Other conservatives may be more bombastic (think Rush Limbaugh) or louder (FOX News' Sean Hannity), but Coulter, 40, brings to the fray a mind trained at Cornell and the University of Michigan Law School—and a quality she's not shy about discussing. "I'm a female as opposed to a boy commentator, and that emboldens me," she says. "If I were a liberal, I'd be described as looking like a high-fashion model." Arriving at La Goulue, a chic Manhattan eatery, in a tight tee and rhinestone-studded mini, she turns heads; a flirty waiter says, "You are very beautiful."
Critics are less dazzled. "She's been groomed by the extreme right to take on feminism and civil rights and gay rights issues," says feminist ex-Gore adviser Naomi Wolf. "But she's guilty of the same tactics she attacks." Like Pat Buchanan or leftist Kathleen McKinnon, Wolf says, Coulter has some valid points but also "some very dangerous stylistic techniques in common with demagogues."
Coulter's gig as a regular analyst on MSNBC ended in 1997, for instance, when she told a disabled Vietnam veteran on-camera, "People like you caused us to lose that war." She was dropped again last fall, from National Review Online, after refusing to change a syndicated column that said "swarthy males" should be searched at airports; it followed one proposing that the U.S. invade some Muslim countries to "kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." Says Coulter: "I didn't expect alleged conservatives to become hysterical."
For Coulter, the journey to the right was short. She grew up in staunchly Republican New Canaan, Conn., the third and last child of a homemaker and a lawyer who specialized in busting unions. At college and law school her conservatism hardened. "I hate bullies and snobs," she says, "and liberals on campuses are bullies and snobs."
In 1996 a friend talked Coulter into trying out at MSNBC. She was hired on the spot. Coulter later wrote briefs for Paula Jones's lawsuit against Bill Clinton and began her acid-tongued column. Her work for Jones inspired her first bestseller, High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton. She was a frequent guest on ABC's Politically Incorrect, but what she calls the "liberal oligarchy" in the media hasn't offered her a full-time job-not even at conservative FOX News. "Apparently," she says coolly, "they prefer Greta Van Susteren."
With her tricity lifestyle—she maintains apartments in Washington, D.C., and Manhattan and often visits L.A.—Coulter has assembled an eclectic bunch of pals, including libertarian Bill Maher, West Wing consultant Pat Caddell and leftist writer Christopher Hitchens. "I don't have many female friends," Coulter concedes. One, liberal author Elinor Burkett, says, "What I appreciate about Ann-leaving aside bottomless loyalty and a tremendous ability to laugh at herself—is that she never takes a position to make herself popular."
Although Coulter is a devout Christian, her most recent boyfriend was a Muslim; their first date was on a Sunday morning at her church. Her longest involvement, with a Senate aide, lasted 18 months. "Now that I am boyfriendless," she says, laughing, "I have to go through an airport security checkpoint."
Still, she says, "I have a great life." She also has important projects, like her next book—and her most cherished dream. "No more liberals on TV," she says. "Think what a great country this would be."
Lynda Wright in Manhattan