Friday Night Fights: Ann Coulter Takes on Peter Beinart

If there is such a thing as a “good liberal,” Peter Beinart of The New Republic is certainly one. Whether or not you agree with his point of view, at least Beinart’s columns are well-reasoned and intelligently presented as opposed to much of the shrill non sequiturs plastered across the opinion pages of most MSM.

With that in mind, Beinart entered the ring Friday night against Ann Coulter, on CNBC’s “Kudlow & Company.” Beinart clearly looked like an able opponent right from the start:

Well, look, if the Democrats take control, you're going to see a lot more aggressive oversight from both houses, and I think as you have said, look, as a nonpartisan matter, we have checks and balances in this country. Our government works when the Congress is aggressively checking the executive branch and vice-versa, and that really hasn't been happening very much as the Republican Congress, particularly in the House, has acted as an arm of the White House rather than an independent branch, and I think it has hurt the congressional Republicans themselves. The ones who looked the best, people like Lindsey Graham, are those who have exercised some independence, and I would gather that if Republicans in Congress had exercised a little more oversight and a little more independence, not only would we be in better shape as a country but they would be in better shape as a party running for re-election this year.

Coulter responded with a few jabs of her own:

The problem is the Democrats have been trying to turn the Iraq war into another Vietnam War since this began. Since 9/11 they have been dying for America to lose the war, and Peter just said it. If the Democrats win, which I think is important to say, as I keep saying, they probably will win and they're going to win because it is the sixth-year election. It's a midterm election. It has nothing do with the war in Iraq but they really...(unintelligible).

The battle was on as evidenced by this subsequent exchange:

Mr. BEINART: Oh, that's not the--in 1998, the Democratic wasn't the incumbent party.

Ms. COULTER: I'm still talking, stop screaming. I'm still talking.

Mr. BEINART: I was making a point.

Ms. COULTER: If they come in, they will say that it is--that it's all because of the war in Iraq and they will try to preside over another humiliating defeat for America. That's why it is very important to keep saying this is the sixth-year election. It has nothing do with America rebelling and wanting us to pull out of Iraq with these nine million complaints the Democrats have.

Mr. BEINART: Can I jump in here for a historical point of accuracy...in 1998, which was the sixth year of Bill Clinton's election, the Democrats actually picked up seats. There is no iron law that says that you lose seats. It has a lot to do with the circumstances of today and how badly this administration has failed.

Ms. COULTER: No, but that was--that is--no. That was after losing way more...during the first midterm election.

The judges were split on the first round results, with the referee calling it even. In round two, boxing turned into a tag-team wrestling match as host Larry Kudlow brought in Rep. Harold Ford (D-Tennessee) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) to discuss the chances the former will win his bid for the Senate. Coulter was ready for the test:

And it's especially bad for me because you know how I hate saying anything kind about a Democrat. Harold Ford is one of my favorite Democrats, but the problem is he belongs to the Democratic Party. And if he does not, as reasonable as he sounds today--and you do, Representative--if he does not toe the lunatic anti-war, high-tax line, he'll end up being primaried like Joe Lieberman.

Beinart parried:

No, but where Ann is wrong is the Democratic Party has actually showed enormous pragmatism in supporting candidates in red states, who were to the right of the national Democratic Party. Representative Ford is a classic example. The Democratic candidate in Montana, the Democratic candidate in Missouri--the Democratic Party has been in Pennsylvania, as you know. The Democrats are nominating an anti-abortion candidate to go up against Santorum. The Democratic Party--there is a kind of purism that plays out in blue states like Connecticut where people figure, `Well, it's a blue state so we can go as far as left as we want.' But in those red states, the party has nominated candidates who appeal to those states. And it's one of the reasons the Democrats have a really decent chance of winning the Senate.

Coulter saw here opportunity, and took full advantage of it:

But--by the way, you were talking in the earlier segment about whether the Democrats will raise taxes. It's a frivolous question. Of course, they will raise taxes. But now that Bush has taken out that veto pen, maybe he will get that vetoed. And, by the way, what Peter just said is that Democrats are, you know, openly trying to fake out the American people. They run people like Daschle and, you know, go back to the home states and pretend to be standing with Bush and supporting the war on terror and supporting conservative judges. And then soon as they get to Washington, they vote along with Nancy Pelosi and Teddy Kennedy. That's the problem with Harold Ford's party.

The deciding blow came as Kudlow went around the table asking whether Ford would win in November. Coulter knocked them all out with: “No. Become a Republican.”

What follows are partial transcripts of these segments, which include dialogue from guests that have been edited above for your entertainment pleasure.

LARRY KUDLOW, host:

On this evening's program, between war disappointments, rising gas prices, interest rates and a re-energized Democratic Party, is the GOP headed for a licking this November, and by the way, would Senator Kerry have stopped the Israel-Hezbollah war as he claims?

Well, let's bring in our panel of experts. Joining me now, Peter Beinart, editor of The New Republic and author of "The Good Fight: Why Liberals and Only Liberals Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again." We have Ann Coulter, syndicated columnist and author of "Godless: The Church of Liberalism." And Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. He's the author of "Get in the Booth: A Citizen's Guide to the 2004 Election."

Welcome back, everybody.

Larry Sabato, I've been reading with great interest your latest missives. You're now suggesting--and then you hinted at this in our program a week ago--that there may be a new Democratic wave in the making. Could sweep 'em to both Houses. I'm going to have to figure out what it means for investors, but you tell me, definitively, what does this mean politically?

Mr. LARRY SABATO (Center for Politics Director): Well, Larry, it's early August, and with 95 days to go, things couldn't be going better for the Democrats. Is there enough time for the momentum to be reversed? Of course, but I'll tell you if the election were today, I would go out on a limb and predict that Democrats would win the House rather handily, and in the Senate, I think they'd get at least five seats. They need six to control. They'd only have to have one real upset to get the Senate, too. Will it turn out that way in November? Stay tuned.

KUDLOW: Larry, one thing that interests me about your latest analysis is that the Democrats are doing extremely well on the money-raising front.

Mr. SABATO: Yeah. You know, money--contributors who give political money are pretty smart. They keep in touch with the issues. They talk to insiders. A lot of them don't like to waste cash even if they're ideological or partisan. I have learned over the years that if you follow the money as the old phrase was in Watergate, you're likely to get a hint of what's going to happen, and a lot of smart money is moving to the Democrats in 2006.

KUDLOW: And I want to put on the screen--I don't know if you all can see it or not--but it's an old political chart, Larry. It's called the Misery Index, and here it is up on the screen. The Misery Index, which was coined in the 1960s, takes the CPI plus the unemployment rate, in recent months. Let's see. The last four months, it's gone from 8.1 percent to 9.1 percent. Now the Bush economy has been pretty good, but gas prices may be taking a toll. Fed interest rate hikes and monetary restraint may be taking a toll. Larry, along with the war woes and other things, the Misery Index is now creeping up, exactly what the Bushies and the GOP don't want.

Mr. SABATO: That is absolutely correct. You know, the economy until very recently was perhaps the strongest positive indicator for Republicans, and it was their best shot of changing the subject away from Iraq, which I think is costing Bush and the Republicans more than anything. It's becoming more difficult for them to do it. Now, let's put this in context. Larry, you love Grover Cleveland as I do, and back in 1894 in his midterm election, he lost 116 House seats and so, you know, we're talking about the Republicans losing maybe 15 to 20. It's enough for Democratic control, but it's not a landslide either.

KUDLOW: All right. So, Ann Coulter, let me ask you, what would America look like under a Democratic Senate and House?

Ms. ANN COULTER ("Godless" Author): I think it will at least be a good reminder to Americans right before a presidential election, so I'm not really concerned about losing the House or the Senate. And this is--I mean, Larry Sabato's analysis is why I hate trying to make predictions about these things other than the fact that it's six years in, and I've been saying all along this is going to be a bad year for Republicans. Larry has all of the information, and he's done this a million times. He's good at it, and even he can't say for sure, and so, you know, for someone who hasn't--who isn't Larry Sabato to be making guesses at something like this--I mean, other than the fact that it's six years, I don't think it is going to have anything to do with the Misery Index or the economy or the war in Iraq, which I think helps Republicans actually. Any time it's national security, I think that helps Republicans. But it's the sixth-year election; it's the midterm election. This isn't going to be a good year for Republicans.

KUDLOW: I don't know, Ann. I've heard you make this point, the sixth-year election. I think that's a bit of a cop-out. I think issues do matter. I think the war does matter. I think the war is going rather poorly, despite--I happen to be a hawk. I support this war. I support the president's mission in this war, and I want to win this war, but we're not winning, and one of the issues that crept up in the week, this past week, is war money management. There's a lot of corruption. There's a lot of mismanagement. There's a lot of waste according to the latest inspector general for Iraq. Republicans are the authorizing committee chairs. Republicans have the oversight, Ann. I think this is going to really hurt. War costs and lousy war management, oh, I think it's a killer.

Ms. COULTER: I don't think that will have any effect at all. I mean, this is why Republicans as a general matter want to put as little as possible in the control of the federal government. When you have enormous federal bureaucracies, there is going to be waste and mismanagement. You're going to have $300 ashtrays or whatever it was, that we've gone through before. This is why we say we don't want the federal government doing, you know, education or pensions for us. We only want federal government doing the military. We know there's going to be some fraud, waste and mismanagement. There was in World War II, and to say we're losing this war--I mean, what is your definition of when we win the war or winning? It is the progressive state you're talking about. When no one is shooting back, that's when the war is over. How can you say we're not winning the war?

KUDLOW: Well, I'm not saying...

Mr. PETER BEINART ("The Good Fight" Author): Can I jump in here, Larry?

Ms. COULTER: Things are getting better.

KUDLOW: Hang on one second. I'm not saying we're losing the war, but I was disturbed, perturbed, whatever when the two big generals, Abizaid and Pace suggested we may be descending into a civil war. To me, Ann, that was new news in the sense that I've never seen official militarydom actually make that point. I hate it if you want to know...

Ms. COULTER: Well...

KUDLOW: ...the truth because I'm a hawk.

Ms. COULTER: ...they didn't actually say that. I mean, the question--the headline was quite different from what the statement actually was. Generals do have to look at all possibilities. The precise quote--I don't know what it is, perhaps you could run it, but it was something like, `Yes, it's possible if we don't--if we don't fight back. It could develop into a civil war if we don't do this right.' It wasn't, `Oh, gosh we see a civil war arising'...(unintelligible).

Mr. BEINART: Abizaid also said the violence was as bad as it's ever been and that it is worse than they thought it would be a year ago. I think that what Larry is saying is actually very significant, because I think we are probably getting close to some kind of tipping point on Iraq. This election could be a lot like the election of 1974, near the end of Vietnam, if you remember when Democrats took a huge victory, and that was really the kind of nail in the coffin on that war effort. Look, I would also love to see us win in Iraq but I think we are getting close to a period where even the center in American politics on this war is not going to hold, and that will be particularly true if Democrats take back both houses of Congress.

KUDLOW: You know, Peter, Ann Coulter mentioned a moment ago, that during World War II we had problems of, you know, a certain amount of mismanagement in the wartime costs and the wartime spending and the wartime oversight. I just wrote a column on "Where's Harry Truman Now That We Need Him?" because Truman in 1943...

Mr. BEINART: Absolutely.

KUDLOW: ...had that wonderful Truman commission where he traveled all across the country. He went to plants. He looked at munitions. He looked at the warplanes. He looked at the commodities. He looked at the transports. He came up with a lot of great suggestions that some people say saved us $15 billion. That's in early 1940s terms. It would be at least 10 or 12 times today. Peter Beinart, I think the Republicans have not exercised good oversight in the Congress. I think it may hurt them with the mismanaging the people's money. Where are the Harry Trumans today, Peter? Is there one in the Democratic Party?

Mr. BEINART: Well, look, if the Democrats take control, you're going to see a lot more aggressive oversight from both houses, and I think as you have said, look, as a nonpartisan matter, we have checks and balances in this country. Our government works when the Congress is aggressively checking the executive branch and vice-versa, and that really hasn't been happening very much as the Republican Congress, particularly in the House, has acted as an arm of the White House rather than an independent branch, and I think it has hurt the congressional Republicans themselves. The ones who looked the best, people like Lindsey Graham, are those who have exercised some independence, and I would gather that if Republicans in Congress had exercised a little more oversight and a little more independence, not only would we be in better shape as a country but they would be in better shape as a party running for re-election this year.

KUDLOW: Ann Coulter, David McCullough's great biography of Truman talked about how Truman's efforts for better oversight on war costs, war spending and war production really helped increase the public's confidence in the war. Would you agree that that's a problem now? We haven't had that kind of Trumanesque commission and the public's confidence in the war is low rather than high?

Ms. COULTER: No, I would absolutely not agree with that. This has nothing do with accounts receivable in this war. The problem is the Democrats have been trying to turn the Iraq war into another Vietnam War since this began. Since 9/11 they have been dying for America to lose the war, and Peter just said it. If the Democrats win, which I think is important to say, as I keep saying, they probably will win and they're going to win because it is the sixth-year election. It's a midterm election. It has nothing do with the war in Iraq but they really...(unintelligible).

Mr. BEINART: Oh, that's not the--in 1998, the Democratic wasn't the incumbent party.

Ms. COULTER: I'm still talking, stop screaming. I'm still talking.

Mr. BEINART: I was making a point.

Ms. COULTER: If they come in, they will say that it is--that it's all because of the war in Iraq and they will try to preside over another humiliating defeat for America. That's why it is very important to keep saying this is the sixth-year election. It has nothing do with America rebelling and wanting us to pull out of Iraq with these nine million complaints the Democrats have.

Mr. BEINART: Can I jump in here for a historical point of accuracy...

KUDLOW: And then I want to get some context from Larry Sabato.

Mr. BEINART: ...in 1998, which was the sixth year of Bill Clinton's election, the Democrats actually picked up seats. There is no iron law that says that you lose seats. It has a lot to do with the circumstances of today and how badly this administration has failed.

Mr. KUDLOW: Larry Sabato...

Ms. COULTER: No, but that was--that is--no. That was after losing way more...

Mr. SABATO: Can I jump in?

Ms. COULTER: ...during the first midterm election.

KUDLOW: Go ahead, Larry.

Ms. COULTER: [Unintelligible)...picked up seats in the last midterm election.

KUDLOW: It's a leap of faith, Larry. Go for it.

Mr. SABATO: I just wanted to throw in a note of accuracy here. They are actually both right. Peter is correct in pointing out that 1998 was the sixth-year election and Democrats actually picked up seats, but Ann is right in noting that the sixth-year election almost always results in the incumbent White House party losing seats. 1998 was the only exception since 1900.

KUDLOW: Larry Sabato...

Ms. COULTER: And that was after 1994.

KUDLOW: In a sentence...

Ms. COULTER: When we...(unintelligible)...way more seats than usual.

Mr. BEINART: (Unintelligible)...not always big losses though.

KUDLOW: ...we're on our way out of this seg. You're all coming back.

Larry Sabato, in a sentence, will the Democrats become anti-war and high tax? Is that the direction they're going to pull policy? Anti-war, especially after Lieberman loses, and high tax? What do you think, real fast?

Mr. SABATO: Anti-war, yes. High tax, no. They'll never get anything passed.

KUDLOW: All right, everybody please stay right where you are. We're coming back to you in just a moment.

KUDLOW: Welcome back, everybody.

We've got House members Harold Ford, Marsha Blackburn rejoining us. Our excellent panel Peter Beinart, Ann Coulter and Larry Sabato.

Larry Sabato, I can't put it any clearer than this. Will Mr. Ford win in Tennessee?

Mr. LARRY SABATO (Center for Politics Director): Oh, you really put me on the spot with him here. Look...

Rep. FORD: Larry, I'm watching him, man. Sabato.

Mr. SABATO: ...Mayor Bob Corker, the Republican--yeah, I know that. I got to be careful what I say. Mayor Bob Corker, the Republican, is the favorite to win that seat. But--and I real--I would say this, if Harold Ford weren't on program, as your viewers just saw, he is about as impressive a Democrat as you find. And I think he has a reasonable shot at an upset in a year when the Democratic winds are blowing and they're blowing at his back. And so, he might, might be the critical sixth seat that gives Democrats control of the US Senate.

KUDLOW: Not to detract, and I mean this very seriously and personally, not to detract one iota from my brilliant friend, Marsha Blackburn, brilliant and dedicated friend, but the reality is Mr. Ford is a very special candidate.

Ann Coulter, I want you to weigh in on the Harold Ford race.

Ms. ANN COULTER ("Godless" Author): You're putting us all on the spot.

KUDLOW: Yes.

Ms. COULTER: And it's especially bad for me because you know how I hate saying anything kind about a Democrat. Harold Ford is one of my favorite Democrats, but the problem is he belongs to the Democratic Party. And if he does not, as reasonable as he sounds today--and you do, Representative--if he does not toe the lunatic anti-war, high-tax line, he'll end up being primaried like Joe Lieberman.

KUDLOW: That's a good point.

Peter Beinart, I want to get you to weigh in on this Harold Ford race. And what did Ann just say? The lunatic fringe, the anti-war, I think post-Lieberman, Peter--and Lieberman is your quintessential liberal hawk, for heaven's sake--Dems are going to go left on the war, immediate pullout and withdrawal, which is not going to solve any of the numerous problems I've already articulated on Iraq. And then the issue is high taxes. And, probably, loose spending as well. Go ahead, Pete.

Mr. PETER BEINART ("The Good Fight" Author): No, but where Ann is wrong is the Democratic Party has actually showed enormous pragmatism in supporting candidates in red states, who were to the right of the national Democratic Party. Representative Ford is a classic example. The Democratic candidate in Montana, the Democratic candidate in Missouri--the Democratic Party has been in Pennsylvania, as you know. The Democrats are nominating an anti-abortion candidate to go up against Santorum. The Democratic Party--there is a kind of purism that plays out in blue states like Connecticut where people figure, `Well, it's a blue state so we can go as far as left as we want.' But in those red states, the party has nominated candidates who appeal to those states. And it's one of the reasons the Democrats have a really decent chance of winning the Senate.

KUDLOW: Ann Coulter, I want to bring you back, and I want to let Marsha Blackburn weigh in because she has been very patient here on this Harold Ford love-fest. What can I say, the guy is a class act. But, Ann Coulter, a Democratic Senate and Democratic House will produce a Democratic immigration bill. Now, as much as Larry Sabato and I worship at the shrine of Grover Cleveland who vetoed more bills than any president in the United States before or since, the reality is Bush may not veto an immigration bill. What is your take on a Democratic immigration bill?

Ms. COULTER: I'm against it. But--by the way, you were talking in the earlier segment about whether the Democrats will raise taxes. It's a frivolous question. Of course, they will raise taxes. But now that Bush has taken out that veto pen, maybe he will get that vetoed. And, by the way, what Peter just said is that Democrats are, you know, openly trying to fake out the American people. They run people like Daschle and, you know, go back to the home states and pretend to be standing with Bush and supporting the war on terror and supporting conservative judges. And then soon as they get to Washington, they vote along with Nancy Pelosi and Teddy Kennedy. That's the problem with Harold Ford's party.

KUDLOW: If Lieberman is any benchmark--I mean, all of the left is coming out for Lieberman. I know President Clinton campaigned up there for him. But you just see it, heck, I just saw Al Sharpton go up there, which ought to be the kiss of death, but who the heck knows. I've never seen such an assault on a guy who's been a loyal party member, who just happens to have a little patriotism on the war. I mean, it's an extraordinary thing, Peter Beinart, the whole party seems like it's against Lieberman right now.

Mr. BEINART: Well, look, I have a lot of admiration and respect for Joe Lieberman. But I don't think the question is patriotism. I don't think Ned Lamont or his supporters and the blogosphere have any less patriotism.

KUDLOW: All right. Call it national security. I take it back. I take the word patriotism back. Call it national security and foresight in the terror war. I take patriotism back.

Mr. BEINART: Well, I think--I think that if people had a little more historical perspective, they remember that Joe Lieberman was the one blue state Democrat that supported the Gulf War. He was dead right. He was a hero on Bosnia, a hero on Kosovo. I think Joe Lieberman, even if you disagree with him on the war in Iraq, I think has done a lot of good for his party. A lot of things that are very valuable. I think it will be sad if he loses.

KUDLOW: All right. Marsha Blackburn. You've been very patient.

Rep. BLACKBURN: Yes, Larry.

KUDLOW: There's a lot on the table here. It's kind of a Harold Ford love-fest. Weigh in again, please, if you would.

Rep. BLACKBURN: Well, in Tennessee, I think, securing the border, national security, it's a security agenda. Lowering your taxes, getting government spending under control, and the people in Tennessee want to see those things addressed. They expect leadership that is going to address those. And Harold Ford has served the Democrat Party well. He has served the 9th District and Tennessee Congressional District as well. But I don't think this one's going to be his race to win.

KUDLOW: Miss Blackburn, what might a Democratic immigration bill--let us assume for the moment, however unlikely you believe this scenario to be, that they do, the Larry Sabato Democratic wave comes true, and I know he's hedging a little bit, but that's the direction of his thinking. What would a Democratic immigration bill look like in your view?

Rep. BLACKBURN: Well, and let me say this, Larry, I think we have to realize we all know this is going to be a tough election. And I, for one, am not taking anything for granted. And if you were to talk about what kind of proposals the Democrats would bring forward, look at what they've offered. You can look at proposals for pathways to citizenship, for amnesty, for additional benefits. Look at the Reid-Kennedy bill, that is the bill that ended up coming through the Senate. I think that that is what they would offer. The American people have clearly rejected that. They have clearly rejected it. What they want is secure the border first, because what we have is a situation where every town has become a border town. Every town has become a border state. And people want to see this issue resolved. They don't want to talk about anything else until we have secured the border and have a plan.

KUDLOW: Mr. Ford, Mr. Ford, I'm going to give you the last word, quickly. Your response to Ms. Blackburn on immigration.

Rep. FORD: She makes my case. I voted for the toughest bill, and the Republicans hadn't been able to get anything done. I don't mean to be partisan, but I think my politics fits right with Tennessee's politics. And I appreciate Ms. Blackburn for laying out what the issues are. And I'm going to ask her for her vote this evening on the show. If you want to solve these problems, you ought to give me a chance to go to the Senate because I promise you, I'd be a part of the winning group.

KUDLOW: Can I get a quick straw poll please, just up or down, yes or no, Larry Sabato, for Senator Ford, yes or no?

Rep. FORD: Sabato, I'm listening.

Mr. SABATO: Oh, sure. He is on the program, yes. Yes.

KUDLOW: Ann Coulter, Senator Ford, Ann Coulter, Senator Ford, yes or no?

Ms. COULTER: No. Become a Republican.

KUDLOW: All right. Peter Beinart, Senator Ford, yes or no?

Mr. BEINART: Yes. And that'll be the last seat they need to take the Senate.

KUDLOW: All right, very interesting. I thank all of you for a wonderful bunch of segments.

Rep. BLACKBURN: Thank you, Larry.

Rep. FORD: Thank you.

KUDLOW: I'm not in politics, but I'll say as an American, somewheres, sometime in the US Senate, there's got to be place for someone like Harold Ford.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.