To Ann Coulter, liberals are worse than wrong; they are traitors out to destroy the American way of life. That view is at the core of her columns, her TV appearances and her best-selling books. But it is not just her perspective that has made Coulter, 43, an icon to her fans and malice incarnate to her critics. It is the way she delivers it in ferocious, lucid, hyperbolic bursts of invective. It helps too that she is a tall, thin, attractive blond who favors miniskirts and furs. Coulter is the right-wing pinup of partisan vitriol.
She has been an avowed conservative since her grade-school teacher preached against the Vietnam War (she argued back). Armed with a law degree, she arrived in Washington in 1995, just as a new G.O.P. Congress, a scandal-prone Democratic President and the explosion of cable-TV shoutfests were about to converge into punditry's perfect storm. A star was born. Her penchant for the outrageous cost her a perch at MSNBC in 1997 after she told a disabled Vietnam vet, "No wonder you guys lost." After 9/11, she reacted to Muslims who celebrated the attacks by writing, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." National Review Online soon dropped her syndicated column.
In her books, Coulter can be erudite and persuasive, as when she exposes the left's chronic softness on communism. But her signature is her gleeful willingness to taunt liberals and Democrats, to say out loud what some other conservatives dare only think that Bill Clinton is a "horny hick," for example, and his wife "pond scum." It's what makes Coulter irresistible and influential, whether you like it or not.