Tammy Bruce calls herself "a new radical individual," which conjures up a masked anarchist with a baseball bat running through the streets shouting "Death to the state!"
She actually fits neatly into a long American political tradition, says the prolific author, garrulous talk show host, and noted maverick - although "traditional" seems a stretch when applied to a gun-toting, pro-choice, 43-year-old lesbian who is both a Ronald Reagan admirer and the former head of a California chapter of NOW.
"The independent rebel, who is passionate about personal freedom, represents the instinctual core of America," she says, speaking at machine-gun speed, firing epigrams like bullets.
Which brings us to the .38 snub-nosed Smith & Wesson she calls Snuffy.
"When I take Snuffy out of her drawer in my nightstand and we go to the shooting range," Bruce says, "it reminds me that I am responsible for myself. Owning a gun is at the heart of what it means to be an American. The only reason this country is free from government tyranny is that people like me are armed."
Indeed, the thought of this self-described Irish Italian troublemaker packing heat should make criminals bent on evil-doing quake in their boots.
Whether lecturing, doing political commentary on the Fox News Channel, or hosting a syndicated talk show in Los Angeles that airs on 130 radio stations (it's heard in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Scranton, but not yet Philadelphia), Bruce has never been one to back down from a fight.
Nor will she retreat from statements that infuriate critics, such as her insistence that "my politics haven't changed," even as she has morphed over a decade from liberal darling to Fox flag waver.
"I'm still committed to advancing the rights of the individual," Bruce said last week by phone from New York, where she was promoting The New American Revolution: Using the Power of the Individual to Save Our Nation From Extremists (William Morrow, $24.95).
Revolution is Bruce's third book about contemporary political culture, following The New Thought Police, a critique of political correctness, and The Death of Right and Wrong, which became a New York Times best-seller despite (or maybe because) Publisher's Weekly called it a "right-wing screed" penned "with an apostate's zeal."
The apostate charge dates to 1995, when Bruce headed the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women and was so outraged by the verdict in the O.J. Simpson murder trial that she organized a protest march. It drew 5,000 women, and incurred the wrath of NOW president Patricia Ireland, who publicly berated Bruce as "racially insensitive."
"I was already a thorn in the side of NOW, but when I said race doesn't matter if you're a woman and your husband's fist is coming at your face, I was denounced," Bruce says. Dismayed when discussions about race overshadowed the reason for the trial - the violent murders of Simpson's wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman - Bruce quit NOW, went back to college, and got a political science degree.
"I spent years compromising, and at times saying things I didn't totally agree with, in order to belong to the left," Bruce says, and she didn't become a true individual until she learned to reject group-think. "It was part of my growing up."
A registered Democrat, she now calls herself a "classical liberal" - the term of art for those who favor small, non-intrusive government.
She says there are lots of people like her. "Americans are socially liberal, although the left has taken that too far. We know government has a role to play, but the role should be small. We want to care for the underprivileged, but not make it a lifestyle."
But how can she presume to describe most Americans when everyone knows the country is polarized, split, and shouting insults across a red-blue divide?
"The mainstream media highlights the divide and reports on the extremes," Bruce replies, whereas "most Americans are as opposed to the liberal rantings of Howard Dean and George Soros as they are to the conservative ravings of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell."
While in Manhattan, Bruce helped launch Open Source Media at www.osm.org, a consortium of 70 diverse blogs on topics from politics and true crime to designer shoes and holistic pet care. She's on OSM's advisory board and blogs at http://tammybruce.com.
Bruce calls the blogging collective "the first fundamental assault on the mainstream media's control of information distribution."
She says because blog journalism - "the technological handmaiden of the new American revolution" - is constantly self-correcting and invites anyone to chime in, it will deal a deathblow to old media, including newspapers.
"The power no longer resides with the elites. The power belongs to whoever wants to take it," says Tammy Bruce with utmost confidence, sounding for all the world like a Sixties lefty at the barricades and signifying that in the fractured and shifting terrain of American political culture, labels have lost all meaning.