2009: Rants of the Right

Going where few reviewers dare to tread.
By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  December 22, 2009

Reading is fundamentalist: Conservative screeds dominated the book charts this year. Will future election results follow the best-seller lists? By David S. Bernstein.
Few "respectable" publications were willing to review the year's top-selling conservative books, but the Phoenix has no fear. After wading through 2500 or so pages of right-wing ravings, your brave correspondent reports back with the following analyses. Each book is rated on a scale of one to 10 for the readability of the prose and the digestibility of the arguments — with special deductions for outright craziness. The eight entries are listed in chronological order, according to publication date.


Ann Coulter,Guilty: Liberal "Victims" and Their Assault on America
320 pages, Crown Forum, January 9, 2009
Highest Position Reached on NYT Best Seller List: No. 2
Readability: 8
Digestibility: 2
Crazy Factor: -5
Overall Score: 5

Those who know Ann Coulter only from her television appearances may not be aware that she can be a genuinely funny writer. As with any humorist, her style will not amuse everyone, relying heavily, as it does, on random, mean-spirited, ad hominem insults of public figures. I confess, I like that kind of thing (and judging by the success of Kathy Griffin, I'm hardly alone).

Unfortunately, and as usual, in her latest book, Coulter has no worthwhile material on which to hang those one-liners. Guilty is the most readable of 2009's top-selling conservative books — but that doesn't mean it's worth reading.

To the extent that this meandering, scattershot volume carries a thesis, it seems to be that the all-powerful left maintains its status by conspiring to destroy the reputations of those who speak the truth. This provides Coulter the opportunity to defend, at considerable length, such righteous souls as (just to name a few) Joseph McCarthy, Floyd Brown (who brought us the "Willie Horton" attack ad against Michael Dukakis), Larry Craig, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Richard Nixon, George Allen, Jeff Gannon (conservative blogger — and former gay escort), and Jack Ryan (the candidate who facilitated Obama's rise to power when he dropped out of the Illinois Senate race amid racy revelations about his sexual habits).

Coulter also insists that George W. Bush's infamous claim about Saddam Hussein seeking yellowcake uranium from Niger was "indisputably true," and that Congress was right to intervene on behalf of Terri Schiavo because, despite what the liberal media may have told you, Schiavo was conscious and her condition was reversible.

Most offensively, Coulter chooses to defend the openly racist and anti-Semitic Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC). Senator Trent Lott's association with the group landed him in hot water back in 1998 — unfairly, Coulter believes.

I would normally take this seemingly out-of-left-field championing of CCC as evidence of Coulter's own racism, but I assume she was just trying to jerk the chain of liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America, so it would howl and create some book-tour publicity (which is what happened). I suspect it was even a deliberate decision to place it up front, early in the book. While Coulter banks on outraging liberal watchdogs, she can't count on them to get further than one chapter into her noxious writing.

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