Ann Coulter: America's fiery, blond commentatrix
One crack about 9/11 widows and the author of Godless loses her audience. Too bad
MARK STEYN | Jun 21, 2006
Ann Coulter's new book Godless: The Church of Liberalism is a rollicking read very tightly reasoned and hard to argue with. After all, the progressive mind regards it as backward and primitive to let religion determine every aspect of your life, but takes it as advanced and enlightened to have the state determine every aspect of your life. Lest you doubt the left's pieties are now a religion, try this experiment: go up to an environmental activist and say "Hey, how about that ozone hole closing up?" or "Wow! The global warming peaked in 1998 and it's been getting cooler for almost a decade. Isn't that great?" and then look at the faces. As with all millenarian doomsday cults, good news is a bummer.
But nobody's talking too much about the finer points of Miss Coulter's argument. Instead, everyone -- from Hillary Rodham Clinton down -- is going bananas about a couple of paragraphs on page 103 and 112 in which the author savages the 9/11 widows. Not all of them. Just the quartet led by Kristen Breitweiser and known as "the Jersey Girls." These four widows have been regular fixtures in the New York TV studios since they first emerged to complain that the average $1.6 million-per-family compensation was insufficient. The 9/11 commission, in all its ghastly second-guessing showboating, was largely their project. As Miss Coulter writes:
"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."
And at that point Senator Clinton jumped in to denounce the incendiary blond commentatrix as(dread word)"mean-spirited." Maybe so. But in 2004, the Jersey Girls publicly endorsed John Kerry's campaign for president: they inserted themselves into the political arena and chose sides. That being so, to demand that they be insulated from the normal rough 'n' tumble of partisan politics merely because of their biography seems absurd. There are any number of 9/11 widows. A few are big George W. Bush supporters, many are apolitical. I was honoured to receive an email the other day from Deena Gilbey, a British subject whose late husband worked on the 84th floor of the World Trade Center and remained in the building to help evacuate his colleagues. A few days later, U.S. Immigration sent Mrs. Gilbey a letter informing her that, as she was now a widow, her residence status had changed and they were enclosing a deportation order. Having legally admitted to the country the men who killed her husband, the U.S. government's first act after having enabled his murder is to further traumatize the bereaved.
The heartless brain-dead bonehead penpusher who sent out that letter is far more "mean-spirited" than Miss Coulter at full throttle. Yet Mrs. Gilbey isn't courted by the TV bookers the way the Jersey Girls are. Hundreds of soldiers' moms believe their sons died in a noble and just cause in Iraq, but it's Cindy Sheehan, who calls Bush "the biggest terrorist in the world," who gets speaking engagements across America, Canada, Britain, Europe and Australia. When Abu Musab al-Zarqawi winds up pushing up daisy cutters, the media don't go to Paul Bigley, who rejoiced that the man who decapitated his brother would now "rot in hell," nor the splendid Aussie Douglas Wood, who called his kidnappers "arseholes," nor his fellow hostage Ulf Hjertstrom, a Swede who's invested 50,000 bucks or so in trying to track down the men who kidnapped him and visit a little reciprocal justice on them. No, instead, the media rush to get the reaction of Michael Berg, who thinks Bush is "the real terrorist" rather than the man who beheaded his son.
But it wasn't until Ann Coulter pointed it out that you realize how heavily the Democratic party is invested in irreproachable biography. For example, John Kerry's pretzel-twist of a war straddle in the 2004 campaign relied mainly on former senator Max Cleland, a triple amputee from a Vietnam grenade accident whom the campaign dispatched to stake out Bush's Crawford ranch that summer. Maybe he's still down there. It's gotten kinda crowded on the perimeter since then, what with Cindy Sheehan et al. But the idea is that you can't attack what Max Cleland says about war because, after all, you've got most of your arms and legs and he hasn't. This would normally be regarded as the unworthy tactic of snake-oil-peddling shyster evangelists and, indeed, the Dems eventually scored their perfect Elmer Gantry moment. In 2004, in the gym of Newton High School in Iowa, Senator John Edwards skipped the dreary Kerry-as-foreign-policy-genius pitch and cut straight to the Second Coming. "We will stop juvenile diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other debilitating diseases . . . When John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to get up out of that wheelchair and walk again." Mr. Reeve had died the previous weekend, but he wouldn't have had Kerry and Edwards been in the White House. Read his lips: no new crutches. The healing balm of the Massachusetts Messiah will bring the crippled and stricken to their feet, which is more than Kerry's speeches ever do for the able-bodied. As the author remarks, "If one wanted to cure the lame, one could reasonably start with John Edwards."
"What crackpot argument can't be immunized by the Left's invocation of infallibility based on personal experience?" wonders Miss Coulter of Cleland, Sheehan, the Jersey Girls and Co. "If these Democrat human shields have a point worth making, how about allowing it to be made by someone we're allowed to respond to?"
Now that's a point worth making. As it is, thanks to Coulter cracks like "Now that their shelf life is dwindling, they'd better hurry up and appear in Playboy," even chaps on the right are doing the more-in-sorrow shtick and saying that they've been making the same basic argument as Ann and it's such a shame she had to go too far with her cheap shots because that's discredited the entire argument, etc.
The trouble with this line is that hardly anyone was objecting to the professional widow routine pre-Coulter. Well, that's not strictly true. Yours truly objected. After the Zacarias Moussaoui trial, I wrote:
"The first reaction of the news shows to the verdict was to book some relative of the 9/11 families and ask whether they were satisfied with the result, as if the prosecution of the war on terror is some kind of national-security Megan's Law on which they have inviolable proprietorial rights. Sorry, but that's not what happened that Tuesday morning. The thousands who died were not targeted as individuals: they were killed because they were American, not because somebody in a cave far away decided to murder Mrs. Smith. . . It's not about 'closure' for the victims; it's about victory for the nation."
But nobody paid the slightest heed to this line. For all the impact my column had, I might as well have done house calls. Then Coulter comes in and yuks it up with the Playboy-spread gags, and suddenly the Jersey Girls only want to do the super-extra-fluffy puffball interviews. So two paragraphs in Ann Coulter's book have succeeded in repositioning these ladies: they may still be effective Democrat hackettes, but I think TV shows will have a harder time passing them off as non-partisan representatives of the 9/11 dead.
So, on balance, hooray for Miss Coulter. If I were to go all sanctimonious and priggish, I might add that, in rendering their "human shield" strategy more problematic, she may be doing Democrats a favour. There's no evidence the American people fall for this shtick: in 2002, the party's star Senate candidates all ran on biography -- Max Cleland, Jean Carnahan(the widow of a deceased governor), and Walter Mondale(the old lion pressed into service after Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash). All lost. Using "messengers whom we're not allowed to reply to" doesn't solve the Democrats' biggest problem: their message. The Dems, says the author, have "become the 'Lifetime' TV network of political parties." But, except within the Democrat-media self-reinforcing cocoon, it's not that popular. A political party with a statistically improbable reliance on the bereaved shouldn't be surprised that it spends a lot of time in mourning -- especially on Wednesday mornings every other November.
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