Sunday, June 18, 2006

When he's right, he's right

Its often said that in order to prove a rule, there must be an exception.

The "rule" on Oregonian columnist David Reinhard is that he's a narrow minded, sychophantic, rightwing brown nose who couldn't write a fair point if his life depended on it.

It must be time for Reinhard's annual exception. Witness today's column:

Why'd you have to go and do that?

I asked this question often while reading my first Ann Coulter book ("Slander"). I asked it again and again and again more recently while reading what will likely be my last ("Godless: The Church of Liberalism"). The "Slander" round of questions I asked as an admirer who wants a writer to be even more persuasive. Four years ago, I wrote, "A devotee of lively writing and robust argument, Coulter sometimes hurts her case by kicking off with an over-the-top pronouncement."

This past week's round of "Why'd you have to go and do that?" came from someone who's lost patience with Coulter's hyperbole and cruelty -- and the unseriousness she manifests in their indulgence.

"Godless," to be sure, is full of good stuff -- strong arguments, tart insights and snappy writing. It's all on display in chapters on Willie Horton, abortion and crime policy. In our hypersensitive and sentimental age, Coulter is more interested in telling (her) truth than making nice. It's instructive and fun to watch her take on liberal pieties. She not only has the skill to make potent arguments but also the courage to make them. You don't find that combo everywhere.

Yet, for a person who's spoiling for an argument, she goes out of her way to spoil her own. In the fifth chapter (Liberals' Doctrine of Infallibility: Sobbing Hysterical Women"), her point is that liberals have taken to employing "messengers whom we're not allowed to respond to" -- widows, grieving moms, people with terminal illnesses or war wounds. "Democrats took the position that the spokesperson immunized the message from criticism, no matter how vicious or insane it was," she writes.

A fair point, but it's lost because of what she wrote about a small partisan group of 9/11 widows ("the Jersey Girls") who went about blaming the Bush administration for their husband's deaths. Her words are now known by people who'll never read her book or confront her argument. They'll know she called these 9/11 widows "harpies" and "the Witches of East Brunswick." They'll know she wrote, "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."

Why'd you have to go and do that?

There can be no answer.

Is there a more cruel, more calculated sentence in all of American letters? Could any point be worth making at the expense of widows? If her words are not themselves "Godless," they are at least graceless.

Reinhard goes on to say that Coulter is allowed to get away with what she says because of what he calls her "stunning looks". The matter of Coulter's appearance, in my view, is up for some strong debate. But he does make a reasonable point. Conservatives do seem to see Coulter as some sort of hot babe--and it seems to translate to the media. And while I take issue with Reinhard's agreement with Coulter's root points, he finally manages to sum her up correctly:

She worries that sending out grieving women to make political points is degrading our public discourse. And then she uses the puerile technique of the lunchroom bully.

Or to paraphrase a famous politco: Its the hypocrisy, Stupid.