|June 20, 2006|
Smear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
Darling, I am growing old, silver threads among the gold. Nonetheless, begad, I am still blessed with a head of fundamentally blond hair, and a natural one at that. I know a blonde joke when I hear it.
Ms. Coulter, who apparently has never had an unexpressed thought, is on the warpath again, which means, of course, that she's flogging a new book. And like children who discover they can garner attention by shouting "doo-doo," or something else inappropriate, Coulter knows that the squeakiest, most vexatious voice gets the airtime.
By now, you're probably aware of the latest, wretched excess. In her current tome -- I won't mention the title; suffice it to say, you can pick it up under your nearest, local rock -- Coulter writes of some of the women widowed on September 11, "These broads are millionaires lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities... I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much...
"And by the way, 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."
Sweet. If this wasn't enough to clinch her the Miss Congeniality title in perpetuity, last week, a conservative website asked Coulter to play a round of word association. When the name of veteran and anti-Iraqi war Congressman Jack Murtha was mentioned, she replied, "The reason soldiers invented 'fragging.'" "Fragging" is the word used to describe intentional friendly fire, troops taking the life of an officer they hate.
Stop, Ann, please. You're killing me. Really.
Rep. Murtha is a big kid who can more than hold his own -- witness his appearance on Sunday's "Meet the Press," when he defended himself against last week's attack on his Iraq stance by White House Doberman Karl Rove. "He's making a political speech," was Murtha's response. "He's sitting in his air-conditioned office on his big, fat backside saying, 'Stay the course.' That's not a plan!"
As for the widows, Coulter seems to have a particular gripe with the four women known as the Jersey Girls who, in the face of initial and vehement White House opposition, successfully campaigned for the creation of the 9/11 Commission.
What she fails to mention is the right's own set of September 11 women -- three of whom spoke at the opening night of the 2004 Republican National Convention, and one of whom in particular, Debra Burlingame, whose brother was the pilot of the plane that hit the Pentagon, stumped hard and loud for Bush's re-election.
Nor does Coulter reference the GOP's perpetual and egregious exploitation of the tragedy, from selling photographs of President Bush on Air Force One September 11 as a fundraiser to Rove's assertion that the post 9/11 war on terror "will create political capital. If you don't spend it, it's not like treasures stuck away in a storehouse someplace; it is perishable."
So the blonde joke ain't so funny. Then why give her any more ink than she has already received? Because folks like Coulter and O'Reilly and Limbaugh and the rest are just the tip of a spear dipped in vitriol. They provide cover for the fear, smear and innuendo that's on the rise as we approach the midterm elections; attacks that will seem mild by comparison to Coulter's but that potentially are even more lethal. As one pundit predicts, this year's campaign may make the 2002 and 2004 races look like episodes of "Clifford, the Big Red Dog."
Granted, Democrats and liberals are not totally without sin -- New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi's recent, numbskull comment that Senator Chuck Schumer would "put a bullet between the president's eyes if he could get away with it" was fatuous at best. At least he apologized for his stupidity.
But as the number of American dead surpassed 2500, witness last week's House "debate" over the Iraq war, which the Boston Globe accurately described as "more a tune-up for the fall congressional campaigns than a high-minded discussion of US foreign policy." Apparently, the Republican's 2006 campaign modus operandi is to Swift Boat the entire Democratic Party and all who sail with it.
What originally was positioned as an open and honest discussion of the pros and cons of the Bush Iraq strategy -- or lack thereof -- was instead turned into angry, partisan bickering over a take it or leave it vote on a non-binding resolution of support for the administration.
"Is it al Qaeda or is it America?" demanded Georgia Republican Charlie Norwood. And Texas Congressman Louis Gohmert patted Jack Murtha on the back to find just the right place to stick the shiv. He praised Murtha's heart and "visits to the wounded," then added, "Thank God he was not here and prevailed after the bloodbaths at Normandy and in the Pacific or we would be here speaking Japanese or German."
House Majority Leader John Boehner, who had claimed he wanted a "serious, dignified tone of deliberation," revealed his true intent in a pre-debate, two-page "messaging" memo to GOP House members. The leaked memorandum specifically referenced 9/11 seven times: "As a result of our efforts... Americans will realize that on the issue of national security, they have a clear choice between a Republican Party aware of the stakes and dedicated to victory, versus a Democrat Party without a coherent national security policy that sheepishly dismisses the challenges America faces in a post-9/11 world."
As November approaches, once again Boehner and his ilk will stoop to our basest fears and instincts, with the help of the more outrageous ideologues from whose behavior they will distance themselves when expedient. As Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank observed at the conclusion of last week's House charade, "I just hope that the members of parliament in Iraq who hear about this will remember a very important point: Please do not try this at home."
Some joke. How come I'm not laughing?
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
Copyright 2006 Messenger Post Newspapers
Michael Winship, Writers Guild of America Award winner and former writer with Bill Moyers, writes a weekly column for the Messenger Post Newspapers in upstate New York.
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