I had a chance to see Ann Coulter at Georgetown University last week. She put on an impressive show.
About 2/3 of the student crowd were respectfully hostile. Coulter delivered a lively and confrontational performance. She did not just want to preach to the choir, but also to afflict the comfortable liberals and leftists in their own academic lair.
Coulter cast her lines and reeled them in. No one disrupted the forty minute speech, but the question and answer session, called by Coulter "the fun part," brought forth lines of undergraduate students offering themselves up as neophyte gladiators against a master of rhetoric.
An academic world dominated by leftists and liberals can only with difficulty produce people of that ideology who can argue their own cause. The best resorted to ad hominem attacks against her while the worst spouted incoherent and untrue anecdotes of things that were said to have happened ten years ago. At one point, in mock frustration, she stated that she gave them a half an hour of actual issues to attack her on, but none of them were creative enough to go beyond what they found on "AnnCoulterisacword.com" talking points.
It's true. They attacked her language and image, but none took issue with the substance of her speech on economics and society.
Most amazingly, a few of the very critical questioners, whom she dispatched easily, showed up afterwards, her $29 book in hand, to get an autograph and shake her hand.
It reminded me of a scene from the movie Private Parts where the network executives were aghast that not only did Howard Stern's fans listen regularly, but also those who hated and complained about him.
In this sense, Ann Coulter entertains liberals. She offers herself and her views on their turf and invites their attacks. Like the old contests where an average guy can win a prize if he lasts three minutes with a boxing champion, they test themselves. They come out the loser each time, but they can at least brag that they faced their conservative devil and lived to tell the tale. Coulter goes beyond the preaching to the choir mentality that a lot of commentators have. She engages, entertains, and provokes. Very likely, liberals often leave a presentation of hers at least rethinking some of their ideals because she presents her own very logically. But they also enjoy the kind of rhetorical tussle with an accomplished conservative that rarely happens on a college campus.
It's also obvious that she loves the fight as well.