Buckley On Coulter

When I saw that the Claremont Review of Books had posted a William F. Buckley Jr. review of Ann Coulter’s book Treason I clicked over in a hurry. I have been a fan of WFB since I was quite young and looked forward to his take on Ann. After all he has dealt with the subject in depth himself in both non-fiction and ficiton form.

Given all that, however, I was dissappointed in Buckley’s take on Coulter. Like much of his writing lately, it was disjointed and rather confusing. Basically, Buckley takes the view of most conservtives: Coulter’s language is over-the-top but she is witty and she skewars the right people. Even Buckley realizes that Coulter lets emption trump facts:

But as one reads along, one gets used to exaggerations—not McCarthy’s, but Coulter’s. She is carried away. Yes, the Rosenbergs were justly and correctly executed for treason, but get a load of the language that flows from it, in the hands of Ms. Coulter. She is talking about the famous Army-McCarthy contest and focusing now on the army dentist. The McCarthy committee spotted Major Irving Peress, a Communist, who had been kept on in the army and even promoted. “When were they [the army] to learn? Thanks to the Army’s incompetence in dealing with the Rosenbergs, nearly 300 million Americans would spend the second half of the 20th century under threat of nuclear annihilation.” That is something of a stretch, for-want-of-a-nail compounded to the 10th power. The Coulter reader, impelled by the momentum of Coulter, Historian, might wonder why, in high pitch of wrath and anger, she let the army off merely with the charge of incompetence. Why not make the army traitorous, too?

In my own review, I pointed out the problems involved in using emotional and inaccurate language to castigate the left for its unwillingness to face facts about communism’s brutal history. Much like McCarthy himself, Coulter does damage to her intelligent arguments by taking everything too far. But Buckley ends his short review in such a way as to dismiss Coulters complete lack of control:

There is a lot of such fun and shrewdness as this in Ann Coulter’s book, but there is also mischief, which of course can be fun. Especially mischief about the other guy.

With all due respect Mr. Buckley, I think Coulter is up to more than mischief. I think she erodes the respect that other conservative scholars have worked hard to earn. The more Coulter spews her diatribes and rants about liberal traitors the harder it is to have intelligent discussions about the real issues involved. Coulter poisons the water we must swim in and I fail to find that “fun.”

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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2 Comments

  • That is an interesting take on WFB’s revue of Coulter. I too find her a bit abbrasive at times. However, I disagree with your opinion tha Mr. Buckley didn’t go far enough with his criticism. I think quite possibly the founding father of modern American Conservatism is merely scolding Coulter in a typically Buckley manner. It is obvious that Mr. Buckley employs some harsh tones to his critique, but in somewhat of an admiring tone. Perhaps he is challenging her to think beyond what Thomas Sowell would call Stage One Economics…..Maybe I am stupid.

  • That is an interesting take on WFB’s revue of Coulter. I too find her a bit abbrasive at times. However, I disagree with your opinion tha Mr. Buckley didn’t go far enough with his criticism. I think quite possibly the founding father of modern American Conservatism is merely scolding Coulter in a typically Buckley manner. It is obvious that Mr. Buckley employs some harsh tones to his critique, but in somewhat of an admiring tone. Perhaps he is challenging her to think beyond what Thomas Sowell would call Stage One Economics…..Maybe I am stupid.