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There's nothing quite like an intramural catfight. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd had some of her finest moments when she took on President Bill Clinton and his affair with Monica Lewinsky. She was so clearly a partisan for his side -- and yet so appalled and amused by the continual misbehavior that had taken place in the White House -- that she rose to the occasion and penned some of her wittiest work. These days, as she repeatedly attacks President Bush, she's run out of steam and falls back on name-calling. She ends up just being shrill.
Infighting like this is just as much fun on the other side of the political spectrum. A case in point was columnist Florence King's dismemberment of the often dyspeptic Ann Coulter, who's made her name by ineptly dissecting members of the liberal class for breakfast. King's piece, titled "Watch Ann Go Whoosh!," can be found at National Review Online.
King set herself the task of analyzing Coulter's prose style, not her ideas. "Wondering what life in America would be like if Coulter used a stiletto instead of a sledgehammer is a tempting but futile excursion into dreamland. Suppose, for example, she was confronted, like Jennie Churchill, with a pompous young man who boasted that his fiance's virtue was 'priced above rubies.' Without missing a beat, Jennie said, 'Try diamonds.' But if the young man said the same thing to Coulter?
" 'The godless liberals are trying to link Pat Robertson to Charles Taylor's diamond smuggling cartel in Liberia while they cry crocodile tears over the poor starving Africans they're helping to starve by conniving with radical ANC goons trained by Winnie Mandela who controls every mine in South Africa, all because they hate Robertson's Christian beliefs so much they'll be cheering and dancing in the streets if Taylor and the God-hating Marxists succeed in smearing him!"
King then compared Coulter's inelegance to the wit of Dorothy Parker, and the former came off ineptly indeed, no matter what the subject was in the examples -- politics or sex.
King agreed that not everyone can be witty and original, but she had to wonder why Coulter chose to call Katie Couric "the affable Eva Braun of morning TV." Why not a Teutonic queen like Brunhilde, as in the woman who runs the show?
King's explanation is a classic: Since Coulter knows her audience well, she understood that where she might know who Brunhilde is, chances are the average American did not. "[S]o she probably decided to use Eva Braun whether it made sense or not because everybody knows who she was from seeing all those war movies. And even if they don't, she needed the name of some bad person, and 'Eva Braun' sounds like a big, mean Nazi dyke, so -- hey -- it's good enough."
King has been known to be vicious herself when she sets her mind to it, but here she lets Coulter hang herself via quotations. There's more to this delicious piece, and it shouldn't be missed by those with a fondness for the effortless hatchet job.