Skip to comments.Ann Coulter: Always right [Interview with Paul Mulshine]
Posted on 11/11/2002 8:27:41 PM PST by Incorrigible
Ann Coulter is famous -- or notorious -- for speaking her mind and outraging many of her listeners. Her first book, "High Crimes and Misdemeanors," was a scathing account of the Monica Lewinsky scandal from a lawyer's perspective. Her second, "Slander," is an attack on liberal bias in the media.
Coulter, whose easy laugh contrasts with her serious demeanor on television, talked with Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine over lunch in Manhattan.
Where did you grow up, and what sort of upbringing did you have?
New Canaan, Conn. I had two older brothers. I went to Cornell and the University of Michigan Law School, worked for the Department of Justice, then a couple of law firms in New York, then the Center for Individual Rights. And then I wrote my book "High Crimes and Misdemeanors." Which I thought was going to mean a six-month leave of absence from my law firm. I didn't realize that when you write a book you have to actually promote it. That was in August of 1998, and it was right before impeachment. Then I was just overwhelmed by media, and I had to leave the law firm.
Was there any moment of conversion when you became a conservative?
No. My family talked about politics a lot. My father was a lawyer. Both of my parents were very conservative. They talked about politics, constantly arguing cheerfully the way conservatives always do argue about politics. The summer before I went to Cornell I was living with my brother John on the Upper East Side. He and his friends, who were also conservative, would make me read Bill Simon's book and William Friedman's book, and they'd come home and quiz me before we could go off to nightclubs and bars.
What led you to become a writer?
I never wanted to be a writer. I was just doing it as sort of a hobby while I was a lawyer. And my first publisher, Regnery, came to me and asked if I wanted to write something about the Paula Jones thing. I was doing research on the case, and when the Monica Lewinsky thing broke, Regnery came to me and asked it I could write a book about it.
So I think this is what I'm supposed to be doing. God looked down on me and said, "We don't need another lawyer."
What was it like making the transition from the law to writing?
Most of the people I used to know, obviously, were lawyers. Now most of the new people I'm meeting are involved in some aspect of writing. My lawyer friends are always saying "So-and-so, this writer, must be making $200,000 a year." I say, "You don't understand the economics of writing. It's not like practicing law, but it's a lot more fun than practicing law."
Do you find the writers more interesting?
The most striking difference is the lawyers do not really like what they do. It's hard work. It's not very pleasant. They work long hours. Whereas writers almost uniformly like what they do for a living. That's presumably why you get paid less. I point out to the lawyers, "We have more fun."
With "Slander," you had to pay back the advance because the publisher decided not to publish it. How many copies did it eventually sell?
At least 400,000, which is probably why I wasn't particularly distraught. But I didn't tell my friends and family. After you've been working on a book for a year and the publisher kills it, for all they know you're Jack Nicholson in "The Shining" writing over and over again, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."
What had happened was that Robert Jones, my editor on that book, died. He had cancer. As soon as he died, the publisher, HarperCollins, killed the book. Nobody else would pick it up. I went to one friend, a writer from the New York Times. And he said, "I'd expect you to be totally distressed, but you're laughing about this."
But it was totally consistent with what I described in my book. It was purely ideological. One editor at Doubleday simply wrote me, "I do not think this moves the national dialogue forward."
I e-mailed my agent, and I said "That's funny, because I thought publishers made money on how many books they sold. I didn't realize it was how many yards they moved the national dialogue forward."
How did you finally get it published?
I went to Steve Ross at Crown. But I didn't thank him enough in my book because I didn't want him to get snubbed at cocktail parties. He immediately assured me he didn't go to that many cocktail parties.
Your most controversial quote was right after Sept. 11, when you said of the terrorists that we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. National Review Online then killed your column. What caused that reaction?
I'd heard there was a major letter-writing campaign inspired by the Southern Poverty Law Center. By the end of that week, Point 1 and Point 2 -- invade their countries and kill their leaders -- was officially U.S. policy. As for converting them to Christianity, if I'd said convert them to the Peace Corps I think that would have gone over quite well.
In your book, you write that a big problem for conservatives is that they aren't paid to go on TV.
The high-paying positions go to liberals. People say that I complain the media's too liberal but I'm all over the media. Well, yeah: I'm working free. I don't get half-million-dollar advances for books that don't sell. The only magazine that would ever publish me was George magazine -- John Kennedy Jr., God bless him. He really did want to give both sides. Now that George magazine is gone, there's no magazine that would publish me or pay me.
What was your fight with Katie Couric? You wrote that she mischaracterized the Edmund Morris book about Ronald Reagan and had Morris labeling Reagan an airhead.
"Was Reagan an airhead?" she asked. Matt Lauer did it again the next day. And that is not what Edmund Morris had put in his book, which he later explained on the Today Show. He said that on his first meeting Reagan seemed "an apparent airhead" but he later found that was untrue. But I did go on the Today show, for which I am forever grateful, and it was a great interview.
Speaking of airheads, you wrote that Christie Whitman is a dimwit.
It was so fitting that the New Jersey Supreme Court created by Christie Whitman approved the (Frank) Lautenberg-(Robert) Torricelli switch. Because of her really preposterous picks for the New Jersey Supreme Court, the court ends up allowing Democrats to play this bait-and-switch game in clear violation of the law.
You quote that famous survey that showed 89 percent of Washington journalists voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. You argue that the liberals both run the media and refuse to admit they run the media.
That is a funny thing. They're like, "Some say we're too conservative. Some say we're too liberal. Who's to say?" Well, there are ways of judging these things. We do know that for example in 1984, 49 states voted for Ronald Reagan. How many of the major newspapers endorsed Reagan? The New York Times didn't. The Washington Post didn't. We know the talking heads were inconsolable on television that night when Ronald Reagan won.
You pointed out that New Jersey's own Bill Bradley was known as "the cerebral Bill Bradley," and that when his SAT scores came out it turned out he did much worse than the allegedly dumb George Bush.
His SATs were stunningly low, probably as low as anyone who ever attended Princeton. I only included a few references to Bradley as "cerebral" but you'd think it was his first name. "Cerebral" Bill Bradley. How low do your SAT scores have to be if you're a Democrat before you stop being called cerebral?
"Cerebral" in the American media means one thing: liberal. Al Gore's academic record was appalling. He failed out of divinity school, and meanwhile Bush went on to get his MBA from Harvard. Which is the dumb one?
Intelligent people seem to get more conservative as they get older. For example, what do you think of the way Christopher Hitchens has turned into a right- winger on Iraq and the war on terrorism?
Everything he actually cares about, he's a right-winger on. He doesn't want to admit it, or he'd lose his job with Vanity Fair. He keeps running around saying he's a socialist, and then he can write whatever he wants.
People who know the most about politics are conservative. Think of your friends. The ones who are the most liberal, they're usually artists or some such thing. They know nothing about politics. They just want to think they're really cool and they love people. People are always conservative on the issues they know best, even if they're very liberal on everything else. I noticed that at law school. The Russian history professors, they were liberal on everything else, but all these guys at Harvard or Cornell or wherever, if their specialty was Russia they were basically with Reagan.
It's the same with Jews on Israel. Jews who are liberal on other things are behind Bush on the war because they know a lot about Israel, they know a lot about the Middle East. If it were Taiwan, we'd have fewer liberal Jews on our side.
Does being inside the Belt way ruin conservatives?
Matt Drudge often points out that it's not a coincidence that he, Rush Limbaugh, Phyllis Schlafly and me all don't live in Washington. Living in Washington is like the Stockholm syndrome. I think not enough of our people go into journalism, which is why I tell people when I give these college speeches: Don't go to law school, become a journalist. It's the only hope.
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Yes, Yes. Mandatory pics!
Amen Ann! I've been saying this for quite a while on this forum. Journalists control the minds of the electorate. It doesn't matter how correct the conservative philosophy is. If it can't be relayed to the sheeple, it will go no where. The conservative vision for the future needs to include building conservative schools of journalism with endowments and conservative professors (are there any in journalism?).
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