By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, December 28, 2003
Determined as I am to combat the Culture of Negativity and Name-Calling that seems to have pervaded Washington, I decided to invite an arch-liberal and an arch-conservative to meet in this column and constructively discuss their differences, with me as moderator. I wanted the liberal to be Al Franken, the author of the best-selling Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, and the conservative to be Ann Coulter, author of the best-selling Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism.
Ann agreed right away. But Al begged off, saying he was too "busy," even for a worthy cause like helping combat the plague of name-calling. What a milksoppy, pantywaist, jellyfish, weasel-out wuss he turned out to be.
So then I tried a stand-in liberal, Michael Kinsley. Michael heard who his opposite number was going to be, and also declined. Next I tried my third-string liberal, syndicated columnist Molly Ivins, on the strength of a recent column of hers in which she said Arnold Schwarzenegger looked like "a condom stuffed with walnuts." Molly also heard Ann's name and turned me down without even getting on the phone.
This was beginning to intrigue me. How scary could Ann Coulter be? Sure, she is a six-foot knockout blonde who can be rather caustic. She has, for example, said that the solution to terrorism is to invade the terrorists' countries, kill their leaders and convert everyone to Christianity . . . but still. I believe that, at their heart, most people are softies. So I decided to take on Ann myself, representing liberaldom. I would start by weakening her resolve by buttering her up. I even wrote up my first question:
Me: You must be tired of hearing other people try to define you and demonize you, and I wanted to give you an opportunity to explain yourself politically. In your own words, would you say that you are most like the Wicked Witch of the West, Medusa or Erzsebet Bathory, the 17th-century Transylvanian countess who butchered 500 maidservants and bathed in their blood?
That is when I realized that this probably wasn't going to work: When the arena is national politics, particularly right now, it's very hard to be nice to the Other Side. So I decided that the only way my Weingarten Negativity Reduction Seminar was going to pan out was if the ground rules were that Ann and I would trade nonpolitical questions only. She agreed.
Me: So, in your opinion, should the toilet paper unspool from the top, or the bottom?
Ann: Toilet paper should always feed down from above. If you start things rolling at the top, the whole system functions well. I like to call it the trickle-down theory! It actually works, as incomprehensible as that may seem to people like you. Okay. Now my question: Do you prefer a mouse or a trackball?
Me: A mouse, because it has the ability to move -- to adapt to changes in its surroundings, to make room for others needing space. It doesn't just squat there with a sense of entitlement, taking more room than is necessary -- consuming resources, literally walled off from everything around it, resistant to change, content not to move but to just spin, demanding that the rest of its universe accommodate its needs. In short, a mouse is not a pig. My question: What is your favorite fabric?
Ann: Cashmere. I would wear cashmere underwear if I could afford it. Actually, I may be able to afford it if China consigns a few million more souls to factory slave labor under its benevolent socialist system that rose to power because liberal Democrats Roosevelt and Truman were busy with more important things, like building more post offices and sending Eleanor out to bother people.
Me: I can see how you dislike Truman and Roosevelt, who were pygmies compared with George W. Bush, the conservative poster boy. Of course, the poster reads, "Doh!"
Ann: I think we might be getting political.
Me: Right. Okay, which do you prefer, dogs or cats?
Ann: I prefer cat. Dog gives me acid reflux. Oh, I'm sorry -- you mean as a pet? Dogs. At least when they beg for a handout they'll work at it -- they don't expect something for nothing, like those annoying homeless people outside of Starbucks.
Me: Have you no decency?
Ann: That's exactly what they asked Joe McCarthy.
Me: Whom you have defended!
Ann: He was railroaded.
Me: You're out of your mind.
That's it for today! Be on the lookout for upcoming Weingarten Negativity Reduction Seminars. Next: Linda and Monica kiss and make up.
Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon at www.washingtonpost.com.