Monday, June 19, 2006

Red-Baiting Joe McCarthy Is Alive and Well and Living in the Person of Ann Coulter

But the Longtime Liberal-Bashing Pundit May Face the Same Downfall as 'Tail Gunner Joe' After Viciously Attacking 9/11 Widows in Her Newest Book

By Skeeter Sanders

Liberal-bashing has long been a staple of conservative commentators. From Rush Limbaugh to Sean Hannity to Bill O'Reilly and many others, it's virtually a rite of passage for conservatives to heap scorn on the politics, ideas and cultural preferences of those on the left-hand side of the political/cultural spectrum.

Being left-of-center politically and culturally myself, this blogger has long taken that as a given. And it's also a given that liberal commentators will do the same thing to conservatives. It comes with the territory of being a commentator, whether in print, on the airwaves, or in cyberspace. After all, it's a free country. We're all entitled to voice our opinions.

The nature of the criticism is as varied as the number of pundits and commentators -- ranging from the humorous to the sarcastic to the vulgar. In the case of conservative commentators who bash the left, I tend to take much of it with a grain of salt and dismiss it as so much hot air ("Yeah, yeah, sure, buddy! Tell me something that I don't already know!").

Hitting 'Below the Belt'

But there a few commentators who take an almost pathological delight in really slamming their perceived enemies "below the belt" with vicious personal attacks. Four such commentators come to this blogger's mind. Interestingly, three of those four have the same first name: Mike Milloy and Mike Papantonio on the left and Michael Savage on the right.

The fourth commentator, also on the right, is the only woman in this elite group: Ann Coulter. She's also the only one of the four who doesn't host a nationally-broadcast radio talk show. She doesn't have to; she's a highly successful columnist, TV pundit and book author.

But Coulter is in a class almost by herself, demonstrating on numerous occasions to be so incendiary that she makes even her fellow conservatives blanch.

Only two other well-known figures on the right are that controversial:

*** Televangelist Pat Robertson, founder of the once-powerful-but-now-nearly-bankrupt Christian Coalition who, among other things, has called for the assassination of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

*** Rev. Fred Phelps, leader of an ultra-paranoid, gay-hating Kansas cult that has the audacity to stage protests at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, claiming that they died "defending a country that tolerates homosexuality."

Coulter Rips 9/11 Widows as "Self-Obsessed Millionaire Broads"

Coulter, however, may have outdone herself by accusing a group of widows whose husbands were killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks of being "self-obsessed" and "witches" who are enjoying their husbands' deaths.

In her newest book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, Coulter blasted Lorie Van Auken, whose husband Kenneth, a bond broker for Cantor Fitzgerald Securities, was at work on the 105th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center when it crumbled after it was hit by the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11.

Van Auken and three other 9/11 widows -- Kristen Breitweiser, Mindy Kleinberg and Patty Casazza -- have been outspoken in their call for an independent commission to examine the federal government's actions -- or the lack thereof -- to prevent the attacks.

"These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by 'grief-arazzis,'" Coulter wrote. "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. ... I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."

Coulter didn't stop there. "How do we know their husbands weren't planning to divorce these harpies? Now that their shelf life is dwindling, they'd better hurry up and appear in Playboy.... "

She also branded the women "The Witches of East Brunswick," at once a reference to the New Jersey town where the widows live and a play on the title of the hit 1987 movie that starred Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Comments Draw a Firestorm of Outrage From the Left . . .

Coulter's caustic comments, predictably, have triggered a firestorm of outrage from the left -- with the most vitriolic reaction coming from Mike Papantonio of the liberal Air America Radio Network.

In his weekly "The Pap Attack" commentary broadcast on Saturday, Papantonio went so far as to strongly hint that Coulter -- whom the National Enquirer called "the most hated woman in America" -- may be transgendered.

"This woman [Coulter] -- and I do have to wonder if she really is a woman," he said. "She looks like a man to me. Have you seen the pictures of her on the covers of her books? Coulter has an Adam's apple. Women don't have Adam's apples!"

Democrats on Capitol Hill were quick to blast Coulter. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) called Coulter's charges a "vicious, mean-spirited attack."

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Illinois) called Coulter a "hatemonger" on the floor of the House and urged his Republican colleagues to denounce her as well.

Tim Roemer, a member of the 9/11 Commission and a former Democratic congressman, called Coulter's statements "reprehensible and undignified" and urged Americans not to buy her book.

Coulter fired back at Clinton on Sean Hannity's radio show on Thursday by accusing the senator -- who's widely touted as a Democratic presidential candidate in 2008 -- of hypocrisy.

"Before criticizing others for being 'mean' to women, perhaps Hillary should talk to her husband, who was accused of rape by Juanita Broaddrick and was groping Kathleen Willey at the very moment Willey's husband was committing suicide," she said.

. . .And an Equally Strong Dissing From the Right

But liberals and Democrats were not alone in attacking Coulter. The columnist/author also came under fire from Republicans and conservative commentators, some of whom called her "mean-spirited" and "irrational."

Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly -- a frequent target of accusations by liberals of being mean-spirited himself -- bluntly told his viewers on the June 7 broadcast of "The O'Reilly Factor" that "Most Americans reject that kind of vitriol because it is mean and counter-productive."

"No doubt the [9/11] widows have become liberal activists, but they have the right to take any political position they want," O'Reilly continued. "No doubt some far-left pundits have said far worse things than Ann Coulter will ever say, and the mainstream media often celebrates them. But a 'No-Spin' rule is that you don't justify bad behavior by pointing to other bad behavior. . .

"If Coulter is trying to persuade people to her view, the personal attacks are foolish," said O'Reilly. "In the end, those standing on the high ground will win the culture war. The vicious fighter often loses to the smarter fighter."

Michael Smerconish, a Philadelphia-based conservative radio talk-show host, declared flatly that "Ann Coulter speaks only for Ann Coulter and maybe a fringe element."

In an op-ed column published on Friday in the Philadelphia Daily News, the staunchly Republican Smerconish branded Coulter's comments as "appalling, irrational, and indefensible" and called her a "liability" to the Republican Party.

"Now, in the midst of her predictable vilification from the left, it is time for Coulter to be criticized from the right," Smerconish wrote. "With an already difficult election just a summer away, Republicans should rush to confront Coulter's comments rather than run the risk that anyone would associate her views with them."

Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania), who's up for re-election against the son of a former conservative Democratic governor, said Coulter "is someone who is out there trying to sell books and appeal to a certain audience. . . I'm not a part of that audience at all. That's really on the edge, as far as I'm concerned, maybe over the edge."

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pennsylvania) was equally critical of what Coulter had written. "I think it's obscene... To take to somebody in their darkest hour of grief and try to say that somehow they're personally benefiting from that is just plain wrong. And while I generally support her [Coulter], I think she stepped way, way over the bounds on this one," Weldon said.

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) called Coulter's attacks uncivil. "We need to be more respectful of the views of others who disagree with us," he said.

Noting that Coulter has been the subject of angry protests when speaking on college campuses, McCain contrasted that with his own college speaking engagements. "I've been giving a series of commencement speeches. The day before yesterday [June 12], at Ohio State University, it was wonderful," he said.

"There were 47,000 people there, and the subject of my speech was that we should have vigorous debate and dialogue, but we are not and should not be enemies of one another," McCain added.

Remarks About Rep. Murtha Too Much Even For a Right-Wing Blogger

But if Coulter's attacks on the 9/11 widows weren't outrageous enough, she touched the equivalent of a 10,000-volt high-tension wire last week by suggesting that Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) be murdered.

Murtha, a tough-talking ex-Marine and a decorated Vietnam War veteran, made a reputation on Capitol Hill as a hawkish defender of the nation's military, but recently has come out foursquare against the U.S. war in Iraq, demanding that our troops be brought home as soon as possible.

In an e-mail interview with John Hawkins at the Web site, Coulter was asked, among other things, to offer short comments on several individuals. She said of Murtha: "[He's] the reason soldiers invented 'fragging.'"

"Fragging" is a well-known military expression meaning soldiers attempting to kill their own officers for one reason or another.

This was so way out of line that conservative blogger Mike Krempasky at went ballistic. He call Coulter's "fragging" remark "absolutely disgusting. ... there's no excuse -- NONE -- for the allusion to soldiers who kill other soldiers. It's despicable -- and frankly, so is Coulter."

A Long History of Incendiary Remarks

Coulter appears to relish her reputation as a controversial speaker, telling The Sunday Times of London in 2002, "I am a polemicist. I am perfectly frank about that. I like to stir up the pot. I don't pretend to be impartial or balanced, as broadcasters do."

While she is known for her expressed disdain of the Democratic Party and of liberalism in general, Coulter has made a name for herself of launching slashing and vitriolic personal attacks against individuals with whom she disagrees. Her take-no-prisoners style has often gotten her into deep trouble.

Coulter first came to national prominence as a legal correspondent and pundit for MSNBC, which fired her in 1997 for insulting a Vietnam veteran on the air. Coulter had a heated exchange with Bobby Muller, president of the anti-war group Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, in which she said, "No wonder you guys lost [the war]."

As a contributing editor and syndicated columnist on the Internet edition of the conservative magazine National Review, Coulter was asked by her editors to make changes to a piece she wrote in 2001 soon after the September 11 attacks in which her friend and fellow conservative commentator Barbara Olson had been killed. She refused.

Coulter had written that America should "invade their [terrorists'] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."

Editor: Coulter "Totally Lacks Professionalism"

Appearing on Bill Maher's now-defunct TV show, "Politically Incorrect," Coulter accused her editors of censorship and claimed she was paid $5 per article. The Review promptly fired her and axed her column.

Jonah Goldberg, editor-at-large of the Review's Web site, responded by denying that Coulter was fired for what she wrote. "We ended the relationship because she behaved with a total lack of professionalism, friendship, and loyalty."

Coulter contracted with USA Today to cover the 2004 Democratic National Convention, only to be fired and replaced by Goldberg after a heated disagreement with the newspaper's editors.

She wrote one article that began, "Here at the Spawn of Satan Convention in Boston. . ." and referred to many of the convention's female delegates as "corn-fed, no-make-up, natural-fiber, no-bra-needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat [patchouli]-fragrant-hippie-chick pie wagons." The newspaper declined to print the article and Coulter published it instead on her Web site.

Coulter's syndicated column proved to be too controversial even in overwhelmingly Republican and conservative southern Arizona, where The Arizona Daily Star of Tucson dropped it.

David Stoeffler, the Star's editor and publisher said, "We've decided that. . .Coulter has worn out her welcome. Many readers find her shrill, bombastic and mean-spirited. And those are the words used by readers who identified themselves as conservatives."

Coulter's Liberal-Bashing Echoes McCarthy's Red-Baiting

Coulter attacks liberals -- as well as Arabs, Muslims, feminists and other "America-haters" -- with a vitriol that, to this blogger, is eerily reminiscent of equally-vitriolic attacks on "communists" and "communist sympathizers" a half-century ago by Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Indeed, Coulter is an outspoken defender of McCarthy, whom she has said is the deceased person she admires the most.

Coulter claims inTreason that McCarthy was simply misunderstood and unappreciated. She has also written several columns attacking George Clooney's Oscar-nominated movie, "Good Night, and Good Luck," about legendary CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow's 1954 expose of McCarthy's anti-communist witch-hunts.

When one looks at McCarthy's controversial career, one can see where Coulter's acerbic liberal-bashing style originated from. Indeed, this blogger is convinced that Coulter is the reincarnation of McCarthy:

Coulter (writing in her December 21, 2005 column):
"I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo."

McCarthy (In a speech on February 9, 1950):
"I have here in my hand a list of 57 people there were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who, nevertheless, are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department."

Coulter Considered Running for Congress in 2000

The only difference between Coulter and McCarthy politically is that Coulter is not an elected officeholder -- although in 2000, she did consider running for Connecticut Republican Christopher Shays' House seat. She considered running as a Libertarian Party candidate, to act as a spoiler and throw the seat to the Democrat as a punishment for Shays' voting against the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

But the Connecticut Libertarian Party leadership, after meeting with Coulter, refused to endorse her. In the six years since, Coulter has been repeatedly critical of the Libertarian Party's philosophy in her writings and speeches.

"She Should be Kicked Out of This Country!"

Clearly, Coulter has gone too far with her attacks on the 9/11 widows and is now reaping a whirlwind of indignation. Francis Grouzalis, who lost her husband in the World Trade Center attacks, was as vitriolic in her condemnation of Coulter as Coulter was in her attacks on the widows.

"She's dragging my husband's name through the dirt," Grouzalis said. "I could understand a terrorist saying such things, but not an American. She's a traitor to this country and she should be kicked out!"

Mary Borders, a survivor of the 9/11 disaster -- who Coulter branded "The Dust Lady" after fleeing the north tower in dust and debris -- was just as bitter. "Someone as sick and unpatriotic as Coulter should be sent to a country more in keeping with her views -- like Iran!" she said.

# # #

Volume I, Number 32
Copyright 2006, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


Sphere: Related Content