Thursday, June 08, 2006

Defending the indefensible 

Well, Ann Coulter has really done it this time. She seems to have Glenn Reynolds, Hugh Hewitt, Ed Morrissey, Rick Moran and, er, Hillary Clinton lining up shoulder-to-shoulder. What did she do? She questioned the motives of certain "9/11 widows" in an interview with Matt Lauer. Or called them out, depending on your point of view.

Since Ann Coulter was a pretty good friend of mine back in law school and I step up for my friends, I am going to offer a few undoubtedly unpopular observations in her defense.

The offending words actually come from her just-released book, Godless, but they surfaced in an exchange with Matt Lauer on the Today Show. Crooks and Liars has the transcript and, more importantly, the video. Lauer reads from a passage in Ann's book:

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 so much."

Everybody understands that Coulter is referring to four specific women -- the "Jersey Girls" -- and not the many hundreds of widows of 9/11. The "Jersey Girls" in particular understand this, insofar as they have issued a press release claiming that they have been "slandered." Well, Ann and her publisher have deep pockets. What's stopping them? That lawsuit would be intensely entertaining -- especially the discovery phase, in which Coulter would try to prove up a "truth" defense -- but I very much doubt the "Jersey Girls" are stupid enough to put themselves through such an ordeal.

Now, who are these women, and what have they said? Their names are Kristen Breitweiser, Lorie Van Auken, Mindy Kleinberg and Patty Casazza. More than two years ago, Dorothy Rabinowitz was already wondering whether they were being entirely ingenuous in their own public statements. Breitweiser, who today is very concerned about slander, has leveled, or at least implied, all sorts of charges against our public officials that are no less slanderous:
"We simply wanted to know," Ms. Breitweiser said, by way of explaining the group's position, "why our husbands were killed. Why they went to work one day and didn't come back."

The answer, seared into the nation's heart, is that, like some 3,000 others who perished that day, those husbands didn't come home because a cadre of Islamist fanatics wanted to kill as many of the hated American infidels in their tall towers and places of government as they could, and they did so. Clearly, this must be a truth also known to those widows who asked the question--though in no way one would notice.

Who, listening to them, would not be struck by the fact that all their fury and accusation is aimed not at the killers who snuffed out their husbands' and so many other lives, but at the American president, his administration, and an ever wider assortment of targets including the Air Force, the Port Authority, the City of New York? In the public pronouncements of the Jersey Girls we find, indeed, hardly a jot of accusatory rage at the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. We have, on the other hand, more than a few declarations like that of Ms. Breitweiser, announcing that "President Bush and his workers . . . were the individuals that failed my husband and the 3,000 people that day."

Breitweiser now blogs at The Huffington Post. A scroll through her archives reveals that she is very much in the habit of impugning the motives of the people that she attacks. On Rudolph Giuliani:
Can someone please explain to me why Rudy Giuliani gets to give a victim's impact statement at the Moussaoui penalty phase hearing? Which family member did Guiliani lose in the attacks?

Forgive me, but Giuliani is the person responsible for deciding to locate NYC's emergency command center in the World Trade Center along with a diesal fuel tank (against the advice of certain FDNY officials) before 9/11.

Locating the city's emergency command center in a known al Qaeda target (the towers were struck in 1993 and al Qaeda publicly promised to return to finish the job) was a colossal failure in judgment on his part that cost hundreds of lives on 9/11...

Furthermore, Giuliani is also responsible for giving the FDNY inoperable Motorola radios. This, too, cost hundreds of lives when firemen did not hear the order to evacuate the towers prior to their collapse...

How is a man who is responsible for such horrific and deadly judgments invited to give a victim's impact statement as to how 9/11 impacted him?

By these standards, should I expect Condoleezza Rice (Ms. "Nobody knew planes could be used as missiles"), George Tenet (Mr. "I failed to tell the FBI for 18 months that two known al Qaeda killers were living in San Diego and planning the 9/11 attacks"), and perhaps, George Bush (Mr. "I was reading a story about a pet goat while thousands of people perished and burned alive in the World Trade Center because I didn't want to alarm the school children.") to provide victim's impact statements, as well?

I'm sorry, but this is vicious and intellectually dishonest stuff, and it is not made less so by Breitweiser's 9/11 widowhood.

To President Bush, at the time of the Dubai Ports deal:
Sir, an integral part of your presidential oath of office is/was to protect this country. If this has become too difficult a task for you, perhaps it's time you and your cabal stepped down and rode off into the proverbial sunset because the rest of us are not willing to sell our souls or our country to the highest bidder--we aren't in this for the money, the oil, or the power. Remember that.

As recently as last month, Breitweiser reportedly suggested that George Tenet and two named FBI agents deserved the death penalty "as much as Moussaoui for their failure to take actions that could have averted 9/11."

Point is, Kristin Breitweiser has been impugning the motives of all sorts of people virtually without rest since somebody put the first microphone in front of her. She specializes in attacking motives. Having lived by the sword, Breitweiser is now complaining that it has been turned around and thrust into her. Unless you believe that her status as the wife of a murder victim gives her a unique Sheehan-like absolute moral authority, it is hard for me, at least, to work up a lot of outrage at Ann Coulter for calling her out. Would I have said it so harshly? No. But I'll say this much: Kristin Breitweiser has said some perfectly horrible things about the Americans who she quite obviously believes are responsible for the murder of her husband and 3000 others on that day, and she hides behind her status as a victim when somebody calls her on it.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jun 08, 01:24:00 AM:

It's too bad Coulter wasn't more explicit about who those "broads" were. As it is, she came across as somewhat nuts, all for middle America to see.  

By Blogger Lanky_Bastard, at Thu Jun 08, 03:17:00 AM:

I can't imagine what it would be like to lose a spouse. Evidently, neither can Ann.

She didn't contextualize this to the one person you've decided to demonize. I think she owes a few hundred people an apology.  

By Blogger chuckbh, at Thu Jun 08, 03:32:00 AM:

Had Coulter simply used the word "exploiting" instead of "enjoying" there'd probably be greater agreement that her declaration was less offensive than accurate. But if these women are guilty of exploiting their husband's deaths (and that seems pretty apparent), isn't that behavior disgusting enough to warrant commentary like Coulter's? They, like Cindy Sheehan, may not be "enjoying" that their loved ones are gone, but when a person can so shamelessly exploit that departed loved one, can what was once there really still be called love? I think Coulter has these gals pretty well pegged.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jun 08, 03:41:00 AM:

Good work.

Will the Coulter bashers, including FOX, dare to bring up the same information.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Thu Jun 08, 06:02:00 AM:

I have been quite critical of Ms. Breitweiser in particular. You have to have listened to this woman to get a full understanding of just how in-your-face she is, and how unfair in her constant attacks.

I can tell you that military families in particular view her as a complete whack job. Whether or not you support this war, a lot of other people have lost their lives, either in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 or in the war in which we are now engaged.

Having lost a spouse, Ms. Breitweiser might think to show some compassion for the widows of firemen, soldiers and Marines, none of whom won the fricking jackpot when they lost someone they loved, none of whom set about capitalizing on a tragic event that impacted far more people than just them.

Bad things happen. When they do, reasonable people pitch in and try to help each other. My beef with the Jersey Girls is that they pitched in all right: to help themselves to everything they could get.

And before you try to tell me I have no idea what it's like to lose a spouse, I do. I've had to go on death notifications for military widows and have been with them for months afterwards as they picked up the pieces and tried to go on with their lives. And every single one of these ladies showed more grace, dignity, and concern for others on their worst day than Ms. Breitweiser and her Jersey Girls have shown on their best.

That said, I wouldn't have said what Ms. Coulter did, but I think the outrage is a bit much. Her remark was thoughtless, but it has been five years and these women have inserted themselves into the limelight, throwing brickbats at everyone around them.

Somehow I doubt they are going to be psychically crushed by a chance remark from Ann Coulter - that their first response is to file a lawsuit only underscores my point.  

By Blogger K. Pablo, at Thu Jun 08, 07:33:00 AM:

Ya know, there is an old Lithuanian saying that translates roughly into "Allow the Crazy Person more room on the road". It describes a humane and way for a sane person to recognize that arguing with the insane is useless and it is better to suffer some momentary inconvenience and to move on.

Everyone knows that events in Sheehan's lives and in the lives of the Jersey Girls have, in Mark Twain's phrase "permanently unseated their reason". They ARE accorded a special status: sane, polite people take their statements with a grain of salt. The fact that partisan dipshits exploit them or provide them with an echo chamber peer-group only compromises the credibility of these groups.

I think it is necessary, sometimes, to slap some sense into hysterical individuals, but it is very much an issue of tact and must be done in a judicious way. The manner in which Ann Coulter has done this was clumsy and impolite, and it is very much a matter of manners. She has lowered herself to taking the Jersey Girls statements as valid arguements and has therefore compromised her own credibility, to say nothing of how she reinforced the stereotype of the Mean-Spirited Republican. Finally, she has provided everyone on the left from Hillary on down to appear saintly by comparison. Thanks, Ann. STFU once in a while, ya harpy.  

By Blogger DaveG, at Thu Jun 08, 08:44:00 AM:

(the towers were struck in 1993 and al Qaeda publicly promised to return to finish the job)

Oh, so now we believe al Qaeda means what they say? So there really is an ongoing threat? Then by golly, I think we'd better get busy with preventing further tragedies. I suggest starting with listening in on phone conversations between suspected al Qaeda members and moles living here in our country where they can do the most damage. Oh, wait...  

By Blogger viking kaj, at Thu Jun 08, 10:39:00 AM:

Don't know if anyone else saw this, but a few years ago Howard Stern had a 9/11 widow on who was literally blowing her way through her settlement, becoming addicted to plastic surgery and cocaine in that order. I think her deceased husband was a bond trader with Kantor Fitzgerald. She appeared with her new boyfriend who was ex NYPD and both of them were high than kites, if not the occasional weather satelite.

While there are many who were victimized by 9/11, there are also a number who have behaved like rednecks who hit the lottery. Unfortunately, some people can handle financial windfalls, but many others can't. And lot's of people find it more convenient to blame others for their own failures. After the 1993 attacks it was only a matter of time before someone tried again, but no one wants to believe that it will happen when they are in the elevator.

I think it was a matter of time before someone picked up on the problems with the survivors (the behind the scenes wrangling over the memorials has been mind boggling), but I have to question Coulter's timing. I was actually thinking to myself we haven't heard anything from her lately, I wonder what's going on. You have to wonder if her timing isn't ingenous as well, calculated with her first amendment attorney and publicist to generate the maximum bang with minimal risk.  

By Blogger foxlets14, at Thu Jun 08, 11:06:00 AM:

"You have to wonder if her timing isn't ingenous as well, calculated with her first amendment attorney and publicist to generate the maximum bang with minimal risk."


By Blogger Georg Felis, at Thu Jun 08, 11:31:00 AM:

When we listen to people such as Ann or the Jersey Girls, we must try to remember that their experience should be considered to bolster their points, not substitute for them. As an example, if a former head of the CIA were to claim that eavesdropping on foreign calls prevented X number of terrorist incidents, he would have higher believability than if a major CEO were to state the same thing. By the same regard, on a comment on how tax cuts help economic growth, the CEO would be speaking from a position of greater authority.

The Jersey Girls have gone through a traumatic experience which allows them to speak with great authority on loss, grief and the aftereffects of losing a spouse, but their authority on matters of National Security should be considered as valid as “I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”  

By Blogger Shochu John, at Thu Jun 08, 01:01:00 PM:

OK, TH, this is beyond the pale. I read the excerpted passage. Did Ms. Breitweiser ever say that President Bush is a Nazi or that Rudolph Giuliani likes to kill people? No. It appears to me that she is charging them with ineptitude. Whether or not you agree with that, the persformance of our public servants is clearly an accepable and proper public discussion. Even if you make the exrreme stretch that "these broads" in fact referred to Kristin Breitweiser alone, nothing written here by Ms. Breitweiser suggests that she is happy her husband is dead. Nothing written here by Ms. Breitweiser is a brutal and baseless personal attack on anyone else. Really, TH, regardless of whether or not you went to law school with Ms. Coulter, this is nothing that, as you put it, "any morally centered person" should defend.

Look at it another way. Let's say a family that lost a son in Iraq stands up and publicly states that people who criticise the war are helping the enemy and are partially responsible for the death of their son. I don't agree with that, and I've been known to criticise the war. Am I then justified at turning around and saying, "That military family never received such a great windfall as to have to bury their son because now they can criticise me with more moral authority."

Rubbish, TH, really. You seem like you know you should be ashamed of even making this argument. The title alone seems to indicate that. So why are you doing it?  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Thu Jun 08, 11:15:00 PM:

shochu John, KB did say that people should be executed. If it were me, I might rather be called a Nazi, y'know?

I wouldn't have said what Coulter said, because you never know what is going on in other folk's head, even when you think you have good evidence. It would be a terrible thing to be wrong about. But this context was left out of most of the reports, and it does lessen the outrageousness of the comment. It might still be unkind or unfair, but it's no longer quite unprovoked, eh?  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu Jun 08, 11:41:00 PM:

Sheehan and the 'Jersey Girls' are the ones who people should be ashamed of defending.

What kind of person do you have to be to whore out the death of a loved one for political points? For money? For fame?

Despicable, honorless, newly spoiled, prima donna emotional prostitutes. I spit on them and everyone like them.

I can only imagine the shame their loved ones must be feeling in the afterlife if they're aware of all this because I can only imagine the shame I would feel if my wife or mother exploited, abused, and *sold* my memory like this.  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Fri Jun 09, 11:38:00 AM:

You spit on them, Dawnfire?

That's an awful thing to say.

If a terrorist walks up and kills my wife, and I learn that our government failed to protect them and intends to continue failing, then it's my moral responsibility to do something about it.

Really, Dawnfire. Spit on them? That's horrible.  

By Blogger Quicklaw, at Fri Jun 09, 04:21:00 PM:

Spit on them sure why not.

You're all dancing around the issue that is the central point of the whole Jersey Girls / Sheehan issue...

It all comes down to a long forgotten ideal here in America called "class".

They have no class. They are exploiting the deaths of their loved ones for personal gain.

Since we're throwing out sayings here, here's one that my grandfather would toss around, "Stop your bitchin' unless you're gonna pitch in."

The saying exemplifies where they've gone wrong here. If my wife died on 9/11 in the towers, would I be upset? Absolutely. Would I be outraged? Absolutely. If I felt the "system" we have in place in our country to protect our citizens from such an attack failed and lead to my wife's death, I wouldn't climb up on every soapbox I could find and then head home and count my settlement money. I'd get involved. I'd become part of the "system" and I'd DO SOMETHING about it.

If they feel so stongly about it, why not get involved, why sit back and continue to do nothing for years now except for piss and moan and point fingers and carry on with a litany of woulda, coulda, shoulda's...

Why have they not gotten involved? The answer goes right back to my inital point... Because they have no class.

They don't care about the continued safety of this country or its citizens. If they did, they'd close their mouths and DO SOMETHING.  

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