On Wednesday, September 24th, 2007, I met Ann Coulter on the University of Southern California campus.
The circumstances surrounding her arrival are in conjunction with this past week being declared “Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week” around the country. Ms. Coulter was a guest of the Trojan Republicans. There were several dynamics at play with regards to her visit.
The first dynamic was Ms. Coulter herself. I recently attended a function where five Presidential candidates were speaking, and there was less security than at this event.
The second dynamic were the various protesters. Always a volatile bunch, observing them is as much of a learning experience as observing Ms. Coulter.
The third dynamic was the message itself. Some would say that Ms. Coulter is a flawed messenger, and that automatically invalidates her message. Others disagree, saying that the message is still valid. Others say she and the message are both fantastic. As for the protesters, some would say that the protesters offer irrelevant tangents, and those tangents, often despicable, render their protests themselves irrelevant. Others say the protests are valid despite the protesters. An incredible shrinking minority, based on what I saw at USC, supported the protesters and their message.
Again, in the spirit of liberalism, I will address this in a backwards way, starting with the protesters. I made it to the campus just in time to hear Ms. Coulter speak. However, I could not get in due to the building being packed to capacity. The fire marshals, who I believe to be non-partisan, were not allowing anybody else in. If people left, the only others allowed in were students that needed to go to class. Police officers would escort them to class to make sure they were actually doing that.
I want to say that not all protesters are mindless imbeciles that have no idea what they are talking about. However, a decent number of these protesters fit perfectly into that category. I want to make it clear that the protesters numbered between 30 and 50 people, or about 1/10 of 1% of the campus population. Also, maybe half to 3/5 of the protesters were actually students. Some of them were 1960s relics still fighting the battles of the past.
The protesters apparently went to public school, because their signs were often spelled incorrectly. In addition, the largest sign stated, “Say no to Islamofacism week, no to bigotry, no to war, and no to military recruiters.” The speakers ranged from the giggly teenager who kept forgetting her lines, where she would awkwardly pause and quietly say the word “fascism,” to the white haired, scruffy, 50 year old leftist who wanted to rail against Western Civilization and criticize politicians whose only sin seems to be trying to stop people from wanting to blow up Western Civilization.
Many of the signs said, “Christians, Jews and Muslims United.” The speakers then went on to spew some of the most virulently antisemitic venom I have heard since…well, the last leftist “peace” rally. Zionism, the illegal Israeli occupation, the Neocons, the Brownshirts, Hitler, Halliburton, and the warmongers were all wrapped up into several incoherent paragraphs.
The thing about these protesters is that many of them were either too stubborn or too idiotic to realize that many people who are against the war are embarrassed to be seen with these people. The country is deeply split on the war, but Coulter fans outnumbered protesters by more than 10 to 1.
The protesters wailed about how their freedoms were being taken away and their liberties were being trampled on by the Bush Administration. Apparently, this was never communicated to the police officers, who, despite my heartfelt pleas, refused to teargas any of them. The protesters simply refused to try and engage in any acts of violence that would trigger the ire of the law. Some would say that it would make no sense for the police to act without provocation, but I thought this was America, where the police randomly beat people up for no reason, not some rinky dink 3rd world Middle Eastern theocracy where everything is hearts and flowers.
Various decent human beings were attacked one by one, from David Horowitz to Daniel Pipes to Norman Podhoretz. Yes, they are Neocons, but I will not print the lines of attacks launched against these men.
Nevertheless, after enough antisemitism to last a lifetime, I smiled, and asked for the right to speak. Given that my hair is slightly past my collar, they profiled me and treated me as one of their own. I spoke for almost 5 minutes, and at no time did they try to shout me down.
“Hello. My name is Eric, and my father is a Holocaust survivor. He entered this world getting shot at. My family lived on the run in the woods like animals. They were hunted like dogs. Other family members of mine were murdered. It was a brutal atrocity that nobody should ever have to experience.
So for those of you today who preach peace, and love, and kindness, you need to understand that there is not one single politician in the United States that even comes close to being anywhere near as evil as Adolf Hitler. To compare anyone today in America to Hitler is disgusting, and it is as wrong factually as it is morally.
If I hear anybody refer to Hillary as ‘Hitlery,” I will condemn it. If I hear President Bush or Vice President Cheney compared to Hitler, I will condemn it as well.
You claim that your freedoms and liberties are being taken away, and your right to dissent is being crushed. You are protesting right now, and nobody is stopping you. To refer to anyone in America as a Brownshirt or a Nazi only weakens your cause. There are thousands of people on this campus who might agree with you about the war, but they are not here with you because your methods push them away.
You need to look inside yourselves and ask yourselves if you really believe in peace for Christians, Muslims and Jews United, as your signs claim. If that is the case, do not use language that is vicious towards Jews, since it will just push them away, and it is wrong.
You have the right to free speech, and the right to find aspects of the war disgusting. I have the right to tell you that if you do not stop using disgusting language yourself, you will be no better than the people you claim to hate.
It is up to you. Be good human beings. Understand that the President did not fly planes into the towers, and he did not murder 6 million Jews in cold blood. Good human beings can disagree about the war, but do not compare anybody in America to Adolf Hitler.”
There were two things I did not mention, because it would have been overkill. I did not mention that people who spell their signs wrong come across as uneducated baboons. I also did not mention that it is almost laughable to listen to protesters say that America is raping the environment, and then have these same protesters leave their signs on the grass to ruin it.
Nevertheless, I was shocked by what transpired next. A few of the protesters came up to me and apologized for invoking Hitler and Nazism. More importantly, these were not mealy mouthed comments about how such language was “not helpful.” “Not helpful” is code for, “If it was helpful, we would be even more hateful.” No, these apologies were sincere. They clearly understood why such language was awful. A couple of them tried to say it was a parallel, that we went to war with such reckless abandon in the same way 1930s Germany went to war, but I was having none of this specious argument. I again explained to them that there was zero comparison between the two situations, and it was morally reprehensible to suggest a link. It is quite possible that a couple hearts were changed, and for the better.
A couple of the police officers told me how much they appreciated my words. They were so appreciative that they let me into the building to see Ms. Coulter. Her speech was almost over, so I missed most of it. Yet I was inside, while the others were outside. A second hand account from others would be filtered through too many lenses. She kept her remarks for the most part to the topic at hand, that being Islamofacism.
I bought her book because I wanted to meet her. I have said in the past that while I agree with much of what she says, her approach makes me “uncomfortable.” I have on more than one occasion stated that “if her goal is to get rich, she is a genius. If her goal is to make the world a better place, her approach may make things worse.” In fairness to Ms. Coulter, I do not ever recall her hearing that her goal was to make the world a better place. I have to confess that I honestly do not know what her agenda is. I find it difficult to judge whether her methods are successful when I do not know what the ends to her means are.
I bought her book, and wanted to see for myself what some of her more “controversial” remarks were. My plan was to read some of them before having her autographing my book. However, in a bizarre twist of fate, I went from being on the outside looking in to being one of the first 15 people in line. I decided to observe how she interacted with her fans. While I figured she would be nice, there are plenty of celebrities who have people herded through a line in rapid fire like sheep. Smile, click the picture, and get lost.
Regardless of what one’s political views are, the only way to describe Ann Coulter’s behavior towards the people she met was lovely. She was fabulous. I expected her to be nice, but she took several minutes with each person. Nice was an understatement. Some people smile for the camera and then are abusive when the cameras are off. Barbra Streisand is famous for screaming at her staff. Ms. Coulter was the opposite.
When it was my turn, I said, “Hi Ms. Coulter, my name is Eric.”
She replied, “Hi Eric, it’s nice to meet you!,” in a big booming, yet almost “girly” voice. It reminded me of an excited junior high school girl, and I mean that in a positive way in the sense that I was the one who was supposed to be excited, not her.
I said to her, “Ms. Coulter, you were great at Hannity’s Freedom Concert on 9/11.”
She asked, “You were at that concert? Wasn’t that a great concert? I had so much fun!”
I told her, “I deliberately flew on 9/11 to New York because that was my way of fighting back. I got on a plane and attended the Freedom Concert.”
She thundered, “That is fabulous that you flew on 9/11! That is fabulous!”
I told her,”The joke you made about Hillary Clinton and the NASA female astronaut was hilarious.”
She replied, “Thank you! I especially liked that one as well.”
I said, “I was actually in the front row, but I was drowned out by the marriage proposals.”
She laughed again.
At that point I turned serious, but still respectful. I was not going to grill her, because that was not the time and place. I missed the Q & A, and I am not going to abuse somebody, especially somebody being that gracious. I phrased my question delicately.
“Ms Coulter, I am a conservative republican, but I am also Jewish. Were your recent remarks taken out of context?”
She responded emphatically, but still in a friendly manner. There was no trace of anger. She stated, “Not taken out of context…lied about. I was completely lied about.”
I then responded, “Well Ms. Coulter, I refuse to judge you in a vacuum. I have never heard anything in your career that rises to antisemitism, and you have always come across as Pro-Israel.”
Some people see Ms. Coulter as inhuman, but she is a person, and she showed genuine human emotion as she said, “Thank you. I appreciate you saying that.”
I then continued. “May I ask you a favor though? Can you please explain the importance of Israel to Alan Colmes? He is Jewish, and he doesn’t get it.”
She let out a big laugh, and said, “I know, isn’t that ironic? I explain it to him, and I get attacked. I’ll keep trying.”
I wanted to be considerate of the people in the line, because she seemed like she would continue talking to each person.
“Ms. Coulter, I know you are against human cloning, but if you ever do get cloned as a Jewish person, my friends and I can go to the jewelry store and add to your endless list of marriage proposals.
She laughed again.
I walked away, and realized I had completely forgotten about the picture. I did not have a camera with me, but remembered my cell phone took pictures. I had no idea how to work it, but somebody else did. I said to her, “I must have been star struck. I forgot to get a picture with you.”
She laughed again, and somebody took the picture. It shows up as a giant red “X,” which means either “el dorko” messed it up totally, or one of my techie friends will convert it into some file thingie or something. I told her to “keep fighting the good fight.”
I walked away feeling that she was significantly warmer than she is projected on television, but also that she is the one projecting herself that way. I also felt that if she was an antisemite, I did not see that. I wonder if the people who feel she is antisemitic would be willing to condemn the remarks the protesters made outside, which were virulently antisemitic.
I decided to read the first few pages of her book, to see what comments she had made were considered “controversial.”
She referred to “that old Arab Helen Thomas.” I have zero problems with this comment. Helen Thomas is hostile towards Jewish issues and Israel. She is a Palestinian sympathizer. She has overstayed her welcome for several decades, and because she has seniority, nobody wants to question the quality of her work.
She called Katie Couric, “the affable Eva Braun of morning tv.” Does calling someone Eva Braun link the person to Hitler? An argument can be made either way. Eva Braun loved an evil man, but I am not aware of her individual evil. However, it was not a good choice of words. Nevertheless, Katie Couric will smile at you sweetly, and then viciously slice you up. Ann’s point is valid.
The common thread running through Ann Coulter’s comments is that even when her comments supposedly, “cross the line,” the underlying point beneath the comments is usually very sound…and right. The problem is people focus on the “joke,” rather than the point itself. This is how Ann Coulter can turn away people who would otherwise agree with her.
One point Ann Coulter makes that is completely valid is that the democrats use spokespeople that are “beyond reproach.” They cannot be criticized. This is nothing more than an attempt to silence dissent, and conservatives in general.
Cindy Sheehan is a grieving mother, so she cannot be criticized. Her right to speak is “absolute,” even though she is not God. John Kerry and Max Cleland went to war, so they cannot be criticized. The 9/11 widows lost their husbands, so they cannot be criticized. When these people get disputed, democrats then trot out children, handicapped people, or both. Christopher Reeve was in a wheelchair, so he cannot be criticized. Michael J. Fox has Parkinson’s disease, so he cannot be criticized. Ann Coulter sees the left as trying to stifle debate by focusing on emotions instead of reasoning and facts.
Here are some facts.
Michael J. Fox was dishonest when he spoke about stem cell research. He did not differentiate adult vs embryonic, and stated that it was banned, which was untrue.
Christopher Reeve would not have been cured by embryonic stem cell research based on what we know now. Also, His injuries were a direct result of his own reckless behavior.
John Kerry and Max Cleland both had injuries that were self inflicted. Also, their being in combat does not give them the right to denigrate anyone else for not serving due to draft deferments. It also does not make them the final authority on war issues, since many veterans disagree with them.
Cindy Sheehan is a grieving mother. Other grieving mothers disagree with her, and they do so without the latent antisemitism that popularizes the modern left.
The 9/11 widows entered the political arena and bashed the President. The President was horrified by 9/11, and his supporters had every right to say that those four women did not represent all, or even a plurality, of 9/11 widows.
What Ann Coulter does not do is mitigate her comments with sympathy. She is not required to do so. She could make perfunctory statements about how her heart goes out to Michael J. Fox for being sick, for Christopher Reeve and Max Cleland being unable to walk, and for John Kerry and Max Cleland being heroes. So why does she not do it? I suspect, because she has “had it.” Heroes do not need to announce they are heroes, and victims confined to wheelchairs are given “heroic” status. Nobody wants to see people suffering, but she (and I) are tired of being told we are bad people because we disagree with someone who happens to be a victim of something tragic. So because of this, she comes across as icy and uncaring. I would prefer that to somebody who faked empathy, pretended to “feel my pain,” and bit my lower lip and shed a gentle tear on cue.
Where Ann Coulter causes controversy is the words she uses to make various points.
I did not find anything in her remarks about Max Cleland that crossed the line. She did not denigrate his service, nor that of John Kerry.
Her “Eva Braun” remark about Katie Couric made me uncomfortable, and it weakens her incredibly valid point about Katie Couric’s viciousness.
Her comments about 9/11 widows was 90% truth, and got overshadowed by a small part of her remarks. I have redacted her remarks for length, but here is what she said.
“The girls were not interested in national honor, they were interested in a lawsuit. They complained that the settlement was not large enough. After getting their payments jacked up, they took to the airwaves to denounce Bush. These self-obsessed women seemed genuinely unaware that 9/11 was an attack on our entire nation, not only them.”
So far, she is right. She continues.
“They are lionized on tv, reveling in their status as celebrities, and stalked by griefarazzis. I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ deaths so much.”
Yes, these women were self-absorbed. Yes, they enjoyed their fame. However, “enjoying,” their husbands death is harsh. Ann Coulter continues.
“They endorsed John Kerry for President. They complained about the Bush campaign using images from 9/11 in campaign ads, calling it ‘political propaganda,’ completely different from their campaign commercials for Kerry.”
Ann Coulter is totally right about this. Yet, she adds one more sentence.
“How do we know their husbands weren’t planning on divorcing these harpies?”
One of the reasons that “joke” flatlines with me is because it is not based on any truth or evidence.
Ann Coulter has had it with liberals lying, making up stories (still lying), exaggerating (again, lying), yet she offers wild speculation on this issue. Calling it a “joke” does not change that to pass the humor test, it has to have a basis in truth.
When she called John Edwards a word that rhymes with maggot, she explained that the word is used to describe childish behavior. I have heard people say, “that is so gay.” By gay, they mean “lame.” Dire Straits used the word in a song, although they later changed it. I would not use the word, because it is a pejorative for gays. She should not use it. However, trying to say she is anti-gay based on that remark is baloney. She was calling John Edwards a “pretty boy,” which he is. She should have called him a “girly boy,” or something to that effect.
She said we should “convert them to Christianity.” By them, she means Islamofascists, not all Muslims. Those who criticize her on this point criticize all of Islamofascist awareness week as racist, which it is not. The criticizers of this event also attacked Dr. Pipes, who has repeatedly emphasized the differences between radical and moderate Islam. Also, the left might want to be concerned that the terrorists want to convert all non-Muslims to Islam. Ms. Coulter is merely retaliating.
As for the Jewish remarks, I was not thrilled by them, but her career has always been Pro-Israel, and that has to count.
Her most scathing remarks are when she calls Bill Clinton a rapist. Bill Clinton is an adulterer. He did sleep with Gennifer Flowers. He is a sexual harasser. He settled with Paula Jones. Monica Lewinsky was sexual harassment because they were not equals. He was her boss, and similar conduct at Boeing led to firings. He is a sexual predator, as his conduct with Kathleen Willey would indicate.
However, Juanita Broderick’s claims, to the best of my knowledge, were never proven. Therefore, he is an accused rapist at worst. Calling him a rapist is dicey. However, Bill Clinton is a liar, and when one lies, one then loses the benefit of the doubt on those issues. Bill Clinton is guilty until proven innocent in the court of public opinion (not legally) based on his past offenses. Therefore, Coulter calling him a rapist is not a stretch. However, I would still not use that word. He is a sexual predator and accused rapist. That is not much better, but it does not force a retraction if he turns out to be innocent on that specific charge.
I still do not know what to make of Ann Coulter. She is exceptionally bright, a self made millionaire, and a great speaker. She is also very personable, and yes, in person, warm.
She pushes boundaries, but so does Sarah Silverman. So does Chris Rock. So did Lenny Bruce. So did Richard Pryor. She is an entertainer, and she is controversial.
I am not sure where “the line,” is, but I have to say that in my mind she has crossed it at least once. However, that does not change the fact that her underlying points are insightful, brilliant, and in most cases, truthful.
Her style puts some people off. Her substance is deep. To ask that people focus only on her substance and ignore her style is not fair, since her style is one reason she has rocketed to fame. However, focusing only on her style and ignoring the substance of her remarks is intellectually dishonest. Also, many conservatives, including myself, have offered substance in a much “nicer” style. We get lambasted and lied about anyway.
I look at Ann Coulter as somebody who sees liberals lying about everything and anything conservative. Since they are going to lie anyway, why try to be gracious? Rather than be a victim, such as Robert Bork or Clarence Thomas, she would rather be an aggressor. She would rather deck them than be decked, and they would deck her just for being a conservative. Also, she gets rich and successful with her approach. Hillary Clinton does the same thing, but Hillary does it by lying, and yet she is the victim. There is a double standard.
As for Ann Coulter, is her approach worth it? She would say yes, some would say no. Based on her critics, more often than not, I am inclined to agree with her. Her methods are not mine, but maybe she does not need to soften up. Maybe I am a marshmallow, and should toughen up. After all, either way, liberals will hate us, so why play nice?
She is complex, and I am glad I met her.