The shingle-style house straddles a hillside, its windows offering sunny views in three directions. Games, books and DVDs topple from living-room shelves. In the kitchen, a young mom helps her 7-year-old daughter feed fabric through a sewing machine.
The place seems more all-American home than hideout, but fewer than 20 people know that Michelle Malkin, mother of two young children, loyal wife of 15 years -- oh, and scourge and sometime nightmare of liberals in her newspaper columns, TV spots, books and writings on the Web -- moved to this place in the Baltimore area a year and a half ago.If you're seeking a living symbol of America's rancorous political divide, look no further than Malkin, one of the most popular and provocative voices on the modern right. The only daughter of first-generation immigrants from the Philippines, Malkin, 37, began blogging on politics nine years ago after a successful run as a newspaper columnist and has become a menace out of proportion to her Size 0 frame.
The Malkins found a new home. For now, only a few friends know exactly where to find them.
"Sadly enough, it comes with the territory," says Malkin, whose most recent book, Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild, argues that the political left, far more than the right, suffers the presence of "moonbats" -- Malkin-speak for those fated to play out life's hand with a less-than-full deck. "I'm used to it. But when you have kids, you have to be cautious."
As she makes snacks for her daughter and 4-year-old son, helps her husband, Jesse, get ready for a run and steals glances at an open laptop on the dining-room table, it's hard to conjure the right-wing menace who inspires hundreds of venomous e-mails a week. "[You] ought to be shot between those Viet Cong eyes," reads one. "How does it feel to be a paid prostitute for the Republicans?" says another. "Go get some collagen injected in your lips, it makes you look more the part."
"Stirring arguments, aren't they?" says Malkin with a roll of her eyes. "That's what you resort to when you're losing the debate -- name-calling and ad hominem attacks."
A snippet of news flashes across her Mac. "Excuse me a minute, I need to check this," she says, her brow furrowing. She sits down for a few minutes' work.
Boys on Bus?
A visit to the nerve center of the Malkin media empire is enough to unnerve the crustiest journalist or political junkie. The Boys on the Bus? This is more mom in the playroom. Climb a back staircase, step over a SpongeBob toy or two, hang a left at the master bedroom, and stumble into the walk-in closet with the skylight in the ceiling, and you're in what might equate to the newsroom of the future. Or is it the present?
Malkin, spry in jeans and a black ballcap, clears a spot on a desk between some hanging coats. "I like it in here," she says, gesturing to the TV monitor, speakers and oversized laptop on her workspace. "I miss the hum of a newsroom, but other than that, I have everything I need."
Malkin honed her skills as a columnist with the Los Angeles Daily News and Seattle Times in the 1990s, turning herself into what Rick Newcombe, her longtime editor at Creators Syndicate, calls "a brilliant writer and extremely articulate conservative. She is exciting, not staid."
Malkin reminds him of no less an eminence than William F. Buckley, who passed away last month, but even Buckley might have envied Malkin's reach. She connects with millions without ever leaving home. She monitors world events on a passel of Weblogs, swaps messages with news sources around the world, writes a column picked up by 200 newspapers and Web sites each week, and taps out updates to the pieces she has written for her own blogs, MichelleMalkin.com and HotAir.com (as many as a dozen posts a day).
She started working online in 1999, she says, before modern blogging software came along. "You built the whole site from scratch every time you added a post," she says, a state of affairs a blogger might equate with carving hieroglyphics in stone.
Her sites attract 15.1 million page views per month, both of them among the top three blogs on the political right. Pajamas Media, a California blogging conglomerate, pays her and two fellow HotAir writers.
Her writing blends in-your-face defiance and cheek. After Thursday's pre-dawn blast that damaged a military recruiting center at Times Square in New York, Malkin wrote, "Will any on the left and in the Democrat Party raise their voices -- loudly and clearly -- to condemn the ongoing, militant anti-recruiter campaign? Will they urge the Code Pinkos and their ilk to halt their intimidation and obstruction efforts?"
She could make a living blogging, she says, though it hasn't yet made her rich. Commentator Juan Williams, a colleague at Fox News, wonders whether this is the same journalism he grew up learning. "Her background is certainly nontraditional, isn't it?" he says. "She seems to be doing a very good job of creating herself."
Not everyone's so impressed.
"I can't say her contributions are enriching the public dialogue. She favors a `Shoot first, ask questions later' strategy, popular among conservative bloggers," said Bill Scher of the Liberal Oasis blog.