Ann Coulter and Me, Tipper and Hillary

I'm not writing this to bury Ann Coulter. I fight to give women a voice on television and in the world of opinions, and I make it a point not to discriminate myself.

Over the years, I've befriended most of the young conservatives as they've faced the same struggles I did to be heard. Ann included.

In Ann's case, because I do respect her intelligence, I am forever trying to bring her in from the edge and her response is to point out that it is only because of where she stands that anyone sees her at all. If she weren't outrageous -- if she didn't take it those extra steps -- "no one" would pay attention.

That is the thesis of Ann's life.

If she were not a thin, gun-toting, half-naked, over-the-line arch-conservative, long blonde haired bombshell-- that is, if she were just a size 4, well-suited, TV coiffed conservative woman-- she'd go nowhere. And she always laughs at me because I, of all people, know that. It isn't just ideology, stupid. It's gender, too.

And here's the test of it: Show me a more moderate Ann. Show me a more moderate version of Ann who has made it by taking the essence of Ann's ideas and eating more and going to fewer extremes.

And I defy you to find them…

Certainly not many.

So what do you do if you're a woman and you want your views to be heard?

Well, I'm a woman, and I don't do what Ann does, and most of us don't. (We also don't make as much in speech fees as Ann, but don't get me started.)

I don't pretend to be a better person than Ann. She has thicker skin than me. I couldn't take that much hate, to tell the truth. And I don't want fame that badly. Not enough.

But I watch guys who play two degrees away from her sit in judgment of her as if they are in a different game, even as they "make ratings" on her, and the hypocrisy of it appalls me. You don't want to play, don't have her on. She's only doing it for you. The audience becomes the fool in that game. No wonder it leaves everyone with an ugly taste.

So find something else in the book to love or hate, or maybe even just like or dislike. When I talk to her, I tend to ignore the "Anne-isms" if I can and focus on what she actually has to say, and sometimes we get somewhere. But at least we're not hiding the ball.

Tipper & Hillary...

I was there in 1979 when the news first trickled out that "Joan said it was OK."

It was one of a series of steps reversing Ted Kennedy's previously announced decision not to run and take on the then-incumbent, Jimmy Carter. I was a young staffer for Sen. Kennedy at the time, and my heart started beating faster. I wonder if Al Gore's staffer's hearts are beating faster?

After months in which all of us have been writing about Hillary as if the nomination is hers for the asking, as it seems to be if anything can be true this far out, the first real poll out of Iowa shows John Edwards, who has the advantages of having run there and hanging out there, actually running ahead of her.

First, it will send the message to anyone who is thinking of running to "Run,Baby, Run," on the theory that Hillary is vulnerable. If Edwards can run ahead of her in Iowa, it shows that a real live candidate doing some work on the ground can beat her. At least that's how the other guys will read them.

What they might actually prove is that the guy who was more popular in Iowa than almost anywhere else last time around still is, and that he's been working it hard. How much each of those factors count, and what will hold in 32 months, is anyone's guess.

Second, it underscores the importance of New Hampshire. If Edwards can beat Hillary in Iowa, then the New Hampshire primary becomes critical for Hillary Clinton -- and Gore and Edwards and John McCain.

Because of the way Iowa votes, it will always be something of an insider event. Its main result, and it is a huge one, is to generate momentum for New Hampshire. It does that by ordering -- win, place, show ; gold, silver, or as Mike Dukakis said, courtesy of Marty Kaplan, "bronze."

"Bronze" is generally required for survival. What you're surviving for is New Hampshire. After New Hampshire comes the Marathon of Tuesdays. (This year, the Democrats may also move a few other small caucuses into the period between Iowa and New Hampshire to respond to criticism that the early powerhouse states are too white--the criticism, of course, isn't phrased exactly like that.

Third, it reminds us to think of 2008 as a multi-candidate field, not of Hillary scoring a knock out, but of Hillary and quite a range of candidates campaigning through what may be a longer process than usual if it includes two former nominees as well as a former First Lady and a former vice presidential nominee.

Who says great people don't run for president? At least if their wives say it's OK. . . . Or if the wives run themselves.

Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.

Estrich's books include "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics is Destroying the Criminal Justice System," "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders," "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women" and "Sex & Power," currently a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the Fox News Channel.

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