Venturing into enemy territory, I was on "Hannity and Colmes" last night, along with Ann Coulter. We were ostensibly there to discuss the ongoing Muslim cartoon controversy and the media's reaction to the Cheney shooting story.
But Sean Hannity only wanted to talk about one thing: Alec Baldwin's blog. Especially Alec Baldwin's assertion that "Cheney is a terrorist. He terrorizes our enemies abroad and innocent citizens here at home."
Hannity was like a dog with a bone, chewing over that turn of phrase again and again and again, and repeatedly asking me if I was "proud" to have had such a statement on the Huffington Post.
He apparently had a hard time grasping the concept that I can be proud of the wide range of opinion we offer our readers without having to agree with every single sentiment expressed by our bloggers. But, for the record, as I told him last night, I don't think that Dick Cheney is a terrorist. I think that Dick Cheney is an atrocious vice president who has inflamed terrorism, and whose policies have helped create far more terrorists than they have destroyed.
But Hannity just couldn't get over it. It was as if Baldwin's comment was the worst thing he'd ever heard. But here's what I love: the whole time Sean was obsessing about Baldwin's over-the-top rhetoric, he was sitting elbow to elbow with Ann Coulter, the reigning heavyweight champion of hyperbolic vitriol and over-the-top invective.
I mean, this is the woman who said that Democrats like Jack Murtha "long to see U.S. troops shot, humiliated, and driven from the field of battle", that the Democratic Party "supports killing, lying, adultery, thievery, envy," and that "a baseball bat is the most effective way [to talk to liberals] these days."
Coulter has also given us the following noxious bon mots (what I think of as a collection of Ann's Greatest Shits):
"Liberals hate America."
"Democrats actually hate working-class people"
"Even Islamic terrorists don't hate America like liberals do."
"Liberals can't just come out and say they want to take more of our money, kill babies, and discriminate on the basis of race."
Bill Clinton "was a very good rapist."
Islam is "a car-burning cult."
"I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo."
And Hannity wanted to take Baldwin to the woodshed? Irony clearly isn't his strong suit.
Sean loves to whip out statements made by others, then ask his guests whether they "condemn" or are "proud" of those statements. Does it all the time. But when I tried to ask him if, given the fact that Coulter has appeared on his show more than 20 times over the past two years, he wanted to distance himself from her extreme statements, he refused to answer, instead launching into a diatribe about Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, and what he called "the extreme left": "I think you're weak on terror. I think you have a pre-9/11 mentality. You've undermined the president. You've undermined the troops, and your hate-Bush mentality is not winning you any friends among the American people."
And it's not as if Hannity needed to have at his fingertips Coulter's past outrageous statements. She offered one -- a real doozy -- on last night's show, claiming that Democrats "have affection for these terrorists."
As "back up" for this inflammatory claim Coulter cited a New York Times op-ed by Robert Wright, author, former New Republic senior editor, and Mickey Kaus' sparring partner on bloggingheads.tv:
"The New York Times op-ed page on Friday has Robert Wright comparing these savages rioting over the cartoons to blacks rioting in response to segregation and having to sit on the back of the bus. They are saying that this is justified... This is affection for the people rioting and carrying on."
This "back up" is ludicrous on multiple levels. For starters, the op-ed in no way expressed "affection for the people rioting." But even if it did, how does the opinion of a freelance columnist back up a broad brush claim about Democrats having "affection for terrorists?" Wright is not a Democratic Party leader nor, in any way, a spokesman for the party. But Coulter made it sound like he just took over Howard Dean's job. Plus, there is the way she not-so-subtly implied that the entire New York Times endorsed the claims that Wright never actually made (this is a favorite trick of Coulter's, hilariously nailed by Al Franken in Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them's "How to Lie with Footnotes" section as "Use the 'Any Words Written In a Newspaper Can Be Attributed to That Newspaper Technique.'")
(A quick note to whoever is putting together the transcripts for the Fox show: the op-ed Coulter cited was written by Robert Wright, not "Robert Reich." Who, I'm certain, also does not have "affection for terrorists," but who at least has a connection to the Democratic Party.)
But none of this mattered to Hannity, who let Coulter spew her venom unchallenged. Indeed, it seemed as if he couldn't get enough of the stuff. As if he were addicted to her toxic tirades.
That's when it hit me: Coulter is the right wing punditry's equivalent of crack or crystal meth. She's highly addictive -- giving users the delirious, giddy high of outrageousness. But then the buzz wears off and they come crashing down, their spirits shriveled, their souls poisoned. Her brand of way, way over-the-top rhetoric, trading on hatred, demonizing, and caricature is doing to the American body politic what a three-month meth bender does to crank junkies.
You've probably seen those horrifying "Faces of Meth" photos of people Before they start doing meth and After.
Sean Hannity needs to watch out. Or he could easily be the first subject in the "Faces of Coulter" series.
[Hannity photo art by Nathan Ratcliffe]