Three years ago conservative firebrand Ann Coulter riled up the Conservative Political Action Conference when she called then Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards a "faggot."
With Edwards's much publicized dalliance with his campaign filmmaker -- an episode that led to marital discord, a love child and a train-wreck-style flame out -- it seemed the gay-baiting was no longer applicable. But on Saturday, it was clear Coulter hadn't moved on.
At her CPAC speech this year she, once again, took direct aim at Edwards.
She called the former North Carolina senator, "America's baby daddy," a "blow-dried evangelical who doesn't believe in God," and "the only candidate for vice president on a major party ticket with his own sex tape... which, starting next week, will be available in the [Bill] Clinton library gift shop."
If the lines lacked their usual thump, it wasn't because Coulter had been forced to adjust her Edwards-is-gay-routine. It's because her shtick -- far more comedy than commentary -- has grown a bit tired. She's still a popular draw with the conservative crowds -- perhaps the most popular at this week's affair. And the media loves the bombast, with a fleet of camera crews showing up on a Saturday morning to tape a 12-minute speech.
But Coulter-the-provocateur has lost a certain touch. She's been peddling divisiveness for so long -- and so many others have followed her lead -- that the act has been largely stripped of its newsworthiness. On Saturday, she touched briefly on policy. But mostly, she came off as a humorist gunning for applause and a spotlight. The targets and lines were unoriginal.
On recently passed Sen. Ted Kennedy: "The fact that a Republican is in [his seat] must have him rolling in his grave probably spilling his drink."
On Bill Clinton's recent heart attack scare: "When the doctors asked him what his symptoms were he said it felt like two interns were sitting on his chest. He is fine now he just had to have a stem surgically inserted into his boxers."
On House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "the botox is seeping into her brain now."
On MSNBC's Keith Olbermann: "[He's] a girl."
On town hall protesters: "CNN calls them teabaggers, which is the gayest thing I've ever heard on CNN other than Anderson Cooper."
On the president: "Since Obama was elected, ironically, for the first time in my life I'm sometimes not proud of my country."
The CPAC crowd was in stitches. But for those who have sat through Coulter's speeches before, the routine was old and predictable. The political discourse over the past year has made everyone calloused. The vitriol just doesn't seem vitriolic anymore.