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With Ann Coulter, the Problem is the Message, Not the Messenger

There she goes again.

Ann Coulter would like the whole world to look like the Republican convention: white, Christian, and happy. There would be none of us imperfect Jews there. Only "perfected" ones, which is to say, converts to her faith.

Maybe she was at a different Republican convention than I was, but that’s only a small part of the problem here. Maybe she hasn’t heard about the noose and the Swastika at Columbia University last week, a university chock full of imperfect people, but even that is only a small part of the picture.

The truly terrifying part of Ann’s comments is that she isn’t the only one who thinks that way. In this case, I fear, she’s just saying aloud what a lot of people think. There is at least a mini-revolt against diversity going on in the world, and unless you’re part of the Aryan Republican minority, I mean you.

It’s easy to dismiss Ms. Coulter as an attractive media whore who gets away with saying things no bald, short man could say because she’s tall and blonde. And the reality is that if she weren’t tall and blonde, she wouldn’t get on television to throw the kind of bombs that have made her rich and famous—a point she’s made to me many times.

Every time she has a new book out, she has a new target for her one-liners— the sort that get her attention where the substance of the book (in this case, primarily a compilation of old columns) would not.

Last time, for the hardcover, it was the attack on the 9/11 widows and the claim that liberals were "Godless" and that God was sitting up there, or wherever he sits, rooting for her team over mine.

She got sufficient mileage out of that one to make it to number one on the best-seller list, and to generate at least three books taking her on for injecting religion into politics (mine) and/or not being a real woman (not mine).

It’s easy to say she’s at it again, and dismiss it at that. And to hope that this time, with powerful Jewish organizations taking her on, and powerful Jews in ranking positions in most media organizations (haven’t we been told that the Jews run the media for years?), it’s possible that she may finally have gone too far. Maybe the Jewish groups circulating petitions to keep her off the air will succeed once and for all.

The problem is, it will not make the views she’s spouting disappear. What we need to do is take on the message rather than being satisfied with an attack on the messenger.

The 2000 Republican convention in New York was only a love-in if you happened to be a loved one. For myself, it was plenty scary in another way. I wasn’t scared about the demonstrators, or the threats of violence: there were enough police at every corner, barricades in front of every building, patrols everywhere you looked. To be honest, I’ve rarely felt safer in New York.

No, it was the delegates and participants who spooked me, more than once. Since the 1992 Republican Convention, when I showed up in Houston happily pregnant with my second child, toting my hypodermic needles and little bottles of hormones to prevent miscarriage, I have never forgotten my baseball caps and large sunglasses when attending Republican events. I have learned the importance of hiding.

At that event, I got hit at the baggage claim area, within minutes of my arrival in Houston, by a crowd of mid-western right-to-lifers, who began screaming at me, at the top of their lungs, that I was the baby-killer. I got tagged again when I went looking for some old friends at the Massachusetts Republic Women’s confab, a hotbed of pro-choice sentiment, I later learned, and the sort of place where my arrival only encouraged the protesters to begin screaming and pushing.

I beat a quick exit, headed for the mall, and bought the big hat and even bigger sunglasses that I have worn to Republican events since. For the rest of the week, I never left home without them; in New York in 2004, I had a slightly spiffier version.

We like to think of ourselves as tolerant people. When nooses and swastikas are found inside buildings at Columbia, we express shock and dismay. When Muslims are subjected to blatant discrimination, we shake our heads with concern.

But do we really care?

I can’t even count, any more, how many times I have sat with decent Southern Baptists who tell me they won’t vote for Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon. It’s not that his religion is a threat to them. It’s that he doesn’t believe what they do.

The attitude towards Muslims is even more vicious. Can you blame us for feeling threatened by a religion that labels non-believers as infidels, deserving of death, according to some of the more radical spiritual leaders? We’re supposed to welcome them into our neighborhoods?

I head a story yesterday of a mosque being built in Cologne, Germany, against the wishes of many of the local Christians and Jews, who view it as a direct assault on their religions. You would think that the Germans would be particularly sensitive to any claim of religious intolerance, but in their view, standing up to the Muslims is standing up to religious intolerance. Who’s right?

As a Jew, and a strong supporter of the state of Israel, I greatly appreciate the support Israel has received from members of the religious right in this country. But sometimes I wonder why they care more than so many of our Jewish youngsters: are they as interested in preserving the Holy City as they are in preserving a population large enough to be available for the "rapture" when it comes?

These are things we don’t say out loud. Out loud, we all claim tolerance. But if we truly practiced what we preached there would be no audience for Ann’s rants. You can say many things about Ann Coulter, but the one thing of which I am sure is that she is smart. When she says Jews aren’t perfect, but that white Republicans are, she knows to whom she is speaking. And it ain’t me, that’s for sure.

Click here to link to Susan's new book, "Soulless. "

Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California. She was Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the first woman President of the Harvard Law Review. She is a columnist for Creators Syndicate and has written for USA Today and the Los Angeles Times.

Estrich's books include the just published “Soulless,” “The Case for Hillary Clinton,” “How to Get Into Law School,” “Sex & Power,” “Real Rape,” “Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System” and "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women.”

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, in addition to writing the “Blue Streak” column for FOXNews.com.

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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. A woman of firsts, she was the first woman president of the Harvard Law Review and the first woman to head a national presidential campaign (Dukakis). Estrich is committed to paving the way for women to assume positions of leadership. Books by Estrich include "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics is Destroying the Criminal Justice System" and "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders." Her book "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women," is a departure from her other works, encouraging women to take care of themselves by engaging the mind to fight for a healthy body. Her latest book, The Los Angeles Times bestseller, "Sex & Power," takes an impassioned look at the division of power between men and women in the American workforce, proving that the idea of gender equality is still just an idea.