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Ann Coulter has Boratted the Republicans

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Sacha Baron Cohen couldn't have done it better himself. Ann Coulter, in a bizarre mimicry of Cohen's hate-raking act, appeared before a large gathering of influential Republicans and pretended to be something she isn't: funny. Like Cohen, she gains their trust through the allowances one makes for certain impairments (in Borat's case, it's that he's a foreigner, in Coulter's case it's that she's a Conservative), and then she drops a snake into their laps. And just as Cohen delights in cracking through the PC shell that covers American anti-Semitism and American sexism, Coulter's remark pries open the Republican clam of homophobia. They never saw it coming. Apparently they had really enjoyed her shtick up to that point. Plus who would expect "gay" to apply to Edwards? (Do all Conservatives have such bad gay-dar? Maybe their meters are tweaked by all the closeted homosexuals who run their campaigns and churches.) Never before has the word "faggot" produced such good results.

In the video clip, you can hear the audience recoil. Coulter has short-circuited the crowd. "We don't like Edwards; we know that's allowed. We don't like liberals telling us we're not supposed to say certain words. That's a good hobbyhorse to ride. But that word, that word isn't allowed? Right? We don't hate homosexuals, right?" And in this moment of groans and spit-takes Coulter does something Sacha Baron Cohen never would; she breaks character. You can see it on her face. "Have I gone too far? Have I, at last, found the edge of Republican tolerance for slur?" And then, God bless her pig-headedness, she stays the course. She sticks with the joke, and the audience responds (like the umpire who makes the iffy call the loudest) by hooting, clapping and whistling. "Maybe we DO hate homosexuals!" They might as well have been singing "Throw The Jew Down the Well."

And now all the major Republican candidates are forced to do something that doesn't sit well with their base: denounce homophobia. The phrase "family values" just doesn't have as much zip if you can't let your constituents hear it as coded fag bashing. Isn't it beautiful that Ann Coulter has picked up the very wedge that Edwards so awkwardly tried to use in his debate with Cheney? Edwards had dutifully (and shamefully, if you ask me) carried murky water for the Kerry campaign by shoe-horning Mary Cheney's lesbianism into the debate. The ever tone-deaf Kerry failed to hear how awkward that moment was, and he later re-upped the stupid ploy in his debate with Bush. This time the Bush campaign was ready for it, reacting with all sorts of huffy outrage and the barely concealed glee that comes from tarring your opponent with a brush that's dripping with your own liabilities. But thanks to Coulter's unrestrained chauvinism, the homophobia shoe is now firmly on the right foot.