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Globe > Coulter's crudeness
By Cathy Young | June 19, 2006
SEVERAL years ago, left-wing cartoonist Ted Rall published a cartoon
mocking the ``terror widows" -- the bereaved of the Sept. 11 attacks
as well as Marianne Pearl, the widow of kidnapped and slain journalist
Daniel Pearl -- as a bunch of greedy and shallow attention-seekers.
The outrage was universal. A number of press outlets, including The
New York Times website, pulled the cartoon. Subsequently, when the
Times and The Washington Post stopped carrying Rall's work, conservatives
called it a victory for decency.
Now, the right has its own Ted Rall in the infamous Ann Coulter.
In her new book, ``Godless: The Church of Liberalism," Coulter takes
a whack at the ``Jersey Girls," four Sept. 11 widows who have been
highly critical of the Bush administration. She refers to them as
``self-obsessed women" who ``believe the entire country was required
to marinate in their exquisite personal agony," and then concludes
with this zinger: ``These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV
and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities
and stalked by grief -arrazies. I have never seen people enjoying
their husband's death so much."
A number of conservatives, including prominent Republican blogger
and radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt, have denounced Coulter's statement.
Unfortunately, many others have rallied to her defense. Radio and
Fox News talk-show host Sean Hannity has mildly suggested that she
may have gone too far, but has avoided condemning her outright and
has given her plenty of airtime on his show.
Bill O'Reilly, the host of the Fox News show ``The O'Reilly Factor," has
been harshly critical of Coulter's comments. Yet several of his conservative
guests vigorously defended her. Republican strategist Karen Hanretty
opined, ``I think that if you read some of what Ann Coulter is saying
and you put it into context, I don't think it's mean-spirited . .
. a lot of it is sort of tongue-in-cheek. And Ann's own personal
style probably wouldn't be my style . . . but it's certainly Ann's
style." Conservative activist Sandy Rios asserted that ``while everybody
else is making nice, Ann's words are laser-focused on truth . . .
they are like a clarion wake-up call." Author and activist David
Horowitz called her ``a national treasure."
Even O'Reilly has tempered his criticism by saying that, unlike
left-wing satirist Al Franken, ``Coulter doesn't lie." Yet the website spinsanity.org,
equally tough on prevaricators whether on the left or right, has
documented a number of egregious distortions and misstatements in
Coulter's earlier books, ``Treason" and ``Slander."
O'Reilly also argues that despite her hyperbole and nastiness, Coulter
makes a valid point about liberals using sympathetic victims, such
as the ``Jersey Girls" or bereaved mother-turned-antiwar-activist
Cindy Sheehan, as ``human shields" to deflect criticism of their
arguments. But, as New York Times columnist John Tierney points out,
that's a legitimate point that applies across the political spectrum.
Republicans have used war veterans, mothers of slain soldiers, and
Sept. 11 widows to bolster their moral authority as well.
Parents of murdered children have often turned their grief to activism
for tougher anti-crime policies, generally a conservative cause.
One might add that Coulter and her ilk waged political war on Bill
Clinton using his alleged victims -- such as Paula Jones and Juanita
Broderick -- as their own ``human shields."
Besides, just how effective is the ``liberal infallibility" of victims?
Sheehan got plenty of criticism for her extreme political statements.
Even columnist Michelle Malkin, who offers a partial defense of Coulter's
argument, asks, ``When was the last time anyone paid attention to
the Jersey Girls?"
Precisely. Coulter, however, commands plenty of attention. Of course,
the attacks in Coulter's book are indeed her ``style."
In the past, she has crudely mocked disabled war veterans whose
politics she dislikes. She is also notorious for such witticisms
as, ``My only regret with [Oklahoma City bomber] Timothy McVeigh
is he did not go to the New York Times Building," and ``Even Islamic
terrorists don't hate America like liberals do." For years, Coulter's
fans have dismissed such hateful comments as satirical hyperbole.
As author Bernard Goldberg has remarked, ``Coulter always has that
twinkle in her eye when she calls some liberal `pond scum.' "
While Ted Rall is a marginal figure on the left, Coulter is a star
of right-wing punditry and a regular speaker at conferences of the
Conservative Political Action Committee. One would think that her
vile remarks about the Sept. 11 widows would have given conservatives
a perfect opportunity to distance themselves from her venom. Apparently,
they have no desire to do so. As someone who considers herself right
of center, it makes me ashamed to be on the same side.