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Caveat lector

Mickey Kaus was surely funnin’ when he said “Coulter 1, Couric 0.”


FOR THOSE OBSESSIVELY FOLLOWING: Oops! I hadn’t seen Mickey Kaus’ comments last Wednesday about the Couric-Coulter Culture Clash. For those obsessively following this topic, let me reply right to Mick.

Mickey, I agree with you that Couric (and others) may have been flogging the “airhead” flap to generate tons of excitement. And I agree that Morris may have been trying to stir the flap with his unflattering comments about Reagan. But that, of course, is precisely the point; you yourself say that you don’t agree with Coulter’s assessment of Couric’s vile motives. Having said that, let’s go back and look at the way you scored her Today show peformance.

You scored the Today show dispute this way: “Coulter 1, Couric 0.” Sorry, that’s absolute nonsense. On Today, Couric accused Coulter of falsely saying in her book that she, Katie Couric, called Reagan an airhead. Couric was plainly correct on that point: Couric 1, Coulter 0. Coulter then dissembled further, telling Couric, “Well, I didn’t call you a Ronald Reagan basher.” That, of course, is complete, utter nonsense. On the big, green wall we keep at THE HOWLER, our scoreboard said “Couric 2, Coulter 0.”

But like hometown refs all over the world, you simply chose to ignore these exchanges when you scored the Today show dispute. Directed by “senior officials in the Coulter camp” (your phrase), you described the Today session thus:

KAUS: Two weeks ago, Today host Katie Couric got into a dispute with her guest Ann Coulter over how many times Today had misleadingly said Reagan biographer Edmund Morris called his subject an "airhead.”
That was part of what was discussed, but only a minor, trivial part. Why did Coulter direct you to discuss that exchange? Because for once in her life, Coulter had made a statement that could (almost) be defended as having been technically accurate. So you focused on that (and on nothing else that was said), and said that Coulter had won the Today show dispute. “Coulter 1, Couric 0,” you said. This is roughly the way the French score their big figure-skate battles.

By the way, how did you decide that Coulter prevailed in the one exchange you discussed? According to your presentation, Coulter said that the Today show opened a certain way “three days in a row.” Couric said “it was [just] one day.” Your judgment? After checking NEXIS, you said that the show had opened that way two days—and then you awarded the dispute to Coulter! “She was closer to the truth than Couric.” Even the French were amazed.

Dude! I presume you approached this whole thing as a lark, but Coulter’s book is important. It’s number one on the best-seller list, and right from page one, it’s filled with howling misstatements of fact. On point after point, its readers have no way of knowing how baldly they’re being deceived. (One of its flat misstatements is on page 51, where Coulter says that Couric called Reagan an airhead.) This has nothing to do with conservative values; as Christopher Caldwell correctly noted, Coulter’s book is “political hackwork.” There are plenty of honest, constructive conservatives around. Your director, Ann Coulter, isn’t one of them.

On Wednesday, you pretended that I discussed this topic because I wanted to defend liberalism. Dude! You don’t know squat about my policy views, either. I have criticized Coulter’s book because it’s a gong-show of dimwit misstatements and lies. I think rank dissembling degrades our discourse. Next time Coulter calls with ideas what to write, why not ask what she thinks about that?

COULTER 1, DONAHUE 0: On Thurday’s Donahue, Coulter restated her nasty suggestion that we pay extra attention to “swarthy men in airports.” Technically, of course, Arab-American men are “swarthy.” Coulter 1, Donahue 0.

MONDAY: FAQs on Harken.