The purpose of this week’s gratuitious “debate” in the U.S. Senate on the so-called Defense of Marriage Amendment doesn’t even qualify as an open secret: it’s more like an open sore. A panicked GOP, under direct threats from self-appointed Christian Right leaders like James Dobson and unable to deal with any real issues, is trying to shore up its hard-line cultural conservative base by pretending to do something about the Awful Specter of Gay Marriage. You might even call it Rove’s Last Stand: with growing majorities of Americans rejecting Bush and GOP policies on almost every conceivable subject, the idea is to repolarize the electorate with cultural wedge issues and reenergize the theocratic element of the God ‘n’ Mammon coalition that’s been so noisily falling apart of late.Tired and transparent as this ploy is, it does fit neatly into GOP plans to make the November elections not a referendum on Republican misgovernment, but a lesser-of-two-evils choice between the incumbent party of power and those crazy Christian-hating, terrorist-appeasing, Bush-impeaching Democrats.Right on cue, the Right’s most promiscuous slanderer, Ann Coulter, is coming out with a new book under the fair-and-balanced title Godless, which “exposes” liberalism as a vast and all-powerful conspiracy to ban Christianity, introduce mandatory Paganism, and reduce the human race to the status of beasts.If you think I’m exaggerating, check out the excerpt from Godless posted at townhall.com, but you might want to keep some hand-sanitizer close by in case you accidentally touch your computer screen. Here’s a characteristic passage:
Liberalism is a comprehensive belief system denying the Christian belief in man’s immortal soul. Their religion holds that there is nothing sacred about human consciousness. It’s just an accident no more significant than our possession of opposable thumbs. They deny what we know about ourselves: that we are moral beings in God’s image. Without this fundamental understanding of man’s place in the world, we risk being lured into misguided pursuits, including bestiality, slavery, and PETA membership.
Those of you who have risked exposure to Coulter’s nasty oeuvre will recognize in this last sentence her signature move of tossing a leaden “jest” into a series of gross calumnies, thus enabling her conservative defenders to excuse her as a practitioner of good, clean, hate-filled fun.Normally I wouldn’t pay any attention to Coulter’s ravings; it’s depressing enough to realize that Godless, like her earlier screeds, will probably wind up on bestseller lists. But a particular passage in the excerpt caught my attention:
If Democrats ever dared speak coherently about what they believe, the American people would lynch them. So they claim to believe in God, much as Paul Begala claims to go “duck hunting” (liberal code for “antiquing”). At the beginning of the 2004 presidential campaign, the Democratic Leadership Council held briefings to teach Democratic candidates how to simulate a belief in God. To ease the Druids into it, the DLC recommended using phrases like “God’s green earth.” (The DLC also suggested avoiding the use of phrases such as “goddamned, motherf—ing Republicans!”)
The last paranthetical sentence, of course, is another Coulter bon mot. It does not seem to occur to this self-proclaimed Defensor Fidei that she should eschew violations of the Second Commandment (or, for that matter, that she is exceptionally ill-equipped to accuse Paul Begala of elitism). But the previous two sentences happen to refer to a quote from yours truly, delivered at a conference on cultural issues in Atlanta in the autumn of 2003. Since I was, you know, actually there, and know a lot more about what I was saying that Ann Coulter’s research staff, I can report that the audience was a group primarily composed of southern state legislators, roughly half of them African-Americans. I strongly suspect none of them were tree-worshipping Druids, and moreover, that most of them have forgotten more about the theory and practice of Christianity than Ann Coulter will ever know. And in my remarks to the group, far from teaching anyone to “simulate belief in God,” I was actually suggesting that people of faith who are Democrats shouldn’t hide the fact, and could take a lesson from George W. Bush in how to weave scriptural language into policy discussions, especially insofar as W. seems to ignore half the Law and most of the Gospels.This particular passage of Godless is just a wolf-cub in the snarling pack of Coulter’s lies, but it does give you a sense of her respect for facts. I’ve personally been accused on occasion of indulging in unfunny humor, but to use another “bestial” metaphor, anyone who finds the Clown Princess of right-wing invective hilarious probably likes dead-kitten jokes, especially in the company of those PETA-loving liberal Druids.