The last day of the convention, I was burned out and didn’t want to go to the Honorable Zell Miller reception at the University Club. I’d had enough of this lousy convention and I’d been out the night before covering a protester party at the Siberia bar, where I’d consumed beer and tequila, then a half-gallon of sangria at a tapas place. Then more beer and a vodka-martini nightcap at 5 a.m. I’d awoken at noon and eaten a chili burger at P.J. Clarke’s.
At 5 p.m., I headed to the University Club. I forgot to wear a tie; I borrowed a purple one from the maître d’ and walked in.
Tons of white people. There was Ann Coulter in a turquoise knit top and black Capri hip-huggers. The saucy 40-year-old right-wing author and TV personality was with her parents and surrounded by fans.
I asked for a white wine as Zell Miller, who’d given what The New York Times had called a “polarizing” speech the night before, had the floor. Someone suggested he should run for President and then presented him with two old-fashioned pistols (in honor of his now-infamous dust-up with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, during which he challenged the blowhard to a duel).
Senator Miller held the pistols up and everyone cheered. Then he said: “Since you brought the subject up again and won’t let it go, a little bit of background on that. A few weeks ago, I was watching Chris-I watch these talk shows from time to time, it’s good to see my friend Ann Coulter here, nobody better in writing, nobody better on those talk shows to put people in their place-I was watching Chris Matthews and he had this lovely young woman, Michelle Malkin-who is a great writer, great columns, writes a good book-and he was the rudest and most abusive interviewer I have ever seen. He would ask her a question, and before she could even get the first word out of her mouth, he was just right on her again and again. And again . Shirley was watching this program with me and I just said to Shirley, offhand, I said, ‘You know, if he ever does that to me, I’m going to pop him!’ Last night he did it to me, and fortunately he was over at Herald Square and I was at Madison Square Garden. Thank you very much! “
I hit the men’s room, adjusted the tie and talked to some freaky Republican who made a cryptic remark about the dress code. I emerged and perked up: Ms. Coulter was waving to me. I met her parents, who seemed like good, soft-spoken, dignified real Americans. Ms. Coulter said her parents have the same names as Ronald Reagan’s.
“Nell and Jack-that’s the key to creating a right-winger,” she said.
Republicans young and old were swarming around her.
“I love you.”
“Ann, one quick one please ?”
The right-wing governor of South Carolina introduced himself, and then Ms. Coulter and I were out the door. A young woman walking backward with a camcorder asked Ms. Coulter for her favorite part of the convention (“Zell Miller”) and her least-favorite liberal.
“Wow, that’s tough!” Ms. Coulter said. “At the moment it’s John Kerry, but he’s so pathetic I’m sort of enjoying him.”
A man ran up and claimed he’d talked to “W.” the night before, and that the President had sent his regards to her.
“Ohhhhhh,” Ms. Coulter said. “God bless him.”
Ms. Coulter was due for some radio interviews at the Garden before President Bush’s speech. We got a cab.
“It’s been fantastic this week!” she said. “It’s like heroin: 50,000 Republicans-and the liberals in the Hamptons. These Republicans are so wholesome! … And I love the funny hats, the big elephant ears and elephant heads. Democrats can’t wear funny hats because they’re earnest and angry and also they spend their entire convention hiding who they are. We do these things where the R.N.C. goes around with the mike and sticks it in the delegate’s face; they can’t do that at the Democratic convention! Can you imagine putting a mike in a Democratic delegate’s face? Who knows what they’d say! It would be, you know, ‘Kill the President! Long live France!’”
The convention had begun for her last Friday, when she had dinner at La Goulue with Matt Drudge.
“It was a beautiful night,” she said. “It’s been so perfect because it’s been empty and you bump into people and-the protesters have been kind of pathetic this week, don’t you think? A hundred thousand ? You can get a hundred thousand if you put five Dominican girls in a bikini. A hundred thousand -are you kidding me? They claimed there were going to be half a million here. I haven’t seen more than 20 in one group. Usually you see one or two-by the way, have you noticed they’re all about a hundred years old? And the other thing Brent Hatch, Orrin Hatch’s son, said to me last night: ‘This is the most hope I have had for America.’ Ninety percent of the people coming up to me, wanting pictures with me, were college kids. I’m taking the youth of America! And the protesters are all aging hippies.”
Notice anything else about the protesters?
“Just how stupid they are,” she said. “I can’t even remember their chants. They were shouting something at the pro-life lunch, and I kept listening, I couldn’t even make out what they were saying. They say these completely unmemorable things. They ought go back to ‘Bush lied, kids died,’ which is my all-time favorite.”
“I thought he was absolutely magnificent. What a great speech. He’s the kind of immigrant we like: legal .”
“I’d love for Giuliani to run for President, but he’s got to do the reverse thing the Democrats do,” she said. “All of them run for President and suddenly go from being pro-life to pro-choice. He’s got to do the reverse. And he may as well-a lot of us never believed he was pro-choice anyway. I don’t even think liberals believed it.”
So Bush will be re-elected?
“Yes. I hate making predictions, but I’m so exuberant right now,” she said. “Who knows-anything can happen. But I’ve been saying this privately to my friends for a month now: I don’t think it’s going to be close, I think it’s technically going to be a landslide.”
What’s John Kerry going through now?
“Enormous pain, and it’s giving me such joy,” she said. “I’m almost starting to feel sorry for him now. I mean these Swift-boat veterans have so unveiled him. These liberals, they can live in Walter Mitty fantasy-land lives, and the media will write down anything a liberal politician tells them. You know, he can start telling them, ‘I won the Olympic gold in swimming four years ago!’ ‘Oh, let’s get that down,’ and it gets printed in the Boston Globe. He could not have lied ? I mean, who says they were in Cambodia on Christmas 1968-on the Senate floor ?”
She debated Al Franken recently?
“Yes,” she said. “It’s not an interesting debate, because liberals can’t argue. So it’s never like point-counterpoint; all we do is hear about his fucking U.S.O. tours for three hours. Excuse my French.”
Would John Kerry be a worse President than Bill Clinton?
“That is why it matters-these are character questions, and I think with Kerry you have all the bad character, in different ways,” she said. “Not a zipper problem-you have more of a gigolo problem when it comes to the chicks, the ladies.”
What would it be like dating Kerry?
“Quite a bore. You’d have to get approval from the U.N. Security Council before making a move. You’d be stuck in one of those dinky little hybrid cars, but maybe his family would have a nice method of transportation. Oh, no, except he can’t afford anything. Don’t you think that’s a little pathetic, for a man to be a gigolo? I mean it’s one thing for a woman to marry for money. In fact, I would like to. But for a man to marry for money! It’s so creepy. It’s so emasculating.”
I told her I’d stopped watching television six weeks ago.
“That’s insane. You have to watch TV. It’s great! Every New Year’s I make a vow to watch more TV.”
The cab stopped on 34th and Fifth. We had to walk three blocks as she got on her cell phone with someone from ABC News radio, who was to meet us with credentials. We stopped walking on the corner of Broadway. Our way was blocked by masses of people standing behind barricades who were waiting to cross.
“I’m a big fan of yours,” said a cop named Robert, who offered Ms. Coulter an escort. She accepted.
“See, cops and pretty girls are always on my side,” she said.
“Boy, the protesters have been kind of pathetic-have you run into any of them?” she asked Robert.
“Did you get to hit any of them?”
“No. We were very hospitable.”
She thanked Robert and asked for his card, but he was out.
We walked down the block. “There’s Ann Coulter!” someone said.
“Hi, there,” she said to another pedestrian. “Oct. 5th, next book, How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must) . Excellent.”
She posed for a quick cell-phone camera shot.
We passed a man who mumbled, “Say hi to the worst President in history tonight.”
“That’s my point-you can’t understand what they’re saying,” she said. “They’re old and sad. And apparently unable to find soap and water. You would think, with all the money Michael Moore is paid, you could afford soap and water.”
A short, chunky female protester hollered, “Can’t wait till he’s back in Connecticut- whooo! “
“Very attractive,” Ms. Coulter said. “Compare her to the ones who come up and greet me. No, the Democrats are a dying party …. You want to persuade people of something, you do research, you formulate an argument, you write a book . But these retards …. “
“Ann Coulter, love you!” said a female passerby.
“I love you, can I get a picture with you?” said another fan.
Ann turned and smiled.
“Hey, Ann, Treason is great!” a guy yelled.
An ABC Radio producer appeared with credentials. I looked ahead: metal detector. Hadn’t considered this. I remembered what I had in my wallet: a little something from the night before. Someone told us to empty our pockets and show ID. I got out my expired Kansas driver’s license, shakily. I thought about turning around. Billy Hayes in Midnight Express. The Turkish soldier stops him, he gets searched, gets 30 years, goes insane, actor who plays him later died of AIDS ….
The back of my gingham shirt was soaked. I dropped my wallet and tape recorder into the bin and went through the detector.
A beefy crew-cut guy was patting me down, then combing me hard with the hand-held wand.
There was a lady cop with my wallet in her hand. Don’t drop it, lady policeman! Five long seconds and I was free. I picked up my wallet gingerly and tried to catch up with Ms. Coulter. Felt a hand on my shoulder. Secret Service. Two of them.
“You need a lanyard,” one said.
I wondered if a “lanyard” was a more thorough search of my person. Turned out a lanyard is one of those things for hanging credentials around your neck.
Still shaking, I caught up to Ms. Coulter. A producer found me a lanyard. I watched Ms. Coulter do a radio interview. Newt Gingrich sidled up to the booth. I was right behind him; I could have tickled him under his double chin.
While Ms. Coulter did three more interviews, I sat down with Monica Crowley, Fox News correspondent and former Nixon confidante. Blond, pretty. Black blazer, skirt, Manolos. She told me about a party she went to at William F. Buckley’s Park Avenue duplex.
“All of the great conservative minds in attendance,” she said. “Norman Podhoretz. Midge Decter. David Frum. It was a really lovely event.”
She talked about Zell Miller’s speech. “It was a stem-winder, a barn-burner,” she said. “Zell Miller is still a Democrat on paper, but clearly from his speech, it’s as if he has had some ideological conversion. And when you go through that kind of conversion-whether it’s religious or political or ideological-they always have more passion. You saw it in Ronald Reagan, who used to be a Democrat.”
I kept thinking about getting rid of the naughty thing in my wallet. Eat it? No. Flush it? Probably cameras in the bathrooms.
Suddenly I couldn’t find Ms. Coulter. I asked people if she left. No one knew. A guy with an earpiece was staring at me. Maybe I could just sleep in the Garden, slip out in the morning.
I decided to make a break for it. Obviously there’s no second search when you leave.
I wound my way downstairs. I saw an exit, asked an earpiece guy if that was the best way to get out, he said yes and … I was outside! I walked north.
I made it to the Upper West Side. I got a deliberate, cold look from a liberal woman who half rolled her eyes at me, thinking: Lame Republican-delegate scum . Made it home at 9 p.m. and locked the door. There was an e-mail from Ms. Coulter.
“I looked around for you before hightailing it out of there, but didn’t see you,” she wrote. “Sorry about that. Hope you had fun.”