With all the controversy surrounding Ann Coulter's new book "Godless: The Church of Liberalism," some might overlook important substantive points she has made.
Critics may say, "Precisely. That's our complaint with Ann. Her insulting remarks deflect attention from the points she's trying to make."
Not so fast. Whether she intended it this way or not, the "harsh" remarks she made in the book have proven one of her theses in a way the book alone could not have done -- at least not as effectively.
She contends that liberals have employed certain "human shields" to advance their unpopular arguments, especially those pertaining to the war on terror. These people have either earned respect, like military heroes, or become sympathetic figures through personal tragedy, like Cindy Sheehan and the widows of 9/11 victims.
As a result of their status, these individuals are entitled to say anything they want, not just as a matter of free speech, which no one would dispute, but with full immunity from criticism. Their actions and statements cannot be challenged, no matter how ludicrous, no matter how destructive.
The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd said as much when she wrote that it's "inhumane" for Bush not "to understand that the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute" (cited by Coulter, p. 127).
Sorry, but that presumably well-meaning statement is just flat wrong, and wrongheaded. If it were true, we could delegate authority over the nuclear "football" to grieving parents of soldiers killed in action and let them unleash our ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) on suspected terrorist strongholds. Forget "collateral damage," their moral authority is absolute.
Let's start out with the truism that Cindy Sheehan and the 9/11 widows are entitled to an abundance of sympathy because of their losses. Perhaps they should even be given some slack for saying offensive things in the height of their grief.
But what about when they deliberately and repeatedly inject themselves into the public vortex by issuing vitriolic, malicious slander against the president of the United States, such as calling President Bush a terrorist, or embracing foreign, America-hating dictators like Hugo Chavez? Do Americans have a right to call them on it? Can Sheehan or the "Jersey Girls" say anything, no matter how detrimental to America's image or national interest, without fear of contradiction?