It's not hard to find the "nut" paragraph in Laura Holson's New York Times "Sunday Styles" piece on Ann Coulter. Here it is:
Now that members of the Tea Party movement have stolen much of her thunder, Ms. Coulter is taking some surprising new positions. She called the decision to send more troops into Afghanistan "insane," warning that it could be a new Vietnam. She has decried fellow Republicans for continuing to insist President Obama is Muslim. And perhaps most startling, she wants to bring more gay Republicans into the conservative fold.
Coulter is a friend of mine, and we've been arguing about politics on and off for at least a decade or so. Holson's argument seems like total BS to me. It reeks of a top-of-the-head working thesis an editor had about Ann Coulter when he or she assigned the piece, and which then was imposed on the reporting. (That's my working thesis, anyway.) Except that however the above paragraph materialized, it's not supported by much, if any, evidence in Holson's piece.
Holson cites three "surprising new positions" Coulter has taken after allegedly being "outflanked on [the] right" and overshadowed by the Tea Party. (Never mind that she speaks at Tea Party rallies and gets plenty of attention.) Let's take them one by one, keeping in mind that the first wave of Tea Party rallies was in April, 2009:
1) Opposing the "surge" in Afghanistan. Coulter's been privately expressing doubts about Afghanistan's "winnability" for years. Her position is that a war to implant democracy could succeed in Iraq, not Afghanistan, justifying Bush's decision to focus on the former. (Iraq is developed, with an educated, semi-Westernized middle class and industrial base; Afghanistan relatively undeveloped, etc.) In 2005 she told the New York Observer:
I certainly thought Afghanistan was going to be a tougher nut to crack than Iraq—the Russians couldn't take Afghanistan! They've basically been at war for a hundred years—even when nobody's there, they're at war with one another.
There are a number of reasons Coulter might have hesitated to highlight these thoughts in the years before Obama decided to re-escalate our troop presence in Afghanistan: 1) She thought the Afghan war was essentially over; 2) Alternatively, she didn't want to undercut our troops in Afghanistan by saying they were on a fruitless mission; 3) She didn't want to undermine the Bush adminstration because she's a loyal Republican. . . . And oh yes, 4) Obama hadn't decided to re-escalate our troop presence! She did compare Afghanistan to Vietnam on Geraldo in 2009 (and repeatedly argued on that show that the former was a poor candidate for nation-building).
When Michael Steele made his anti-Afghanistan comment in 2010 and the issue became Topic A, Coulter wrote a column defending Steele and attacking "neoconservatives" such as Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney. She didn't make the cheap argument that Republicans could have won the Afghan War but Obama couldn't. She made the argument that the war wasn't worth it for either party. Even the subsequent Daily Kos attempt to show she was a hypocrite noted that she'd only been pro-Afghan War for its first few weeks, until 2002 when Bush switched his focus to Iraq. Does that make her look opportunistic—or oddly consistent?
2.) Opposing Obama-is-a-Muslim theories: There are two simpler explanations for why Coulter speaks out against these theories. 1) She's looked at the evidence. (She also blasts the "birthers," for what it's worth.) 2) She thinks liberals are "godless," and Obama is a liberal. This would explain the title of her 2006 book, Godless. You would think she might be disinclined to buy into the Obama-is-a-Muslim theories simply because she's already committed to her "godless" theory. In any case, her arguing that Obama is "godless," and not a Muslim, is neither a "new" position nor a "surprising" one.
3) Gays: Holson sneers that Coulter's "sudden zeal" regarding gays "might might strike some as an opportunistic grab for a spotlight that has faded somewhat." But it wasn't very sudden. Coulter has a whole chapter in her book If Democrats Had Any Brains They'd Be Republicans on why gays should join the GOP. The chapter is called "No Gays Left Behind!" The book came out in 2007. (In it she quotes herself from 2006: "I like gays. I like all gays. And not just the ones who are Ann Coulter drag queens.") I'm told she also said the same thing about gays and Republicans in the Q&A at the very 2007 CPAC conference where she made her controversial John Edwards/Isaiah Washington/John Edwards "fa--ot" joke (though I can't get the video to work). Pretty shrewd of her to realize in 2007 that in two years the Tea Parties would rise up and steal her "thunder"—so she'd better start going for the gays!
When I ran for Senate recently, the "Sunday Styles" section did a piece on my effort that offered a similarly bogus, dismissive dorm-room theory on my motivations: I was having a "mid-life crisis." And here I thought I was running to oppose amnesty and card check!* But at least the Times' reporter for that piece, Janelle Brown, got her bogus theory out of the mouth of a bullshitting friend of mine. Holson couldn't find anybody, even a "trained seal," to speak her "anti-Tea Party opportunism" theory back at her. The best she does is Coulter's friend Bill Maher, who says "once they are in the public eye, they don't want to be irrelevant." Well duh! But that's a long way from saying that Coulter opportunistically developed "new positions" to counter a hypothetical rivalry with the Tea Party movement of which she is a part. (Maher also says "I happen to think that Ann believes everything she says," taking away with one hand what he didn't give with the other.)
My nut graf: Holson's "opportunism" theory might strike some as a sleazy and condescending attempt to discredit a conservative figure whose views are more sensible (and compatible with those of The New York Times) than The New York Times, whose reputation for avoiding dumb liberal bias has faded somewhat, has ever admitted, in part because it didn't bother to pay attention!
Those people would be right.
P.S.: Holson interviewed me for her story. I don't remember her asking me about her "opportunism" theory, or about anyone's thunder being stolen. If she asked about Afghanistan I would have told her what I say above.
*—Trust me, I know when I'm having a mid-life crisis. Now I'm having a mid-life crisis. I've had about five of them. They're usually a good thing. 4:02 a.m.
Chevy Volt Deflates: Remember the Chevy Volt, the electric-gas car that GM said would get 230 mpg? Well, that assumes you don't drive much more than 35 or so miles a day and thus never have to use the "range extender" gas engine. The Volt is now being road-tested by third parties, and it turns out that if you go longer distances, the Volt's mileage gets very unimpressive very quickly. Popular Mechanics got 37.5 city and about 38 highway. GM had promised 50 mpg using the engine on the highway—still does, on this Web site. It doesn't appear to have come anywhere close....Yes, it's only a first-generation design. But we were fed a bunch of hype....
P.S.: The more fundamental problem may be conceptual, as one Truth About Cars reader points out. As long as you're going to have a regular gas engine in your electric car, you might as well have it driving the wheels directly (as in a hybrid Prius or Fusion) rather than charging the battery that then has to drive the wheels (with an energy loss at each stage). I'd always assumed hybrids were an awkward transitional compromise, but now I'm not so sure. . . .
10/12 UPDATE: It now turns out that GM was deceiving us--the Volt's gas engine does drive the wheels directly, on occasion, just as in a hybrid. So it's not that revolutionary after all. Autoblogger firestorm now underway! . . . As noted, this doesn't mean the Volt is necessarily a bad car. It's just more confirmation that nothing from these desperate, politicized, rush-IPO hype artists should be believed. (First there was the deception about having "repaid our government loan in full". ... Then the lie about a 230 mpg EPA rating . . . Now the lie about the "all-electrically driven" Volt ). . . . 3:57 a.m.
It's a Tren . . . : Things that will collapse after Nov. 2, 2010: 1) GM's IPO 2) Middle East Peace talks. 3) ....Well, I need a third. You have to have three for a trend. Suggestions accepted....2:50 p.m.