Ann Coulter, the Karen Finley of the right, has stirred up a tempest again, this time for telling The New York Observer that her "only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building." Her comment was immediately branded outrageous, offensive, and horrible; many drew comparisons to her infamous statement, in the immediate aftermath of September 11, that "we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." (In the same paragraph, she called for killing civilians, but this prompted little outrage. These days, religion is more controversial than slaughter.)
Not everyone has been so literal-minded. Former Forbes editor Melik Kaylan sticks up for the lady pundit in The Wall Street Journal, writing, "Why would anybody even pretend to believe that Ms. Coulter wishes any real harm to the New York Times or wishes to convert all Muslims forcibly to Christianity?" He has a point, though it'll be a long time before you see the Journal extend it to Eminem or Ted Rall.
The chief trouble I have with Coulter is not that she goes overboard with her invective. It's that she picks such dull targets. Listening to Coulter attack Those Darn Liberals (they're all weaklings who hate America, dontcha know) and then pat herself on the back for her bravery is like hearing some insufferable lefty drone on about "the threat posed by the Christian Right" or watching a performance artist boldly stand up against the social mores of the 1950s. The debates between Coulter and her counterparts on the left seem to take place in some alternate universe where Walter Mondale and Jerry Falwell still tower against the horizon—where Bill Clinton shares the principles of George McGovern and Ann Coulter lives the lifestyle preached by Phyllis Schlafly.
The resulting fog obscures some far more interesting issues, like whatever happened to the federalist ideals Coulter sometimes espoused before September 11 turned her into a post-op Spiro Agnew—or, more immediately, what other comments in that New York Observer article were jokes. Specifically: Does she really think Dick Cheney is "extremely sexy"? Or was that just more irony?