Gimme Some Grief

It's tempting to avoid the subject of Ann Coulter now that Cathy Young has put it to bed. But as unserious as her book is, Coulter's "liberal infallibility" thesis is actually getting some play with conservative pundits, bloggers, and journalists. The jist: On issue after issue, but most unforgivably on issues of national security, liberals use victims of tragedy as "human shields" to deflect criticism. These victims deserve a little sympathy, but they're not above criticism - or in Coulter's formula, from shrill attacks.

On the seriousness scale, this argument is somewhere between an episode of "How I Met Your Mother" and a 3rd grade farting contest. But it drives liberals like The American Prospect's Greg Sargent into a righteous fury.

I've asked this before, but what is it about the relatives of people killed by terrorists that these wingnuts hate so much? Recall that Ann Coulter smeared the widows of 9/11 victims and that many righty bloggers smeared the father of Nick Berg, who was beheaded in Iraq. Their sin, of course, was that they criticized America and George Bush.

Let me put this as clearly as I can: To the likes of [Powerline blogger John] Hinderaker, the pain of those who lost loved ones to this war only matters to the extent that the bereaved allow their grief to be used to prop up the war effort and Bush himself. If the bereaved relatives don't allow their grief to be used in this fashion, their sacrifice and loss no longer matter a whit -- they're not to be pitied or empathized with, but scorned and humiliated as brutally as possible. Despicable.

This may be the world's first example of a hyperbolic understatement. Yes, many hawks want victims or victims' families to stand steadfast behind the war policy and the president. But more than that, some hawks actively recruit victims to participate in ad campaigns for the policy/president.

Take two campaigns supported by Powerline, the blog pilloried here by Sargent.

In 2004, the pro-Bush 527 Progress for America sought out the story behind a photo of President Bush hugging a girl whose father mother had died on September 11. They found the girl, Ashley Faulkner, and her family, and cut a treacly ad that was blasted on airwaves across America for $14 million.

LYNN FAULKNER: My wife, Wendy, was murdered by terrorists on September 11th.

ANNOUNCER: The Faulkners' daughter Ashley closed up emotionally but when President George W. Bush came to Lebanon, Ohio, she went to see him as she had with her mother four years before.

LINDA PRINCE (neighbor): He walked toward me and I said Mr. President this young lady lost her mother in the World Trade Center.

ASHLEY FAULKNER: And he turned around and he came back and he said I know that's hard, are you all right?

LINDA: Our president took Ashley in his arms and just embraced her. And it was at that moment that we saw Ashley's eyes fill up with tears.

ASHLEY: He's the most powerful man in the world and all he wants to do is make sure I'm safe, that I'm OK.

LYNN: What I saw was what I want to see in the heart and in the soul of the man who sits in the highest elected office in our country.

Here was a prime slice of "conservative infallibility." If you doubted Bush, you wanted to thrust this pixie back into the waking nightmare of motherlessness. As Coulter might say, you'd never seen anyone enjoying their mother's death so much. Powerline's comment:

Check out the new pro-Bush ad by Progress for America. It's called Ashley's Story, and it's powerful.

The ad was basically criticism-proof; no Democratic officials dared attack it, although some bloggers tried. Another, even clearer example of "conservative infallibility" (this is a terrible phrase, but let's stick with the Coulter-antonyms) came in February of this year. Progress for America again purchased ads defending President Bush, and this time they hired soldiers returned from Iraq to repeat, to paraphrase Hinderaker, "Republican talking points."

ROBERT STEPHENSON: The media only reports the bad news, but American troops are making real progress, securing free elections and defending our country from radical al Qaeda terrorists who want to destroy America, starting in Iraq.

MARCELLUS WILKS: Saddam Hussein is one of history's greatest murderers. The blood of a million people is on his hands with countless more raped and tortured. Saddam even used chemical weapons on his own people.

ROBERT STEPHENSON: You'd never know it from the news reports but our enemy is in Iraq is al Qaeda, the same terrorists who killed 3000 Americans on 9/11. The same terrorists from the first World Trade Center bombing, the USS Cole, Madrid, London, and many more.

MARCELLUS WILKS: American troops overwhelmingly support the mission President Bush has given us.

MARK WEBER: Where do you want to fight terrorists? We want to fight them, and destroy them, in Iraq.

Unlike the "Ashley's Story" ad, this one actually inspired some pushback from anti-war liberals in the Minnesota media (where the ads ran) and from the local Democratic party. Surprise! Powerline complained about it.

It's hard to imagine a less controversial exercise of freedom of speech than this message of support, by three servicemen who have returned from active duty in Iraq, for their mission there. But to liberal Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman, their defense of their own service in Iraq was out of bounds. Coleman's column today attacks the ad and the servicemen who made it as "devoted to political spin more than truth."
...
Why is Coleman so exercised at the fact that three servicemen, who together have served for years in Iraq and observed conditions there with their own eyes, want to express a contrary view? What is so threatening about the idea that "American troops are making real progress"? And why do liberals find it necessary to smear servicemen who offer a message of hope and optimism?

After the Democrats encouraged their base to protest the stations that ran the ads, Powerline's Scott Johnson pounced.

In Minnesota the mask has fallen from the Democratic Party. It has condemned the message of Lt. Col. Bob Stephenson and the other veterans supporting the mission in Iraq as "un-American." Yet it has gone beyond its outrageous condemnation of the ads. It has actually sought to suppress the message of the featured war veterans and Gold Star Families, emailing Party members and urging them to contact television stations demanding "the removal of the ads."

What do Democrats elsewhere think of their Party's campaign condemning the servicemen and Gold Star Families in the ads as "un-American"? Does Minnesota Democratic Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar agree? Does Minnesota Congressional candidate Coleen Rowley agree? Do Democratic officials and officeholders in the rest of the country agree? Does Brian Melendez speak for them?

As author and former Reasonoid Jeremy Lott would argue, there's nothing wrong with hypocrisy. The Powerline bloggers are welcome to question the sanity and patriotism of anti-war victims' families while demanding complete awe and respect for pro-war soldiers and victims' families.

But excuse the hypocrisy and you still have to explain the hysteria. Partisans on either side of the war want their opponents to look as unsympathetic as possible. They want to debate strawmen and Alan Colmeses, not martyrs and Ashley Faulkners. Fortunately, they don't get that choice.

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  • ||

    Coulter's arguement is indeed lame. Conservatives have been using victims and their families to drub liberals for decades. They tend to imply that lack of full support for wars, etc. means that the previous deaths and injuries -and egos- of American soldiers and their families would appear to be in vain, which of course they are. Very tiresome.

  • ||

    Is any of this more or less than the political use of attractive proxies? Here in California, every political ad has a teacher, farmer, police officer, fire fighter, nurse, handicapped child, small business owner, murder victim's mom, prisoner's mom, etc., etc.

    Maybe the stakes seem higher in Presidential elections, but it doesn't seem different in kind.

  • ||

    I'm with Uncle Lumpy. The beast is neither liberal nor conservative, but rather "Victim Infallibility", with its tentacles in various "Megan's Laws", downward blood alcohol limit creep, inflated civil damage awards, and various other ills. I don't suppose it's entirely new -- Victorian-era attorneys often trotted out grieving mothers, I'm sure -- but suffering and grief are that much more immediate and potent in the communication age.

    Being such an effective weapon, it's unsurprising that it has been enlisted in the current political struggle. I suppose all we can hope for is that overuse might inure the public to it in all its forms.

  • ||

    It has always bothered me when victims of one tragedy or another are later asked about their thoughts on public policy as if they're some sort of expert.

    And using them for pure emotional impact in the same way that some people screech "what about the children" is just disturbing.

  • ||

    I agree with the article, but I have one tiny objection. I believe the girl's mother died in the 9/11 attacks not her father.

  • ||

    So, can anybody think of an effective way to neutralize the tactic? Coulter's head-on attack cum sneering campaign doesn't work.

    What does?

  • lunchstealer||

    Does anybody have any good examples of libertarians doing such a thing? Some of Cathy Young's(IIRC) bits on paternity-by-fiat might be examples, and of course the whole Kelo thing. We've certainly trotted out our own victims for our own purposes, have we not? It does, ultimately, help to humanize an issue.

  • ||

    Hysteria? Hyperbole? In the partisan wars!? You don't say!? I think the hypocrisy here IS the story, Dave. No, it canNOT be excused, unless you have a logical way to draw a distinction, rather than just "they're on the other side, so it's not okay when THEY do it". The hysteria and hyperbole and screaming-at-the-top-of-your-lungs doomsaying is, well, status quo for the dem/rep "punditry". Calling them on their hysteria is like calling them on their lungs drawing air in and out. The hypocrisy is the angle, not the hysteria.

  • ||

    "Coulter's head-on attack... cum sneering"

    Terrifying images rise unbidden in my mind.

  • ||

    On a side note, I'd like to compliment Mr. Weigel on a most excellent post. In my book, the best money line in any post today is...

    ...this argument is somewhere between an episode of "How I Met Your Mother" and a 3rd grade farting contest.

    Classic

  • ||

    From Jeremy Lott:

    "One, it usually forces us to hide and restrain some of our darker impulses in order to keep up appearances.

    "Two, it creates moral wiggle room for people to acknowledge the right thing�or speculate about what the right thing might be�even if they don't always do that thing."




    One: which "darker impulses" are these powerline idiots restraining?

    Two: the only thing this "creates" is the opportunity for partisans to score political points against their sworn partisan enemies.

    The whole "hypocrisy is okay" thing is flawed, in that it sort of rides on this idea that the alternative would be the worse option, instead of simply non-hypocrisy. This is foolish. Especially #2. Yes, that would be true, if not being a hypocrite wasn't an option---but it IS. And in this case, we all already KNOW that using victims as sheilds or props is morally wrong; we don't need hypocrites to point that out to us.

  • ||

    "Coulter's head-on attack... cum sneering"
    Terrifying images rise unbidden in my mind.


    Jon H:
    Thanks. Now I won't be able to sleep for a week. Visions of closed-minded, horse-faced bitches dancing in my head...

  • ||

    So conservatives use living soldiers as justification. Liberals use dead ones.
    They both suck, and I guess the dead-puppy schtick was too obvious.

  • ||

    I have to disagree Uncle Lumpy, I think the tactic is working beautifully.

    Tactic 101:

    Say something shrill enough to get lots of attention -

    Spend three weeks of free air time clarifying your position in a less shrill manner -

    You sell more books, your buddies tepidly distance themselves to 'look more human' -

    everyone forgets -

    repeat.

  • ||

    For all the gnashing of teeth and wailing about hypocrisy and "victim infallibility" the simple fact is that the powers that be use it because it works on the simple-minded majority of any given market, is tolerated as business as usual by the more discerning in that market and is hard to attack by the opposing markets.

    If it wasn't seen as effective they wouldn't do it.

    Solution? Smarter voters.

    But then I could start on my theory that the constant education battles are really a clever design by both parties to create dumber voters. But what do I know...I'm just a crank.

  • ||

    Although I believe that trotting out victims for emotional pleas is bad and morally questionable -- I don't see all things equal.

    The left doesn't go around condemning the victims in the of the tragedy as reveling in their victimhood or otherwise directing viscious personal attacks towards the victims when they happen to support the other side.

    When GOP politicians trot out soldiers in their ads, "the left" may be hyppocrittical when they attack the tactic(since they use the tactic themselves), but they also don't sit there and slander the name of these people and go off on hateful diatribes about them. No one on the left has attacked any victims / soldiers used as props by the right in anywhere near the same way Nick Berg's family, Cindy Sheehan the 9/11 widows, Jeremy Glick, or countless others have been attacked by right wing pundits.

    So the hypocracy of the action may be the same, but the responses that are generated by the actions are by no means on par... the right wing reations is much much more hateful and viscious.

  • ||

    Jesus, people- how many times do we have to say it?

    FREEDOM ISN'T FREE

    (and you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs)

  • ||

    Madpad -

    I'm not so sure those masses are so darn gullible. Granted, everybody thinks we are - just like kids were supposed to be incapable of distinguishing fantasy from reality in toy ads.

    But has anybody ever tried the "straight talk" experiment that McCain simulates? At least with respect to all these prepackaged hero and victim groups?

  • ||

    Attributing staples of the right-wing media machine to liberals is what every Coulter book is about. It's the politics of projection.

  • ||

    "When GOP politicians trot out soldiers in their ads, "the left" may be hyppocrittical when they attack the tactic(since they use the tactic themselves), but they also don't sit there and slander the name of these people and go off on hateful diatribes about them. No one on the left has attacked any victims / soldiers used as props by the right in anywhere near the same way Nick Berg's family, Cindy Sheehan the 9/11 widows, Jeremy Glick, or countless others have been attacked by right wing pundits."

    For example, I note a complete absence of attacks on the two Iraq veterans' character, bravery, honesty, patriotism, or right to wear their medals. What I see instead is an attack on their message.

  • Avedon||

    Coulter's objection is that with anyone else, it's safe to attack them personally rather than engaging their arguments - which is all her side's got.

    I mean, how can you argue with the idea that we need a full investigation of what happened on 9/11? You can't. So instead you try to dismiss the people who are asking the question - such as Cynthia McKinney.

    But when it's the 9/11 families, you have a problem: It's not safe to substitute ad hominem for argument, so you might be forced to engage the question. You might even be forced to have that investigation.

    And that is what victimizes poor, helpless Ann Coulter.

  • Doctor Biobrain||

    There is a clear distinction between the Dems and Repubs on this one. The Democrats were attacking the political ads, while the Republicans were attacking the individual victims. Maybe I just haven't been paying attention, but I've never heard Democrats or liberals attack victims personally, as Coulter and others have done to Mr. Berg, Mrs. Sheehan, and the 9/11 widows, along with many other publicly-vocal victims. These acts are not comparable.

    I have no problem with Republicans denouncing a Democratic ad showing 9/11 victims, but attacking the victims personally is just wrong. People should not be punished for speaking their beliefs, even if they disagree with you.

  • ||

    I'm not so sure those masses are so darn gullible. Granted, everybody thinks we are - just like kids were supposed to be incapable of distinguishing fantasy from reality in toy ads.

    But judging by the number of people supposedly swayed by the whole swift boat thing...that and the fact that Avacor is still selling stuff that allegedly grows hair on an orange and Leptoprim is still selling fat loss pills and Sea Monkeys and X-Ray Specs are still for sale in Popular Mechanics I'm not inspired with confidence.

  • Steve Trinward||

    Aww ... But did you have to pick on "Mother"? One of my guilty pleasures (but then I have a crush on Alyson H.). Otherwise, a very valid comment!

  • Jake - but not the one||

    Weigel misses an important point - I think.

    These anti war side of the issue is represented by individuals reacting against the war, not PACs and stealth PACs. As Weigel says, the Prez and his buddies PACs and stealth PACs) FIND people to say they support their position and then air them as support. The support may be real, but the process is very different.

    Hinderaker critized an individual today, not a politicion or a movement. To my recollection, that kind of evil rhetoric is reserved to the rightwing side of the aisle.

    Parts of the discussion are not equally partisan. Sometimes the facts really are against the so called conservatives in this country.

    Jake

  • ||

    Adlai Stevenson had it right: "If the Republicans will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them."

  • Jake - but not the one||

    And another thing. Cathy Young writes that Coulter makes her ashamed to consider herself right of center.

    Well, the whole republican party made me ashamed to think of myself as a republican and a conservative.

    So I fixed that. I no longer call myself either a republican or a conservative. Perhaps when the words have had a half century or so of decontamination they will once again be usable by the bulk of people of this nation. Until then, all right thinking human beings should, like Cathy Young, be ashamed to call themselves either one.

    Jake

  • ||

    How is Cindy Sheehan a victim/

    I mean what I know I heard through the grape vine, and maybe y'all know more updated news. But, didn't she opt out of being the mother of her son that died. And that she is now, (or recently)opting out of being the mother of a younger son?

    And the son that died in the war went there voluntarily and even re-enlisted?

    Man that dude is rolling over in his grave. What to do when you mother disrespects everything you stand for?

    I mean my mom is against the war and all, but I have to hope and think that she would never stoop to what Sheehan is doing. I can think of no human more despicable than Cindy Sheehan.

  • ||

    kwais said: "I can think of no human more despicable than Cindy Sheehan."

    I can.

    George W. Bush.

  • ||

    The reason Coulter Nation resent the Jersey Girls, Cindy Sheehan, and the rest of the Bush-critical victims has a lot to do with the importance of "standing." Judith Shklar's "American Citizenship: The Quest for Inclusion" (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/customer-reviews/0674022165/ref=cm_cr_dp_pt/104-5685595-9323139?%5Fencoding=UTF8&n=283155&s=books) is a fine touchstone for this issue. As she tells it, practical American citizenship has always been tied to one's standing in society: political, social, economic, etc. For all their hardships, to cite and example, poor Southern white men in the 19th century possessed the vote denied to most non-whites and women. This served to elevate them above the disenfranchised and to effectively separate them from potential political allies.
    I find a similar dynamic at play in political discussion. In this case, the coin of the realm is experiential standing: as a woman ... as an person of color ... as a conservative ... as the mother of a dead soldier ... as a 9/11 orphan, I take issue with the Bush administration's policy of ....
    You get the idea. So does Coulter. Knowing the rhetorical power added by the unassailable experiences of the Jersey Girls (the dead soldier's mom, the decorated war veterans, etc.)she counter-intuitively and despicably attacks them head on.
    Hell, it worked before. Kerry and Cleland, the decorated vets? Mindlessly attack the veracity of their war records. Cindy Sheehan and the Jersey girls in grief? Portray them as publicity-driven Democratic operatives. GOP perceived as too white? Lots of black faces on-screen during the convention.
    It works the other way, of course. Murtha was relatively late to call for a change in direction in Iraq, but he is granted superior standing in media coverage on the basis of his hawkish record and military service.

  • ||

    I mean my mom is against the war and all, but I have to hope and think that she would never stoop to what Sheehan is doing. I can think of no human more despicable than Cindy Sheehan.

    Hmmm. I think kwais just proved some people's point.

    Listen, I don't particularly like Sheehan and I way don't agree with her methods as they are ultimately trite and (IMHO)ineffective.

    But I have two young sons and if either of them wound up dead in a war like the current one, I'd probably be mad as hell. Might even adopt some of her methods.

    In any case, that it's become fashionable on the right to ridicule, deride and piss all over the survivors who choose to speak up says an awful lot (and none of it good) about the Right Wing.

  • ||

    "I can think of no human more despicable than Cindy Sheehan."

    Get out much, Kwais?

  • ||

    kwais - perhaps you can explain how one "opts out" of being a mother? Other than possibly completely disowning one's offspring, I don't know how that works. And no, of course she didn't do anything like that. You're probably thinking of this urban legend, widely circulated by the right wing slime machine "grape vine". I suggest you look for information elswhere besides the Drudge Report.

  • ||

    "what I know I heard through the grape vine, and maybe y'all know more updated news. But, didn't she opt out of being the mother of her son that died. And that she is now, (or recently)opting out of being the mother of a younger son?"
    ------

    With that comment, Kwais gives the sort of example of being a good little Coulter that my argument above anticipates. Rather than take on her arguments, the opponent must undermine the experience (i.e. the grieving mother) that gives Sheehan's arguments their added weight by alleging that the grieving mother was barely a mother at all.

  • ||

    You cannot categorize attacks on Cindy Sheehan or Michael (father of Nick) Berg as simply "attacking victims". Both of these individuals have used the deaths of their loved ones as a publicity platform to push an agenda that has nothing to do with what happened to their families.
    For example, Cindy Sheehan's cozying up to the dictator Hugo Chavez has exactly what to do with the death of her son? She has become a spokeswoman for the whole smorgasbord of left-wing agendas. If you can't see how much this woman loves being on tv, you're blind. I'm sorry that her son died, but her current career has now gone way past that. If she wants to be a political figure/celebrity , she can face the same criticisms as anyone else. If she just wanted to let people know she's sad her son died and is against the war but be exempt from argument or criticism, she's made her point and needs to go home and stay off the tv. She's free to go around talking about how Bush "stole the election" while supporting a man who is attempting to end elections in his country for the rest of his life, and we are free to condemn that. If she can't handle that, then go away.
    As for Michael Berg, I don't care what side of the political spectrum you fall into, the man is fucked up in the head. He can say whatever he wants about Bush, but when he starts to defend Zarqawi (and he did), there is not a person reading this who doesn't know that's insane. He recently said something to the effect of "Zarqawi didn't go around killing thousands of people in Iraq, Bush did!". Really? He didn't? So all those bombs that delibrately targeted the UN, aid workers, children, doctors, police who were trying to make Iraq a safer place....those were all Bush? No, those were Zarqawi, who did go around killing thousands of people, and did hold the knife to chop off Nick Berg's head.
    Michael Berg is now running for political office (as a left-wing Green of course) so again, you're either a legitimate target for the same criticism as anyone else, or you need to shut up and go home. By the way, he's got even less of a leg to stand on than Cindy Sheehan. While her son was ordered into Iraq (with a military he volunteered for), Berg's son went over to Iraq completely on his own, after repeatedly being warned away by George Bush's State Department. If he needs to blame someone, maybe Michael Berg can spare us his insanity on tv and start asking himself why he didn't stop his son from going over there. Maybe it was because his son was an adult who made his own decision despite what other people (including Bush's government) said to stop him.

  • fyodor||

    lunchstealer,

    Far be it for me to claim that libertarians are above the foibles of the outworlders, but citing examples of victims of a particular policy or trend, as in the examples you cite, is different from quoting those victims as if they're experts or to play on the audience's emotion. It's true that the existence of a victim in a particular case does not prove the policy in question wrong in and of itself, as joe is wont to remind us in regards to Kelo's policy implications, since there may be victims of no matter what is done, but it's still at least potentially relevant to cite specific victims of a particular way of doing things, and I believe it's distinctly different from this "victim infallibility" thing.

  • ||

    I think of the group MADD- Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Quite a few, if not most of the people involved in that organization have lost a loved one to a drunk driver. They're highly motivated to speak out against what they see as a preventable problem that caused their loss. Who could blame them, and who would deny them their vendetta? In the case of the 9-11 widows (and Cindy Sheehan)they see their loss as unnecessary and the result of bad policy. Would we ask them to keep their mouths' shut if they want to get involved in correcting the policy mishaps?

  • ||

    If it were not for Cindy Sheehan, the world might not have noticed the nuclear war in Iraq.

  • ||

    Coulter is a rageholic tool, but I agree with her about the 9/11 widows. The sheer mass of this group's collective sense of entitlement was enough to flatten the rest of the WTC complex. I was a relief volunteer in NYC at that time, and I'd have to report that some of these people hadn't even a casual relationship with reality. "No, my seven-figure-earning husband and I did not have life insurance! But I'm entitled to not have my extravagant lifestyle change one bit! How dare you not pay my kids' private school tuition! How dare the Red Cross not pay our yacht moorage fees! We're victims!"

    And then there was the TriBeCa penthousewife who lost nobody, but had to take the kids and evacuate in a hurry on 9/11, just like everyone else. She bought thousands of dollars in "emergency" kids' clothes from a designer boutique, and was sincerely appalled that we wouldn't reimburse her for more than $250 of it.

    "...enjoying their husbands' deaths" is, of course, Coulter's ham-fisted way of selling books. I wouldn't go that far, myself. But the expectation that when something bad happens, everybody else suddenly owes you the living of your choice -- in a world where bad sh*t happens all the time -- is the poison that's killing America, IMO.

  • ||

    Dave,

    Good points all, although (lamely) in Sheehan's defense, I think her Chavez bit had more to do with her hatred of Bush. The woman demonstrates a pitiful understanding of politics so I don't think she's the cause celeb you might think.

    I know next to nothing about Michael Berg but I started tuning out loudmouth victim parents with Ron Goldman, Sr.

    I think now would be a good time to consider one arguably good victim parent (albeit having nothing to do with Iraq), John Walsh.

    If Sheehan or Berg had his class, we'd be outa Iraq like yesterday - except I think he's a Bushy. They could stand to steal a page or two from his playbook.

  • ||

    I can think of no human more despicable than Cindy Sheehan.

    You totally need to come to one of my family reunions.

  • ||

    The Libertarian Party once used the name of a soldier killed in Panama (the Noriega takedown) to illustrate the evils of such interventions.
    Based on the soldier's father's tearful testimony in a local paper, the LP wrote that the soldier
    "didn't want to die" for that cause. Later, the
    girlfriend informed the LP that, in fact, the soldier was willing to die in the War on Drugs, so the LP refunded money to those contributors who
    felt they were misled.

  • ||

    And now AssRocket has taken to attacking the uncle of one of the soldiers who was tortured & beheaded this weekend -- all for the affrontery of saying (truthfully):

    "Because the U.S. government did not have a plan in place, my nephew has paid for it with his life.?

  • ||

    Rheinhard
    Thanks for the link, I stand corrected. She is not as despicable as I thought. Yet she is still not beyond critique.

    Actually she still represents something I despize, in that she is criticizing the man that sent her to war, and does not recognize that her son made his own choices.

  • ||

    Just remembering something about the 9/11 widows:

    A few years ago, when the debate was still raging over whehter or not something could ever be built on Ground Zero because people had died there, Chris Matthews had a spokeswoman for the 9/11 widows on Hardball. I remember she made a comment like "If they build new towers on that spot, I would run up the stairs and look for my husband as soon as that building opened!". My jaw dropped, and Matthews very quickly moved on to another question.
    My heart goes out to the families of the dead, but their pain is not necessarily a good basis for policy.

  • ||

    Ideas are either valid, or they are not, but as much as it may be disliked, ad hominem attack has been a staple in our political discourse, employed by, yes, every last political faction, since the beginning of this republic. Thus, if grieving people wish to employ the aspects of their life which caused their grief as platform for political advocacy, they best best do so with the full knowledge that their platform will be savaged like anyone else's. If that is intolerable, they would be better served by employing a different platform, or not engaging in political advocacy at all.

  • ||

    I posted several Kos diaries slamming POwerline, and those 527 ads you mentioned. In fact, I was directly attacked by Powerline over them.

    Their mendacity can only be adreessed indirectly because they desliberately do not permit comments on any of their blog posts, lest they be exposed as liars and hacks.

  • ||

    For the record, I am strongly opposed to ad hominem attacks, and anyone who disagrees with me is a bed wetter who beats puppies.

  • ||

    It's certainly shameless how liberals use victims of 9/11 to further their political agenda. Anyone who would do that would certainly have no shame. I mean, remember when they trotted out Tara Stockpile, widow of a New York City firefighter? And then Debra Burlingame, sister of the captain of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, or Deena Burnett, wife of a passenger on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania. All of them were used as window dressing by the party to prop up their boy. Despicable.

    Oh wait. Those three all spoke at the Republican convention of 2004 for Bush. That's different. That was courageous and patriotic.

    Never mind.

  • ||

    Dave,
    Great, now everybody will think I'm a right wing hate-monger with nothing better to do than think up ways to diss a grieving mother. Your side has given us Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, Coulter, and dozens of local versions of them on the airwaves all day long. Sorry that Cindy's 15 minutes of fame and her opinion bothers you so much, but please clean up your own back yard.
    Dave

  • Ron Hardin||

    The reason for sympathy (``Sorry about your father'') is not to express your sorrow - indeed it's doubtful that you're sorrowful or feel anything much - but to cut the guy some slack for a while. The point of the sympathy is to say indirectly that if you tell the same joke for the thousandth time, you'll understand if he doesn't follow his social obligation to laugh ; or if a project is due, you'll understand if it's late.

    He has use for that sympathy. That's why it's right to offer, and appreciated.

    If you don't know the guy, your expression of sympathy is you entertaining yourself with your soap opera abilities.

    If you trade on the sympathy of others, trying to get something for it (``My son died so you have to listen to me'') and you're not a friend, it's appropriate to bring the lady up short. ``Screw you, lady.''

    It's called the economization of tragedy - this getting something for yourself out of it. Moliere wrote a comedy about it, an eternal grieving widow.

    Coulter is bringing the lady up short. You're coming to the wrong place to pull that stuff, is all it says.

  • ||

    Coulter and her partisan hackishness aside, any volunteers to rush to the defense of Cindy Sheehan and Michael Berg given the following quotes?

    Cindy Sheehan:

    "The biggest terrorist in the world is George W. Bush!"

    "We are waging a nuclear war in Iraq right now. That country is contaminated. It will be contaminated for practically eternity now."

    "The whole world is damaged. Our humanity is damaged. If he thinks that it's so important for Iraq to have a U.S.-imposed sense of freedom and democracy, then he needs to sign up his two little party-animal girls. They need to go to this war."

    "Am I emotional? Yes, my first born was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the Army to protect America, not Israel. Am I stupid? No, I know full-well that my son, my family, this nation, and this world were betrayed by George [W.] Bush who was influenced by the neo-con PNAC agenda after 9/11."

    Michael Berg:

    "Nicholas Berg died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. The al-Qaeda people are probably just as bad as they are, but this administration did this."

    Berg said the blame for most deaths in Iraq should be placed on President Bush, who he said is "more of a terrorist than Zarqawi."

    "Zarqawi felt my son's breath on his hand as held the knife against his throat. Zarqawi had to look in his eyes when he did it," Berg added, pausing to collect himself. "George Bush sits there glassy-eyed in his office with pieces of paper and condemns people to death. That to me is a real terrorist."

    I'll never understand people who bookmark Reason AND Democratic underground...

  • ||

    What liberal has asked how we know that Ted Olsen was not planning to divorce the late Barbara Olsen?

  • ||

    Coulter and her partisan hackishness aside, any volunteers to rush to the defense of Cindy Sheehan and Michael Berg given the following quotes?

    Say, I will! But I have to begin with a qualifier just like you:
    Their comments aside, Cindy Sheehan and Michael Berg have every right to say whatever they want about anything. Whether we invest what they say with any significance because of their particular loss is a choice left up to us. Anyone who wishes to debate, debunk, or attack their statements is also free to do so. No one is infallible because they have suffered a tragedy, but they should be afforded a modicum of respect and common human decency for their loss.

    There. How was that?

  • ||

    Hmmm, I don't remember Ted Olson making a hobby out of the fact that his wife got incinerated.

  • ||

    "Zarqawi felt my son's breath on his hand as held the knife against his throat. Zarqawi had to look in his eyes when he did it," Berg added, pausing to collect himself. "George Bush sits there glassy-eyed in his office with pieces of paper and condemns people to death. That to me is a real terrorist."

    And the problem with this quote is...? Looks dead on to me. EXCEPT, the idea that Berg was killed by Zarqawi personally seems to have been wrong, part of a plan to puff up Zarqawi's profile. (see the recent Atlantic article) But then Berg would have learned that "fact" from our government.

  • ||

    "No, my seven-figure-earning husband and I did not have life insurance! But I'm entitled to not have my extravagant lifestyle change one bit! How dare you not pay my kids' private school tuition! How dare the Red Cross not pay our yacht moorage fees! We're victims!"

    zeroentitlement,

    Was that the attitude displayed by the same widows whom Coulter attacked? It seems fair to give these specific ladies the benefit of the doubt, unless you know for a fact that these women really did behave like that.

    (But I have to say that anyone who is earning seven figures and does not carry life insurance is c-a-t dumb.)

  • ||

    R.Porrofatto, I am in complete agreement, and yes, Coulter isn't doing her side any favors even when she does occasionally get the argument right. I was just responding to some of the posters who seem to subscribe to the bumper-sticker-ready thinking of Democratic Underground, e.g. "Bush Lied, Thousands Died". Take John for example, who seems to think that Bush is perfunctorily condemning men to be IED fodder, while Zarqawi's murders are more honor-bound? That's leftist analysis for ya, which explains why pathetic Republicans keep getting elected if this is emblematic of who they're up against.

  • ||

    "Take John for example, who seems to think that Bush is perfunctorily condemning men to be IED fodder, while Zarqawi's murders are more honor-bound? That's leftist analysis for ya, which explains why pathetic Republicans keep getting elected if this is emblematic of who they're up against."

    Ah, one post agreeing with what Berg said and I am a lefty, now THAT is serious analysis.

    You cannot find the word "honor" in my post. Neither Zarqawi nor Bush deserve that word. Zarqawi would not exist if it were not for Bush's willingness to kill people or his desire for propaganda that would justify his arguments for war. (Again read the article in that lefty rag The Atlantic) His policies and his direct orders have resulted in tens of thousands of deaths (at least!) and the wounding, torture and displacement of many more. Zarqawi is responsable for the deaths of many as well and was a bloodthirsty hood and scumbag.

    But please explain to me what is inaccurate about Berg's statement. Whoever killed Nick Berg did it just as his father described, and Bush has ordered people to their deaths from his office thousands of miles away, just as described. Bush's actions produce terror on a scale a guy like Zarqawi dreamed of. And yes, I have seen no evidence Bush takes these things seriously. Check out the washington post review of Ron Suskind's new book for more evidence.

  • ||

    Nosferatu

    Unless you can produce the IAEA report that claimed Saddam was six months away from having nukular weapons, or alternatively ressurect around 1800 soldiers, then I don't see how you can argue about the line you're complaining about.

  • Easter Lemming||

    Nosferatu - I'll defend family members who speak out after losing loved ones as the result of misguided government policy. I will also point out Sheehan is speaking of depleted uranium with a bit of exaggeration. I don't expect the most coherent arguments from victims.

    I'll also join David in condemning the hypocrisy of that fountain of hypocrisy and lies Powerline.

    I don't see DU in my bookmarks but I do have Reason and Daily Kos.

  • Easter Lemming||

    Quotes:

    Let me put this as clearly as I can: To the likes of Hinderaker, the pain of those who lost loved ones to this war only matters to the extent that the bereaved allow their grief to be used to prop up the war effort and Bush himself. If the bereaved relatives don't allow their grief to be used in this fashion, their sacrifice and loss no longer matter a whit -- they're not to be pitied or empathized with, but scorned and humiliated as brutally as possible. Despicable.

    --Greg Sargent

    The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.

    -- H.L. Mencken

  • Brom Bones||

    Maybe someone should start up a foundation to assist victims of the administration's brainwashing.

  • ||

    John- my qualms are with the moral equivalence you're asserting between Bush and Zarqawi. To suggest that both men are equally culpable of terrorism I find absurd, even by liberal interpretations of "just war" doctrine.

    Easter Lemming- several others have made my points for me, but misguided policy or not, those lost loved ones made voluntary decisions, and their survivors' anger is wasted and misguided (Blame the Commander-in-Chief rather than the fanatical assholes who perpetrated the crime?). And again, as others have argued, Sheehan's and Berg's actions and political grandstanding (will someone please explain/defend the Chavez stunt? Her anti-Semitic affiliations? anyone?) make them less than sympathetic figures, and hardly immune from criticism. Same goes for the Jersey girls, who were dubbed the "Rock Stars of Grief" 2 years before Coulter was busy reviving this dead horse. Coulter's rhetoric was tacky and as I said, clearly not helping her cause, but I don't see how anyone can defend these shameless political tools either.

  • ||

    I swear I've probably sneezed more brain cells then some of you people use to think about politics. All these people whining about how Michael Berg is being "smeared", and none of you have bothered to go actually read the long list of repugnant things the man has said, both before AND after his son got captured and killed. He was a member of the America-hating lunatic left long before his son went anywhere near Iraq.

    If you think Sheehan's personal trauma excuses her behavior, fine. You want to excuse the 9/11 widows, go for it. But making apologies for Michael Berg? Is Reason a Libertarian magazine, or a Workers World Party magazine?

    Sheesh. Ok, so George Bush isn't a Libertarian, boo hoo hoo. But at least *try* to remember that being mindlessly anti-war doesn't automatically make a person admirable.

  • ||

    "America-hating lunatic left long" bzzztt...we have a winner! Not libertarian..Republican. Anyone who would use that phrase is most likely Authoritarian in outlook.
    Are you a shrill member of the America-hating lunatic right wing? Is being mindlessly pro-war better than being mindlessly anti-war? People are anti-war due to the chaos and death is brings. Is THAT really mindless? Talk about projection. NOT EVERYBODY WHO OPPOSES BUSH OR THE WAR IS A "LEFTIST". Bush sucks, his war is stupid and pointless and by your standard somewhere around 60% of the country are members of the America hating lunatic left. Can anyone who supports the president actually think? Seriously.

  • ||

    I am sick and tired of the idiots who claim people like Sheehan or Berg or any other victim who speaks out against the administration have no right to discuss anything beyond their own grief and they have no entitlement to their 'celebrity' and should just shut up. These people, of all people, deserve and have earned the right to say whatever wacko thing they want.

    What has Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh ever done for this country that allows them their right to screech and preen and act the fool? Why can Rush sit around and suggest that Clinton secretly killed Vince Foster and Ron Brown and dozens of others, but it is beyond the pale that George Bush should be morally linked to Zarqawi by a grieving parent who lost a loved one due to these two idiots in their dance of death?

  • ||

    Well...Zarqawi, the despicable monster that he was, was certainly willing to risk death for his "cause."

    Bush, on the other hand, prefers that other people do his dying for him.

    Neither is exactly covered in honor.

    And the recent revelation that Bush personally authorized the torture of a mentally ill detainee to wring some intelligence out of him, so he wouldn't look bad publicly, is pretty despicable.

    If Bush were not a member of a prominent political family, and had more acceptable outlets for his sociopathy, I trhink he'd be a serial killer.

  • ||

    OK, I really need a frame of reference here. How many posters think other American Presidents are terrorists or war criminals? How many past military actions under other presidents have been justified? Most? Some? Any? In a best case scenario I'd like to think I'm dealing with Lysander Spooner fans (because then at least we're on the same page regarding political philosophy) rather than the kooks from, dare I say, Democratic Underground. I do have a problem with those suggesting that our foreign policy is based on mindless, sociopathic aggression and bloodlust rather than legitimate policy debates, even granting the premise that our leaders made poor and tragic decisions.

  • ||

    I do have a problem with those suggesting that our foreign policy is based on mindless, sociopathic aggression and bloodlust rather than legitimate policy debates, even granting the premise that our leaders made poor and tragic decisions.

    I would have agreed with you two or three years ago, but unfortunately there seems to more and more evidence that Bush really does act out of instinct and agression and has no grasp of policy at all. If Suskind's story about how Bush had a mentally disturbed man tortured just to "save face" is true then we are dealing with one of the most twisted people to ever hold the Presidency. I will grant you that many on the left fail to recognize that Bush is still not the maximum leader of the country. Grown-ups like Condi do have a say in our foreign policy and in the areas where Bush is content to let his underlings run things there have been some foreign policy successes.

  • ||

    Hey, Nosferatu, you can respond substantively for once, instead of calling names. How do you defend a man (president or no) who allows, no, orders a mentally ill man to be tortured just to save himself some public embarassment? If that doesn't convince you that there is something wrong with this guy, you are beyond hope.

    For the record, I have no idea who lysander spooner is and I have never been to Democratic Underground. Why does that matter anyway? Do you go to Redstate.com?

  • ||

    Vanya - I'll take Suskind's book at face value, he did mangle facts about O'Neill in his last book after all and people take a quote from a book review as unassailable truth considering the gravity of the allegation. Dare I suggest reporters may have political agendas.

    And your point on Condi et. al. is well taken, as has been pointed out on these boards previously, so many attacks on this adminstration are based in genetic fallacy (Bush and his crew did this therefore it must be evil).

    John - see my comment above. I don't recall ever visiting redstate.com, and you should check out Lysander Spooner, who was a major influence on libertarian thought in this country (assuming you are sympathetic to libertarian ideas). Also, if you don't consider Michael Berg as part of the "America-hating lunatic left" (in contrast to the approximately 60% who oppose the war for various reasons), I suggest you take DB's advice and look at some of the things the man has actually said. Speaking of substantive responses, care to answer any of the questions I offered in my last post? With that said, I do actually have work to do today, I'll try to check back on this thread when I get a chance.

  • ||

    Those questions are pointless timewasters. We're talking about Bush, not other presidents. And just using the phrase "lunatic anti-American left" tells me all I need to know about your attitude toward anyone who opposes the war. In answer, I will say that preemptive eternal war, like that being currently run by the Bush Admin, is wrong, both morally and strategically. And Always Has Been.

    Now answer my questions without resorting to tired, vague talking points about biased reporters.

    "Please explain to me what is inaccurate about Berg's statement. Whoever killed Nick Berg did it just as his father described, and Bush has ordered people to their deaths from his office thousands of miles away, just as described. "

    No Answer?

    How about:
    "How do you defend a man (president or no) who allows, no, orders a mentally ill man to be tortured just to save himself some public embarassment? "

    Direct substantial answers are appreciated.

  • ||

    John, there's no shame in admitting you're a pacifist if that is indeed the case, and it would definitely clarify this debate so I could better understand your position. I think making historical analogies is absolutely relevant and not a "pointless timewaster" as you suggest, as historical context is often missing in the debate about this war (aside from the predictable Vietnam line), and determines whether you're willing to justify any military action.

    Regarding comments on Michael Berg, you're clearly not reading what is being written and thereby making incorrect inferences. At no point did I nor DB categorize all opponents to the war as the "America-hating lunatic left," we're talking about MICHAEL BERG. Google his name, read all about him, he is indeed a lunatic leftist as far as I'm concerned.

    On your point about Bush ordering people to their death from his office thousands of miles away, well yeah, that's what commanders-in-chief do to achieve a military objective, and sometimes it's done to prevent thousands if not millions more deaths as a result of not acting. Again, let's put it in historical context, the British lost nearly 60,000 soldiers in one day of fighting in the Battle of the Somme, was Prime Minster Asquith a terrorist and war criminal? Let's bring civilians into the equation, how about the carpet-bombing of Dresden or even more illustrative, Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Just to be clear here, I'm not arguing the merits of these wars vs. Iraq, simply the fact that military leaders send men to their deaths, which is in most cases by common definitions neither terrorism nor a war crime.

    As to the alleged torture of Zubaydah, I'll monitor the facts from both sides with healthy skepticism, parse the language of interrogation vs. torture, and then make my judgment. Believe me, I'm not an uncritical apologist for team Bush and this war, I just think that comparing him to Zarqawi and calling him a terrorist is a bit, well, Ann-Coulterish, to return full circle here.

  • ||

    The thread is probably dead by this point, but I turn on my computer today, and what do I see? Droopy-dog Cindy Sheehan standing in Europe in front of a sign that says "World's #1 Terrorist", with a picture of Bin Laden....I mean Zarqawi...I mean Hammas....I mean Abu Saayaff....I mean, of course, George Bush. I'm sure this is what her son would have wanted.

  • ||

    No Dave, I'll never let this thread die. Droopy- Dog Sheehan, I like that. Ever see the photo circulating a few months back when she was arrested and exposed her midriff? I still get nauseous chills just thinking about it.

  • ||

    Just an FYI to I forget who: Iraq is awash in radioactive debris from depleted uranium munitions. Cindy Sheehan ain't (lying/crazy) when she says that the country is contaminated and will be for perhaps lifetimes. Whether the term "nuclear war" is hyperbolic or just a little too unsettling is a matter of opinion rarely addressed in this country.

  • ||

    As far as past wars and historical analogies, when comparisons to Vietnam are made, I believe the architects of the war believed (for a time) they had the best interests of the US at heart. In the case of Iraq, I would posit GWB's motivation, in large part, "is based on mindless, sociopathic aggression and bloodlust rather than legitimate policy debates." Sorry, the evidence is hard to ignore.

    That and taking the word of the smart guys, Wolfowitz, Perle, Kristol et al, academic nancyboys who conveniently missed their own shot at war, that the Middle East could be transformed. They play tough and have the bedrock foundation of the human spirit's inarguable natural desire for "freedom" guiding this transformation. Freedom is on the march; the kind with curfews, checkpoints and soldiers kicking in doors and shouting in a foreign language. Now they undeniably have democracy because they have elections, ones in which hundreds of candidates are revealed to them on the day of the election, followed soon thereafter by more such elections, which also don't result in anyone taking office.

    Can I draw a distinction between Iraq and past instances of a president ordering people to their death from his office thousands of miles away? Hell yeah. I had reservations about this war from the intitial product rollout in 2002. But any objections I voiced were completely marginalized, discounted as both unpatriotic and uninformed. This despite the fact that my opinion was based on extensive research and that I was greatly concerned about what an attack/occupation would mean for the future of my country. The things I was specifically apprehensive about would read like an *I told you so* checklist.

    When the uncharismatic Cindy Sheehan emerged, at last the issues started to be addressed. If I had voiced the same opposition to the war, my words would have died on various blogs, after the requisite attacks for not "supporting the troops." Only when a grieving mother spoke were the views of a large percentage of the population even considered by the media.

    Yes, the opposition was finally recognized. No, the Cindy Sheehans were far from bulletproof. Duh. As has been pointed out, the Coulters object to the actual issues being brought into focus, and because the ad hominem attacks that they would launch at the likes of me don't apply. So they make up new, nastier ones.

    The attacks on the Jersey Girls can only be described as retarded. Calling for an investigation of 9/11 and an effort to shore up terrorism prevention and emergency response are unimpeachable. Personally, their proposal for a Director of National Intelligence strikes me as a bad idea, but I will criticize that as a matter of policy, not call them shrieking harpies.

    I may disagree blah blah blah but I will defend her right to... As a matter of decorum, there is no defense for the likes of Coulter and her apologists. They do nothing to advance rational discourse and to take their bleating as anything but pure a**holery is intellectually dishonest. But if we're still free to do anything in 2006 America, it's to be that kind of a**hole.

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