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?
Should we nod with feigned approval at the irresponsible statements of Congressman John Murtha or Senator John Kerry because they were in combat? Conversely, should those with no military background be foreclosed from the public debate on the war, as "chicken hawks"? Preposterously, liberals answer yes to both questions.
But the more important point is: Liberals don't really believe that the opinions of veterans or family members of war victims are entitled to deference or "absolute moral authority."
As usual, the liberals' outrage is highly selective. It is not the people or their circumstances that are sacrosanct, but their liberal positions. Liberals accorded none of their precious war-hero deference to John O'Neill and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Indeed, they called them liars -- when they weren't -- and much worse. They have savaged combat-decorated Marine Ollie North. They have no use for retired generals supporting Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Not on their lives would they defend 9/11 widows or mothers of war victims in support of President Bush's war effort.
Nor is it harshness, offensiveness or insulting tones that bother them; otherwise, they'd have to denounce 90 percent of the Democratic Party's leadership for the vicious slander they've hurled at George W. Bush for six years or at Justice Clarence Thomas. They would excommunicate from their movement cartoonists for their racist depictions of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They would condemn Michael Moore and the entire lineup at Air America. And they would be outraged at the defamatory drumbeat against Ann Coulter herself and portray her as a victim. One major newspaper called her book "pornography," a magazine called for her to kill herself, a major news anchor said she had trampled on something "sacred," and New York Daily News featured her on the cover as "Coulter the Cruel."
Coulter's comments pale in comparison to the nastiness that routinely comes out of liberals' mouths about conservatives, as when Sen. Harry Reid called President Bush a liar and Alan Greenspan a hack. So please, spare us the indignation.
What really bothers most liberals is not Ann Coulter's tone, but the substance of her criticisms. You dare not challenge liberal orthodoxy; otherwise, you are fair game for the very kind of mistreatment, abuse and intolerance they profess to decry in others. All of which further proves the thesis of Ann's book: Liberalism is a religion whose sacred tenets may not be challenged; for some, it might even be a cult.