Thursday, June 08, 2006

In Defense of Ann Coulter

You've read about Ann Coulter's book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, and the controversy that surrounds it because of a passage quoted by Today's Matt Lauer in his recent interview of Coulter. The passage is embedded in one of Lauer's questions (quoted at this Leftist site):

LAUER: On the 9-11 widows, an in particular a group that had been critical of the administration: “These self-obsessed women seem genuinely unaware that 9-11 was an attack on our nation and acted like as if the terrorist attack only happened to them. They believe the entire country was required to marinate in their exquisite personal agony. Apparently, denouncing bush was part of the closure process.” And this part is the part I really need to talk to you about: “These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefparrazies. I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s death [sic] so much.” Because they dare to speak out?

In the aftermath of the Today interview much has been said about what Coulter wrote -- and about the reactions to what she wrote. See, for example, this, this, this, this, this, and especially this, where Fran Porretto of Eternity Road quotes from Godless to put in context the infamous "enjoying their husbands' deaths" passage:

After 9/11, four housewives from New Jersey whose husbands died in the attack on the World Trade Center became media heroes for blaming their husbands' deaths on George Bush and demanding a commission to investigate why Bush didn't stop the attacks. Led by all-purpose scold Kristen Breitweiser, the four widows came to be known as "the Jersey Girls." (Original adorable name: "Just Four Moms From New Jersey.") The Jersey Girls weren't interested in national honor, they were interested in a lawsuit. They first came together to complain that the $1.6 million average settlement to be paid to 9/11 victims' families by the government was not large enough.

After getting their payments jacked up, the weeping widows took to the airwaves to denounce George Bush, apparently for not beaming himself through space from Florida to New York and throwing himself in front of the second building at the World Trade Center. These self-obsessed women seemed genuinely unaware that 9/11 was an attack on our nation and acted as if the terrorist attacks happened only to them. The whole nation was wounded, all of our lives reduced. But they believed the entire country was required to marinate in their exquisite personal agony. Apparently, denouncing Bush was an important part of their closure process. These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis. I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much.

Ed Morrissey's reaction (linked above) exemplifies that of the conservative tut-tut brigade:

[I]f one ever needed proof that the political spectrum resembles a circle where the extremes meet, this should provide it. In fact, it reminded me of another pundit whom the Left lionizes and the Right reviles: Ted Rall. Why Rall? Three years ago, Rall made essentially the same point in one of his crude cartoons and got rightly panned for it. It became one of the reasons that the Washington Post ended its association with Rall in 2004.

Whether Rall or Coulter says it, impugning the grief felt by 9/11 widows regardless of their politics is nothing short of despicable. It denies them their humanity and disregards the very public and horrific nature of their spouses' deaths. The attacks motivated a lot of us to become more active in politics in order to make sure our voices contribute to the debate, and it is impossible to argue that the 9/11 widows (and widowers, and children, and parents) have less standing to opine on foreign policy than Ann Coulter or Ted Rall.

It is simply absurd to link Coulter and Rall. Coulter writes in defense of America and its ideals. Rall disdains America and its ideals; he roots for the bad guys.

More importantly, Coulter did not impugn the grief of 9/11 widows in general, she impugned the self-centered, money-grubbing, partisan actions of "the Jersey Girls." Their grief gives them no license to tax Americans. Life is full of tragedies -- preventable and unpreventable -- but why should the survivors of the victims of one particular tragedy be singled out for special attention and recompense? Was there a "12/7 Fund" in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor? Have we lavished millions on each of the widows of the servicemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan? Where did we (or so many of us) get the idea that we are owed munificent recompense for every bad thing that happens to us? Stuff happens -- that's why we buy insurance.

But demanding tribute was not enough for the Jersey Girls. They went on to scold the 9/11 Commission and then to engage in partisan politics, as if wisdom accompanies grief. It is true that the Jersey Girls have no less standing than anyone else to speak their minds. But neither do they have more standing than anyone else. But that is what they have claimed -- and been granted, by many. Their "credibility" arises solely from the fact that they are 9/11 widows, not because they have thought long, hard, and productively about issues of war and peace. Ann Coulter, by contrast, has done the long, hard, thinking -- which she does convey in a rather polemical style. (Ted Rall's thinking, on the other hand, is as deep as the ink on a page of The New York Times.)

With that out of the way, I will explain why Coulter is right to say that "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much." Enjoy means (among other things) "have benefit from; 'enjoy privileges'." And that's precisely what the Jersey Girls have done. They have exacted tribute from us and exercised unwarranted influence in politics -- simply because of the manner of their husbands' deaths. Boobs who criticize Coulter would do well to improve their command of English.