Slate's Tim Noah asks why, five years after being curb-kicked by National Review Online, Ann Coulter exerts such an influence over the tenor of conservative punditry.
Maybe it's sheer greed; Coulter has certainly demonstrated that extremism sells books. Maybe it's the reward structure of cable-news shows, which love to sic right-wing mad dogs on seemingly clueless moderate liberals. But I'm inclined to think the main driving force is the bankruptcy of contemporary conservatism as represented by the Bush administration
Noah wonders which journalist will be the new Coulter, and which book will be the new Slander. Obviously, it's going to be Jonah Goldberg and Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton. Goldberg's book shares Coulter's fail-safe device for getting free publicity—a specific target. It doesn't just bait liberals, but Hillary Clinton, who's shown she'll respond to any attack if she thinks it can turn her into a righteous victim. (Witness her response to a TV ad by no-hope New York Senate candidate John Spencer.) Coulter hasn't just made right-wing punditry shriller—she's helped redefine the terms of Red Team-Blue Team debate, prioritizing umbrage and victimization ("Howard Dean says Republicans are evil! Ouch, my feelings!") even on issues where Dems and GOPers don't much disagree. This is good for book sales, and for boring the hell out of the rest of us.
UPDATE: I missed this somehow… Gawker tracks Coulter's more obviously planned "outrages" along with her book sales.