In the past three years I have seen many of my young, mostly working-class students shipped off to Iraq, mainly from the California National Guard and from the Army. I am currently on a "MIA list," meaning I'll be notified by mail if one of them ends up dead, (thankfully, it has not yet happened). One former student who is a sergeant emails me when he can. He re-enlisted for the sole purpose, as he put it, "to bring home alive one or more of the less experienced guys." He writes about the effect that seeing the terrible things Iraqis do to each other is having on the troops; and he told me that whenever politicians come to Iraq seeking photo-ops, not only does it put his people in greater risk to protect them, but their choreographed "tours" leave them seeing nothing close to the reality in Iraq.
And while these brave young people who are largely the sons and daughters of carpenters, truck drivers, house painters, secretaries, small business owners, etc., are dodging I.E.D.s and snipers, and running convoys down perilous roads surrounded by people who want nothing more than to kill or maim them, here is Ann Coulter, a "political commentator" and darling of the Republican Right, making a mockery of American politics by calling a presidential candidate a "faggot."
Where are the "serious" right-wing commentators like David Brooks, Fred Barnes, Wiliam Kristol, and Charles Krauthammer in denouncing their fellow traveler Coulter when she so predictably spouts off? What do you respectable right-wingers think about one of your Republican ideologue buddies calling a presidential candidate a "faggot?"
Coulter's ad hominem attacks would be a joke if it were not for the 150,000 American troops risking their lives in Iraq. Her brand of sophomoric partisanship would be meaningless if it were not for the fact our nation currently faces a set of deadly serious choices about the war that could mean life or death for thousands of our young service people.
Should we respond by calling Ann Coulter names? She would love it. She subscribes to the P.T. Barnum maxim that "there is no such thing as bad publicity." Just like Johnny Knoxville and his "Jackass" movies, Coulter is a pioneer of sorts, and she has spawned lesser imitators like Michelle Malkin, Dennis Miller, Michael Savage, Glen Beck, and others. Aside from Coulter's sexed-up persona, her political "Jackass" routine is nothing more than a dumb rehashing of Joe McCarthy's worst gaffes. "News" people who
can't write, interview Ann Coulter, who can't talk, for the benefit of people who can't read.
I wonder how it would feel to be a soldier in Baghdad and go on a house-to-house search, only to return to the base and hear the news that Ann Coulter and her ilk, the boosters of the Commander-In-Chief, insist on making a burlesque out of American political discourse?
Coulter's shtick is getting very old. Calling a presidential candidate a "faggot" is just her latest headline-grabbing exploit. (You can find dozens of them at MediaMatters.org.)
Coulter's status as a media darling of the Republican Right, her best-selling screeds, her TV appearances, and her lucrative speaking tours, are symptoms that our political discourse has become toxic.
The Americans who are fighting and dying in Iraq were sent there on false pretenses. Coulter has contributed greatly to the grotesque disfigurement of our politics. Her political freak show helped render us incapable of sorting out the lies prior to the war. Her loudmouthed jingoism still rules the day, and Coulter, whether she knows it or not, has blood on their hands.
Joseph A. Palermo is the author of "In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy" (Columbia, 2001). Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.