Political arsonist raises the bar for defending free speech

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My freshman roommate at Cornell in 1981 pasted a picture of a blonde coed on his wall one day.

“Who’s that?” I asked, half curiously and half condescendingly.

“She’s a beautiful, conservative goddess who lives in U-Hall 6 across the way,” he answered.

That was my first introduction to a noxious young woman named Anne Coulter, who continues to make waves now, more than three decades since I last saw her.

We would later become drinking partners, going to local bars and debating politics. We came from opposite ends of the political spectrum and although I found almost all her views repugnant, she was fun to verbally joust with.

Even then, she had a flair for the extremely politically incorrect remark that was meant to shock more than inform. Once, one of her verbal bombs forced me to pour my bottle of beer in her lap in mock anger.

We lost touch in the late 1980s in our mid-20s, but like many, I have watched the arc of her so-called career as a political arsonist with equal parts fascination and disgust.

It’s hard to know where to start in listing some examples of her offensive views. But here goes:

In 2012, she said on Fox News that “single women look to the government to be their husbands and give them, you know, prenatal care and pre-school care and kindergarten care and school lunches.”

Wow. That is wrong on so many levels that it’s not worthy of some old-fashioned moral outrage.

In 2015, she said, “If you don’t want to be killed by ISIS, don’t go to Syria. If you don’t want to be killed by a Mexican, there’s nothing I can tell you.”

Remind you of someone who recently moved to Washington, D.C.?

And now comes news that Madame Coulter is stirring up an old-fashioned campus riot at the University of California at Berkeley. She was invited to speak by the campus Young Republicans, but university officials are trying to postpone her speech because the police have “very specific intelligence of threats that could pose danger to the speaker.”

Well, this is a truly complicated dilemma. Like almost any thoughtful American, I firmly believe in free speech as protected by the First Amendment.

The idea that Coulter has been threatened is also repugnant to me. Even if I strongly object to her views and the way she expresses them, we should fight vigorously for her right to speak.

It is people like her — and her media enablers like Rupert Murdoch — who paved the way for Beltway gridlock, the Tea Party, Donald Trump and his minority band of Trumpists. They will have to live with the consequences of their actions. History will not be kind to them.

But in the meantime, go ahead and peacefully protest her speech, ask piercing questions afterwards and let Coulter’s self-serving xenophobia be on full display so that we can rebut her untruths and slanders.

Pouring that beer in her lap may have been one of the most intellectually honest things I’ve done.

Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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