When Ann Coulter remarked on CNBC that Jews should become Christians, it wasn't "a faux pas," and she wasn't being "an idiot," as many commentators suggested. Instead she was playing her game -- provoking her critics to get her into the media spotlight that helps sell her books.
That raises the question: should the Republican candidates be asked whether they agree with Ann Coulter that America would be a better place if we were all Christians? Or is that simply playing Ann Coulter's game?
Many people are playing her game this time around: Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, denounced Coulter for speaking in "the classic language of anti-Semites throughout the millennia." The National Jewish Democratic Council asked broadcast news organizations not to give Coulter airtime. Then right wing talk radio got to yell at liberals for trying to deny Ann Coulter her right to free speech.
So it's happened again: Ann Coulter is controversial. Ann Coulter is important. We all need to take a stand for or against Ann Coulter's right to express her views, no matter how repugnant they may be.
But what if we ignored her latest publicity ploy? What if we didn't play Ann Coulter's game – again?
That would be a mistake, Tim Rutten argued recently in the LA Times. We need to press the issue on the candidates, and others, this time -- because, Rutten writes, "the implications of these latest remarks simply are too threatening to be allowed to stand."
Yes, it's worked for her many times before, propelling her books to the top of the best-seller list. Her readers buy her books precisely because they love the way she provokes liberals to screaming outrage. That's why in the past, when asked about our enemies in the Middle East, she said "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity"; that's why she insulted the 9-11widows.
But this time, Rutten argues, it's different. That's because Coulter's argument – that Christianity "perfects" Judaism, and that Jews need "perfecting" -- is the major theological underpinning of anti-Semitism (along with the notion to that the Jews killed Jesus). The Catholic church, and most Protestant denominations, have explicitly broken with that claim. The Republican candidates ought to do the same thing.
"It's a scandal that in this pluralist nation it falls to the voices of organized Jewry to make this case," Rutten writes, "because it is a case whose outcome is of the greatest consequence to us all. For too long we've pretended that the brutal political rhetoric that now characterizes our partisan politics can be quarantined, that it won't inevitably leach over into every other aspect of our lives."
So it would be good to ask Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and their rivals: Ann Coulter is a best-selling Republican pundit; do you agree with her that the ideal America is a Christian America?