We owe Pat Robertson and Ann Coulter a big thank you. These two American mullahs of the far (f)right are helping to expose how The Bush Team is in the extreme and we who question this war – most prominently Cindy Sheehan – are in the mainstream.
By now Ann Coulter should have reached a tipping point where serious journalists would stop treating her antics and comments seriously. Suggesting that Timothy McVeigh should have blown up the New York Times building instead of the one in Oklahoma City should probably have been enough to ward Time magazine off its unctuous cover profile. Or perhaps it should have happened when she recently told an audience in Canada that they should be helping us in Iraq as they did in Vietnam (for which she was hooted down by Canadians who knew their history better than she).
But now that she has casually asserted that New Yorkers are cowards who would surrender to terrorists, it’s past time to call her for what she is – an ignorant parody of a right-wing nut who says things for effect and sales.
The Administration keeps arguing that the Iraqi insurgents are becoming more violent as America succeeds in Iraq. While that’s obvious nonsense, it does provide a reasonably good analogy for what war defenders are now doing in their Custer-like last stand. As all their arguments about the war have failed – both the reasons for invading and the reasons for “staying the course” – embarrassed proponents are increasingly retreating to the McCarthyism they are so skilled at. Hence all the desperate attacks on Cindy Sheehan and, now, New Yorkers. Blaming Richard Clark, Dan Rather, Newsweek’s Periscope or Dick Durbin was always the equivalent of blaming the radar gun for the speeder. But those polemical diversions did provide momentary relief for the chicken hawks. But now they’re forced to up the ante to both gain attention and justify their existence. Hence Coulter’s noxious crack.
I was 40 blocks north of the World Trade Towers at 8:46AM on September 11 – and saw a plane sticking out of Tower One five seconds after it hit. I happened to be running in a Democratic Primary for Mayor being held that very morning and so was in a position to watch New Yorkers that day and the next several weeks demonstrate unmatchable courage and compassion in the most tragic of circumstances. I spent hours handing out free food to firefighters and cops who were part of the rescue and recovery effort over the next few days, New Yorkers who were getting diseased lungs from unreported pollutants. I visited the hospital bed of a Port Authority police officer whose legs had been crushed, as he said, “Mr. Green, the building fell on me. But the terrorists didn’t stop me and they can’t stop us.”
There are thousands of such stories of quiet heroism, not to mention the unbearable fact that we lost more firefighters and police in the next 24 hours than we had in the prior 50 years combined. Are these the cowards who surrendered that Ann Coulter refers to?
So as she shuttles in limos between her sanitized cable appearances in a successful attempt to be the blondest blowhard in tv history, I would hope that assignment editors everywhere start exercising some news judgment. That includes Fox News. Hell, Murdoch and Ailes are New Yorkers. At what point do they and reasonable Americans turn their faces away in disgust? Indeed, at what point do reasonable Americans turn away in disgust from a President whose faith-based war has been blown up by reality and who can only wave the bloody shirt of 9/11 whenever he’s asked to explain what he’s doing to our soldiers and our country.
There will come a time – whether it’s in five months or 5 years or 50 years, I don’t know – when we’ll all have to answer the question of what we were doing when the Bush-Robertson-Coulter crowd tried to ruin America, just as earlier generations had to explain the mass hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials or McCarthyism. Cindy Sheehan and New Yorkers don’t need lectures from those that hate the values of a country whose flag they perennially wave.
In 2002, Mark was the "Distinguished Visiting Lecturer" at NYU Law School and currently teaches an honors freshman seminar at the Arts College. He is now president of The New Democracy Project, a public affairs institute in New York City.
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