WASHINGTON - The whole point of an Ann Coulter is to let everybody else in her party look terribly reasonable by comparison, and kind.
And today's performance, in which she called John Edwards a "faggot" and mocked Al Gore's weight, was another instant classic of the genre.
"I was going to comment on John Edwards,'' she told the crowd here at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, "but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you say the word faggot.''
Many speakers today told jokes about Al Gore's heated pool, and there was a whole panel discussion on the wa-hoo hilarity of the global warming "debate.'' But natch, Coulter took it up a notch: "Why don't they put solar panels on Al Gore?'' And, "Did Al Gore swallow Michael Moore?'' And, "You know what they say about guys with small carbon footprints.''
She also referred to Barack Obama as "B. Hussein Obama,'' and said Hillary was already at work on hiring her White House team, "a group of hard-working men and women, none of whom is named Monica.''
In her choice of a presidential candidate, however, Coulter seemed pretty mainstream: She likes Mitt Romney, she said.
(He returned the compliment, too, - or pre-turned it, I guess, saying before she took the podium, "I'm happy that after you hear me you're going to hear from Ann Coulter. It's important to hear from the moderates.''
In fact, he seemed to have ripped several pages from the Coulter playbook for his own speech, in which he held sacred the First Amendment right to unfettered campaign donations - "They let the campaign finance lobby take away our First Amendment rights!'' - but then showed disdain for the actual exercise of a free press. The press, he said, had written the obit of the conservative movement many times, "but I predict we'll be around a lot longer than, say, the newspapers will be around.'')
And of the dozen conferees I buttonholed at random after the day's speeches - which also included remarks by Rudy Giuliani and Sam Brownback -- Romney seemed a crowd favorite.
Rudy got some laughs when he said that the Democrats even want to make the result of the next World Series non-binding.
And Brownback got a lot of the love, talking about his fervent opposition to abortion and his meeting with Mother Teresa, who clasped his hand and told him, "All for Jesus, all for Jesus, all for Jesus, all for Jesus.''
But it was Romney who seemed to have picked up some support for '08: "He said all the right things,'' said Patrick Johnson, a student from the University of South Dakota. "And he's the only one of them with their hat in the ring who has only had one wife.''