Tuesday on Coulter Watch, I tried defending SoFla's sexiest pundit for her Q&A performance at last week's CPAC. I stand by my defense. In those twenty minutes, she seemed to honestly wrestle with issues of concern to both her and her audience. And if she came to conclusions with which I disagreed, oh well. That's America.
But yesterday, Coulter was back to her usual cynical sophistry. In her weekly column -- a light rewrite of the speech she gave before last week's Q&A -- she was so intellectually dishonest, and so shallow, that no defense seems possible. The entire screed would be beneath commentary, if only people didn't take it seriously.
The screed's subject was the liberal's desire to destroy America, empower dictators, and subvert democracy wherever we find it. There is a nervous-making Orwellian vibe to her analysis, given that her jumping-off point is the left's support for the pro-democracy movement in Egypt. By supporting Egyptian democracy, she suggests, the left reveals its profound distaste for democracy.
"The Middle East is on fire again," Coulter begins,
and crazy Muslims with funny names aren't helping things -- Mahmoud, ElBaradei, al-Banna, Barack...
...The major new development is that NOW liberals want to get rid of a dictator in the Middle East! Where were they when we were taking out the guy with the rape rooms?
Remember? The one who gassed his own people, invaded his neighbors and was desperately seeking weapons of mass destruction?
... Liberals couldn't have been less interested in removing Saddam Hussein and building a democracy in Iraq. So it's really adorable watching them get all choked up about democracy now.
Forget the troubling business about Saddam Hussein's "own" people -- as if ownership of 35,000,000 Iraqis was a perk of presidency. Ann's point has become something of a meme among the fringier right in recent weeks, so it's worth pointing out what should be an obvious mitigating fact: Egypt '11 is not identical to Iraq '03. The leader of the former was evicted at no cost to the United States, and without the interference of Western policy wonks. So long as the Egyptian military remains afraid of (or affectionate towards) the citizenry, what eventuates in Egypt will be the product of democratic action. (Even if the result is not itself a democracy.) This was plainly not the situation in Iraq. While most Iraqis favored democracy, it's less clear that they were prepared to bleed through almost a decade of violent anarchy to get it.
It was this concern, and not any special affection for Saddam Hussein, that motivated the (extremely large) host of Americans who opposed the invasion of Iraq. Nor was objection to the war tied up in some antipathy for democracy. Rather, "the left," such as it was, believed the Bush administration ill-equipped to build democracies halfway around the world, and worried that even if the administration was equipped, and even if Iraqis were willing to suffer through seven years of violent anarchy, any positive result would come at the expense of too much American life and treasure. (I didn't share that objection, by the way. This liberal's gripe about the invasion of Iraq was that it came twelve years too late.)
This is not ancient history. Coulter's lack of faith in her readers' powers of recollection is startling.
Why did [the left] want to keep Saddam Hussein in power again? Yes, that's right -- because he didn't have stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Their big argument was that Saddam was five long years away from developing them.
Again, Coulter hopes her readers' memories will malfunction. Wasn't it the Bush administration who thought the war could only be justified by Saddam's possession of WMD? Isn't that why they inflated the case for WMD's existence? The Bush administration's defense of our Iraq adventure as a humanitarian exercise was strictly a fall-back position, adopted when the WMD argument began to crumble.
What Ann Coulter's doing here is a good deal more serious than historical smudging. Coulter, like the new class of conservative superstars who threaten to eclipse her (actual politicians, such as Michelle Bachman and Allen West, no less than full-time media agitators like Beck or Palin), has increasingly phrased her arguments in world-historic terms, casting herself and her comrades as beleaguered patriots engaged in a trans-generational struggle against liberals, who seek to destroy the country from within. This is the message when Allen West calls the left not wrong, but "vile"; it's the message when Glenn Beck blames the left not just for the Soviet Union, but for Nazi Germany. And it's the message here, when Ann Coulter lambasts the left for failing to support democracy, not only in Iraq, but in Iran. Why, in Coulter's universe, do liberals not support Iranian democracy? Because we are "all for meddling in other countries -- but only provided a change of regime will harm national security interests."
"Iran is ideal for democracy," writes Coulter:
It has a young, highly educated, pro-Western population, and happens to be led by a messianic, Holocaust-denying lunatic.
Liberals say: Why upset that apple cart? Much better to support tumult and riots against our allies than our sworn enemies.
The claim that liberals wish to weaken America's national security is beneath rebuttal. The idea that we were slack in our Iranian solidarity is less so. I actually agree with it -- "we," whoever that nebulous mass might be, weren't nearly supportive enough of the Iranian demonstrators who took the street after Ahmedinejad stole the '09 election. That said, "we" were actually more supportive of the Iranian demonstrators than "we" were of those in Egypt. During the Iranian uprisings, the president expressed concern over the suppression of Iranians' free speech, Joe Biden criticized police brutality, and Robert Gibbs praised the Iranian youth for their chutzpah, saying he was "impressed with the vigorous debate and enthusiasm that this election generated, particularly among young Iranians. We will continue to monitor the situation closely, including reports of irregularities." Moreover, Congress unveiled a bill -- House Resolution 560 -- expressing "support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law." The bill's sponsor, as it happens, was a Democrat from that bastion of godless anti-Americanism, California. Coulter declines to mention this.
Still -- Obama's White House was pretty milquetoesty on Iran. (As it was on Egypt, before it was clear the protesters would get their way.) Why? Could it be, as Coulter claims, that the Obama White House hates freedom? Or is it more likely that those in the White House actually read the newspaper, and were aware that Iranian protesters were being tortured until they confessed to complicity in a Western-led conspiracy to undermine the authority of Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah? Might the White House have been hesitant to give the inquisitors unnecessary rhetorical ammunition until it was apparent that doing so might yield some desirable result? And what could have been gained by a promise of more than ideological solidarity with the Iranian protesters? If the protesters had taken such expressions seriously, and taken to the streets en masse in expectation of American military support, we would have been forced to either betray them, and leave them to suffer whatever fate Ahmadinejad's goons dreamed up, or else be drawn into yet another military action in the Middle East. It's hard to believe Coulter's audience has any stomach for the latter. At CPAC, where Coulter first unveiled her Egypt/Iraq/Iran conflation, the unequivocal winner of the presidential straw poll was Ron Paul -- the only national American figure to actively oppose the Congressional effort to support the Iranian protesters. "I adhere to the foreign policy of our founders," he wrote, "who advised that we not interfere in the internal affairs of countries overseas." If Coulter must pick a bone, why not Paul's?
Because that would hurt the narrative, of course. Moral ambiguity has no place in a screed written to sew mistrust and turn neighbor against neighbor. One side must always be right; the other, always wrong. At CPAC, Coulter blamed the left for slavery, and accused Democrats of supporting the murder of homosexuals. Here she goes farther, concluding:
For 50 years, Democrats have harbored traitors, lost wars, lost continents to communism, hobnobbed with the nation's enemies, attacked America's allies, and counseled defeat and surrender ... As Joe McCarthy once said, if liberals were merely stupid, the laws of probability would dictate that at least some of their decisions would serve America's interests.
This is the greatest affront to history in a column full of them. I have no answer to the "traitors" comment -- though it's a well-known fact that Republicans harbor a terrorist in Florida (the child-murderer Orlando Bosch), so I assume there is, at least, moral parity on the issue -- but it's plain to anyone that Democrats never "lost" a continent to Communism. No entire continent was ever "lost to Communism" at all. And as it happens, Russia and Cuba became Communist with Republicans in the White House. (It is true that China went Communist on a Democrat's watch, but it's unclear why Coulter would bring it up. Truman wasn't exactly soft on "America's enemies," as several hundred thousand vaporized Japanese can attest.) As far as "hobnobbing" with our enemies is concerned, it was Nixon and Kissinger who befriended Mao before the Cultural Revolution's million corpses grew cold. And which of our allies have we attacked? And when did Democrats counsel "defeat"? In Vietnam? Wasn't it the Democrats who got us in there in the first place? And if Coulter means to attack those Democrats who wanted us out of the Middle East sooner rather than later -- again, why isn't she picking on Ron Paul?
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An important part of being an adult is being able to assess the weaknesses of those with whom we are ordinarily inclined to agree, as well as the strengths of those we are inclined to dislike. There are moments -- during wartime, say -- when this is unnecessary. (It would have been silly for the English-speaking world to worry overmuch about Stalin's gulags in 1942.) But Republicans and Democrats are not at war. At least, I hope they're not.
Yet Glenn Beck is giving a television platform to a man who believes the Antichrist is alive and well and living in the White House. Allen West has decided that not only Muslims, but those who don't hate Muslims, are enemies of America. Ann Coulter has decided that fully half of her fellow citizens comprise a freedom-hating fifth column. Even when he was mass-murdering the Poles and the Ukrainians, Stalin never went quite so far. If Coulter and Co. don't chill out, people might start taking them seriously. It could get ugly.
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