My other problem with the title is about the word "trust." I tend to think that a good citizen doesn't trust anyone in politics, so why bring up the admonition that we shouldn't trust this or that person. We take a chance on someone running for office based on their individual behavior and expression of ideas. Trust is something children are supposed to have for their parents. Is Coulter suggesting we should be like children in supporting people in politics that she likes? Or is she just being shabby in her creation or acceptance of a title?
In her book she does tell us about her conservative roots, and she tells us of her many dislikes. She doesn't argue or lay out an explanation. She doesn't play with sociology. Indeed, she expresses her dislike for sociology. She seems to be writing to those she knows are already convinced. She mentions "Lyndon Johnson's pernicious Great Society programs" without telling us why she thinks those programs are pernicious. She mentions abortion as an abomination without discussing conflicting points of those on either side of the issue. She writes of her dislike of big government and Barrack Obama as if we either already agree with her or are hopelessly liberal.
She writes on page one: "Hey—any one remember when liberals told us in the 1970s that Earth was going to freeze in two years? Now they tell us it's going to overheat in two years." She gives us nothing more here, and her lack of details leaves us with a distortion. For the sake of brevity I'm employing her method and am not explaining why I think it's distortion, but I invite people to follow what scientists have been writing on the issue.
On page two she writes of "the liberal version of history [becoming] accepted fact. It's not that history is being written by the victors." she writes. "History is written by the pushy." Later in the book (pages 154-55), she does give an example of her contrasting view of history. Writing about Iran way back in 1953 (before its 1979 revolution), she criticizes "liberal academics" and writes that the president of Iran, Mossadegh, was "a clown" and that "The CIA's taking out Mossadegh was probably the greatest thing that the agency ever did." I prefer the modern historian's approach of describing and analyzing what happened while leaving readers room to apply their own value judgments. I wonder what she thinks the CIA accomplished in Iran in 1953 that was lasting for the US and makes the CIA worthy of her accolade "the greatest thing" it has ever done? She is not giving me substance. As a reader of her book I'm left again with a mysterious proclamation.
Coulter did argue briefly against what she declared to be a liberal inclination to raise taxes, but not well. It was simplistic sarcasm. She wrote:
Reagan's tax gave a huge boost to the U.S. economy—as did tax cuts under John F. Kennedy and Calvin Coolidge. So naturally, a perennial item on Democrats' wish list is to raise taxes. You can't win with these people. Facts and evidence are useless.
She seems to be arguing that historical evidence indicates that taxes are best never raised for any group. What about sales taxes. Where is she on the distribution of income issue, which is addressed by some kind of progressive taxation. And rather than raising taxes, some Democrats have been advocating a return to tax levels before President Bush lowered taxes from 2001 to 2003, which in their view hurt the economy. Sticking to her style, Coulter doesn't give any substance to her claims.
Coulter, it appears to me, is writing for her fans, the already convinced, who would rather be entertained than consider complexity – people who praise her as hilarious. But in this book she is instructing her followers on Republicans should think or say in order to increase their representation in government. She writes that conservatives need a "Twelve-Step Program to Manhood." She criticizes Newt Gingrich for speaking bombastically and carrying a tiny stick. On page 50 she describes Senator John McCain as "Bob Dole minus the charm, conservatism, and youth," and she adds that "Unlike McCain, Dole didn't lie all the time while claiming to engage in 'Straight Talk.'" In other words, conservatives should support someone not like McCain if they are to succeed.
Ann gets serious when discussing her parents. Here are her conservative roots. Her father died in 2008. She remembers him as,
...of the old school, a man of few words, the un-Oprah, no crying or wearing your heart on your sleeve, and reacting to moments of great sentiment with a joke. Or as we used to call them: men ... Of course, he did show strong emotion when the New York Post would run a photo of Teddy Kennedy saying the rosary. I can still see the look of disgust.
Her father was a Roman Catholic. He was also an "ex-FBI agent and a union-buster." She wrote: " ... we knew he thought the popular histories were bunk. That's why Treason was dedicated to him, the last book of mine that he was able to read." She added that "Father spent most of his nine-year FBI career as a Red hunter in New York City."
She writes: "Now Daddy is with Joe McCarthy and Ronald Reagan. I hope they stop laughing about the Reds long enough to talk to God about smiting some liberals for me." This does tell us something basic about how she sees the world. I find something childlike here that matches her concern with trust mentioned in her title.
Ann Coulter and I have fundamentally different views of the world. We've had different experiences, have asked different questions and hold ourselves to different standards. Some conservatives enjoy her sarcasm, but it doesn't leave me with much that is substantial. I've been made aware of another of her books, How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must). I wonder whether this other book communicates anything to liberals or is little more than unsubstantial sarcasm. I'll glance at the reviews on Amazon.com. Maybe she's just having fun and a good laugh with her followers rather than trying to advance conservatism.
I'll try to do better with another subject next week.
Copyright © 2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.