Companion site:


Google search...


Daily Howler: A fatuous piece in TNR helps show us the way Coulter conquers
Daily Howler logo
HOW COULTERISM CONQUERS! A fatuous piece in TNR helps show us the way Coulter conquers: // link // print // previous // next //

JOURNALIST ACT: Quite amazing. On last night’s Hardball, David Shuster was rattling on about “the political war over national security.” Fairly quicky, he got to Hillary Clinton. Here’s what the savant soon said:
SHUSTER (8/15/06): In the case of Senator Clinton, by ratcheting up attacks against President Bush, Clinton is trying to blunt Democratic anger at her for voting to authorize the Iraq war in the first place. But as Clinton steps up criticism of the administration, her Republican Senate campaign opponent is seizing the opportunity to bloody her.

CAMPAIGN AD (videotape): Senator Hillary Clinton opposes the Patriot Act and the NSA program that helped stop another 9/11. She’d leave us vulnerable.

SHUSTER: In Virginia, Republican Senator George Allen is getting attacked over national security from the left...
Do you see the problem with that presentation? In fact, Clinton doesn’t “oppose the Patriot Act,” for which she voted. (Beyond that, it’s a tendentious stretch to say that she opposes “the NSA program that helped stop 9/11.") But so what? Shuster broadcast the inaccurate ad—and never said a word about its inaccurate content. To all appearances, it doesn’t even occur to these people that they’re supposed to challenge or correct bogus statements.

A few hours later, Keith Olbermann played the same ad on Countdown—and he hammered it for its inaccurate content. But earlier, on the absurdly-named Tucker, guest host Joe Scarborough let the error stand too. In fact, he reinforced it:
CAMPAIGN AD (videotape): Islamic fascists still hate us. They still want to attack us. But the recent terrorist plot to destroy American airliners headed for New York was detected and defeated. National Security Agency wiretaps of terrorist suspects were vital to stopping this attack. But Senator Hillary Clinton opposes the Patriot Act and the NSA program that helped stop another 9/11. She`d leave us vulnerable.

SCARBOROUGH: That was a subtle ad, but I think that was Hillary Clinton next to Osama bin Laden. Yes, there it is. Welcome to Campaign 2006. That`s a Republican attack ad bashing Hillary Clinton for opposition to NSA wiretapping, but the junior senator from New York can give as good as she gets. She took aim at the president yesterday, saying, "We still haven`t done what we needed to do to protect our ports, our borders, our bridges and our transit systems, our rail lines.”
Scarborough didn’t challenge the ad’s content, either. But then, why should journalists provide the service our hapless Dems won’t even provide? Instantly, Scarborough introduced Lynn Cutler, “former DNC vice-chairwoman and a friend of Hillary Clinton’s.” And you guessed it! Cutler blathered for a full segment—but she didn’t challenge the ad’s content either! Joe even teed her up on the Patriot Act. Here’s what Cutler said:
SCARBOROUGH (8/15/06): But let’s talk about, again, this issue as far as keeping the skies friendly, keeping the skies safe. Doesn’t she see the positive aspects to some wiretapping, to the Patriot Act, again, to giving the U.S. government the same powers that the British government had to crack this terror plot?

CUTLER: Well, first of all, I don’t know that. I mean, I didn’t read that anywhere, exactly how they did that. The way—the one thing I did hear was that they infiltrated the group and they had someone who spoke Arabic in the group. And, therefore, they were able to know what they were going to do and when they were going to do it.

I’m not sure how great our capability is on this, and I flew that morning, Thursday morning. I was lucky enough to be getting on a plane, and, of course, it was insanity at the airport, and now it’s dump all your liquids.

We`re in such a reactive mode. We had Reed and then we dumped the shoes. We had this attempt and dumped the liquid. Why don’t we know about these things? We’re smart people. I mean, you can watch television shows and get some idea of what the crazy technology could be.
What an utterly worthless performance! If you watched Tucker last night, you kept hearing that Clinton opposes the Act—and her best friend never said different.

“What fools we mortals be?” Shakespeare, in the bag for his species, vastly downplayed the real facts.

FILE UNDER: “Where do voters get the idea that Big Dems are weak on security?”

HOW COULTERISM CONQUERS: Elspeth Reeve’s hapless piece on Ann Coulter came at the perfect time for us. Over the weekend, we’d watched the full hour on C-SPAN as Coulter spoke to a group of young women at the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute. Forty seconds into her speech, she chumped them with a Classic Groaner (details tomorrow), and soon she was regaling the girls with the suggestion that someone should put rat poison into Justice Stevens’ creme brulee. As the ladies laughed and laughed at her wit—as they sat still for her endless groaners—we wondered how we’d reached the point where young college grads were such perfect marks. How have we gotten so perfectly dumb? Reeve comes along to help show us.

Truly, it’s startling to think that so helpless a piece was posted by TNR. “I love Ann Coulter,” Reeve types early on. “Coulter shocks and offends, but underneath her offensiveness is a grain of truth that people cope with by critiquing her hair.” In all honesty, we can’t recall hearing anyone say a word about Coulter’s troubling tresses. We do wish we’d hear a lot more talk about reasoning like that which Reeve brings:
REEVE (8/15/06): Yes, yes, Coulter has said some terrible things. But I don't think it's the terrible things that really bother liberals. Coulter makes us cringe not when she lies, but when she says things we wish weren't true.
When does Coulter make us cringe? When she says things “we wish weren’t true.” Instantly, Reeve starts providing examples—and we see the fetid mental slums in which Coulterism currently breeds.

Ann Coulter makes us cringe “when she says things we wish weren't true.” What follows is Reeve’s first example of this. Her editors thought this made sense:
REEVE (continuing directly): Let's go to the tape. Asked to define the First Amendment: “An excuse for overweight women to dance in pasties and The New York Times to commit treason.” Just completely terrible, I know. But I have to admit, I giggled—having recently covered a pro-choice rally where I interviewed a very nice young woman whose nipples were covered by NARAL stickers.
Did Coulter “make us cringe” in this instance because she “said something we wished wasn’t true?” Actually, she likely made sensible people cringe because she accused the Times of treason—something she did, again and again, when she spoke to the ladies at Luce. Reeve completely ignores that matter, offering instead a confusing account of something Coulter supposedly said when asked to define the First Amendment. Was Coulter really asked that question, and was that really her reply? (There’s no Nexis record of such an exchange—which doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.) If Coulter really was asked such a question, her quoted remark isn’t much of an “answer”—even if Reeve did interview “a very nice young woman whose nipples were covered by NARAL stickers.” In fact, Reeve recounts an insipid pseudo-exchange, one she doesn’t much try to explain. But she giggled at Coulter’s rude wit—and we’re supposed to think, on that basis (and because of those nipples), that Coulter had “said something true.”

But then, Reeve just isn’t very sharp at this point in her life—and Coulter is there to take full advantage. Incredibly, this is Reeve’s second example of Coulter saying something which “makes us cringe” because it’s true:
REEVE (continuing directly): Or take Coulter's most infamous line: Writing about her friend's death on September 11, she finished her essay with, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity." Wow, that's pretty indefensible. The United States could never—would never—do such a thing. Instead, we've invaded their countries, killed their leaders, and are desperately trying to convert them to secularism. (It's not like mullahs appreciate the difference.)
It’s startling when someone who reasons so poorly is being published by TNR. Reeve imagines us cringing here because we think “the United States could never—would never—do such a thing.” Actually, many people cringed at what Coulter said because they felt we should never do such a thing. Reeve suggests that Bush has now engaged in the conduct in question—she plays a silly game with the part about conversions—but that doesn’t mean that Coulter “said something true.” Coulter wasn’t making a prediction with her stupid remarks—she was prescribing what our country should do. It’s obvious why sensible people would cringe—but Reeve is undone by the logic.

Nor is Reeve up to the task of unpacking Coulter’s remarks about those “broads” from New Jersey. Here’s her third and final example of Coulter’s truth-telling ways:
REEVE (continuing directly): On the BBC show "Newsnight," Jeremy Paxman asked Coulter if she'd like to withdraw her infamous statements about the September 11 widows. (If you've been living in a spiderhole, she called the more politically inclined among them "broads".) "No, I think you can save all the would-you-like-to-withdraw questions, but you could quote me accurately. I didn't write about the 9/11 widows. I wrote about four widows cutting campaign commercials for John Kerry and using the fact that their husbands died on 9/11 to prevent anyone from responding," she said. The thing's kind of true. A little. It is a little absurd to hold up a person as an expert judge of the 9/11 Commission Report, for example, just because she lost a loved one. Liberals do tend to do that kind of thing, and it makes us look like weenies.
But the thing kind of isn’t true. It isn’t true that the “Jersey Girls” were held up as experts “just because they lost loved ones.” The women in question did make themselves experts, on a wide range of relevant matters, in the aftermath of 9/11. Is respecting such expertise something “liberals do tend to do?” If so, that would be something good about liberals—but “conservative” people often do this as well. For example, John Walsh became an expert on crime after his son was mindlessly murdered—and now he hosts America’s Most Wanted on Fox. Like the Jersey Girls (before Coulter slimed them), Walsh is widely respected for his dedication—and for his plain expertise.

It’s hard to get dumber than this piece by Reeve, but her flat-out inability to reason is the raw meat on which Coulter feeds. As we watched the tape of that Luce performance, we were struck by the danger we now face, at a time when Coulterism has become so widely accepted. We humans have never reasoned well, but we’d been protected in recent decades by the hierarchical rules of the game; only a certain class of person was allowed to shape the public discourse, and the demagogues and the idiots—the people like Coulter—were largely kept out of the process. That agreement has now broken down. First, Howard Stern was allowed on the air. Then, later on, so was Coulter.

The demagogues are now in the game—and people like Reeve are left to cope. She isn’t coping well at this point. Neither are her TNR editors.

TOMORROW: Coulter chez Clare Booth Luce

FOR THE RECORD: In July, Coulter made a statement on Kudlow & Company similar to the one recorded by Reeve. For the record, we offer it here. Kudlow’s panel was discussing the proposed flag-burning amendment:
PETER BEINART (7/4/06): [The flag-burning amendment] is a trivial, trivial matter. And I want to welcome and celebrate the fact that Joel Mowbray has just said he's against George W. Bush on this issue. He does not believe in amending the Constitution. I hope Ann will take the same view.

KUDLOW: All right. Ann, you're up! Ann Coulter, will you take the same view?

COULTER: No. I mean, the First Amendment has been interpreted now to protect, you know, overweight women dancing with pasties, burning the flag, but not core political speech. That is to say, contributing to a candidate to get campaign ads out there. And by the way, I noticed that Hillary's a big supporter of the flag-burning—anti-flag-burning law. She keeps rushing to our side and we keep trying to push her away.
A typically inane presentation by Coulter. (Can anyone locate an argument there?) But when she says “pasties,” many folks giggle. And they may even think that they have heard Coulter make an actual statement.

For decades, people like Reeve weren’t exposed to such tripe because the Coulters weren’t allowed on the air. Now, she’s out there, all the time, and we have to judge the fatuous things she says. At present, we’re clearly losing that contest. We humans have never reasoned well—and that fact defines the swamp in which Coulterism is currently breeding.