There is an old saying: What do you expect from a pig but a grunt?

Which brings us to Ann Coulter.

The conservative pundit has a new book out entitled Adios America: The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third World Hellhole.

Subtle, right?

Coulter has been peddling these pig pellets so obnoxiously for so long, it’s kind of pointless to note the thinly-veiled paranoia and bigotry barely concealed in her right-wing screeds.

Perhaps that’s kind of sad. After all, she has sold tons of books, and Adios America is right there up at the top of the latest New York Times best seller lists.

Nevertheless, Coulter has chosen to wade into the debate over immigration, a topic of central concern to America’s future as well as its past.

Indeed, it is when Coulter dabbles in the history of immigration that she must be called out. It’s one thing to say something outrageous with a wink and a nudge. The audience can admit that Coulter may have a half-way interesting point buried beneath all of her meanness and bluster.

But when she dabbles in history intimately related to an important current topic, it can lead to misconceptions that are not only wrong, but dangerous.

In an appearance earlier this month on Real Time with Bill Maher, Coulter was at least impressive in her dedication to her, uh, ideas. This was a hostile setting with the host and three guests lined up against her but she came out with guns blazing, blaming immigrants for everything from rampant crime to terrorism. She even noted that she blames big business and corporate elites for fouling up immigration as much as she does liberals.

Maher pointed out that many on the right wing (like Coulter) are hypocritical for professing to be Christian while espousing rather hateful (or, at least, decidedly un-Christian) ideas about the poor and the meek.

Maher then asked Coulter if she was Catholic. Exhibiting some very weird enthusiasm, she declared, “No! Presbyterian!”

But then came this profound nugget of wisdom from Professor Coulter.

“But it was exactly when the Roman Catholics became less Roman … that they started to succeed in America.”

Oh brother. Where does one begin?

Coulter is playing on a very common sentiment, particularly popular among more conservative white ethnic Catholics -- the Irish as well as Italians, Poles and others. They feel their immigrant parents and grandparents were somehow different (which is to say, better) than today’s immigrants.

There is a feeling that past immigrants not only worked harder but were more willing to assimilate. Hence Coulter’s assertion that Catholic immigrants made some conscious decision to become “less Roman.”

Of course, any one who has actually thought a little bit about the Catholic immigrant experience in America would point to a couple of things here. The astonishing thing, particularly about the wave of Famine Irish in the 1840s, is not how willing they were to abandon their “Roman” faith.

The astonishing thing is how hard they fought to maintain it in the face of such blatant, bigoted hostility from the Protestant ruling elite as well the working classes in the streets, who torched nunneries and churches.

New York’s Archbishop “Dagger” John Hughes (himself an immigrant from Tyrone) could very easily have backed off of his demands that Catholic schools be funded at the same level as public schools so that Irish immigrant children need not face hostility and even conversion efforts in the classroom. (Assimilation is so much fun, right?)

When that didn’t work out after a protracted court battle, Hughes and America’s fledgling Catholic leadership essentially set up a “Roman” parish system that would serve American immigrants and their children literally from the cradle to the grave.

In other words, Catholics made it in America because they remained Roman, rather than assimilate.

That’s probably a bit too complicated for Coulter and her, uh, readers. So the best thing for them to do, when it comes to discussing immigration, is to simply say: Adios.

* Contact