Tammy Bruce's Journey: The Politics Have Changed, but the Style Remains the Same. (Columns)
Young, Cathy, Reason
WHEN TAMMY BRUCE, then president of the National Organization for Women's Los Angeles chapter, dashed with the national leadership of NOW over the O.J. Simpson murder case in 1995, it was a thrilling spectacle of two leftist ideologies colliding: the irresistible force of radical feminism meets the immovable object of racial politics.
Bruce, who scoffed openly at the notion that Simpson was a victim of racist persecution, was censured by NOW's national board for "statements that clearly violate NOW's commitment to stopping racism"--for instance, that the issue of domestic violence provided "a needed break from all that talk of racism."
While Bruce was almost certainly on the side of the angels here, her record suggested that it was a case of a broken clock being right twice a day. Among other things, Bruce had once hailed the Women's Action Coalition, the now-defunct militant group that barred all men, including reporters, from its actions and events. ("Most groups metamorphose," she was quoted as saying, "but I hope they stay the same.") She also lambasted a judge for reversing a policy that had banned Los Angeles firefighters from reading nudie magazines in their personal quarters at the fire station.
Fast-forward to 2003. Meet Tammy Bruce, a columnist for the reliably right-wing NewsMax.com and a television pundit who voices the conservative position on everything from the death penalty to the Pledge of Allegiance. Her new book, The Death of Right and Wrong: Exposing the Left's Assault on Our Culture and Our Values, has blurbs from Laura Schlessinger, Sean Hannity, and G. Gordon Liddy.
Such political odysseys, of course, are not unheard of. But unlike, say, her recovering Leninist friend David Horowitz, Bruce denies that her beliefs have undergone any significant evolution. "The funny thing is that my politics haven't changed at all," she tells me. What really happened, she says, is that she finally saw through the "charade" of the left's rhetoric about empowering women and other groups. Bruce, who now calls herself a classical liberal, insists that she is "still very proud" of her work at NOW.
There's something to be said for anyone who riles the feminist establishment as much as Tammy Bruce does. And her maverick status as (to quote her Web site) "an openly gay, pro-choice, pro-death penalty, gun-owning, voted-for-Reagan progressive feminist" makes her appealing in a time when so many pundits spout prepackaged ideologies of the left or the right. Unfortunately, her claim to be an independent thinker is compromised by her own unacknowledged contradictions--and by her penchant for rhetoric straight from the right-wing Tele-Prompter.
Probably the biggest contradiction is between Bruce's outrage at the left's attempts to suppress politically incorrect speech and her long history of actions that, to the untrained eye, might look like attempts to suppress politically incorrect speech. Bruce rails at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) for its boycott of sponsors of Schlessinger's television show; yet in 1990, she led NOW's boycott against Knopf over Bret Easton Ellis' novel American Psycho. In her 2001 book The New Thought Police, Bruce explains that this was different because she never asked Knopf to cancel publication of the book and wanted only to raise public awareness of its violent content. (Actually, GLAAD did not demand the cancellation of Schlessinger's show, to the dismay of some gay activists.) Yet Bruce also boasts that partly due to her protest--which included such strong-arm tactics as encouraging people to flood Knopf's inside phone numbers with phone calls--no similar books have been published since, and the editor of Ellis' next novel censored a particularly violent scene.
The targets of Bruce's wrath in her NOW days also included far more innocuous fare than American Psycho, such as country singer Holly Dunn's hit song "Maybe I Mean Yes," in which a woman says, "When I say no, I mean maybe/And maybe I mean yes"--a lyric Bruce decried as encouraging rape, even though the context was courtship, not sex. …