Thursday, June 28, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards vs. Ann Coulter

In an ongoing campaign against Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, Ann Coulter fired another salvo at Edwards last Monday while plugging her latest book on Good Morning America:

"I wouldn’t insult gays by comparing them to John Edwards. Now, that would be mean. But about the same time, you know, Bill Maher was not joking and saying he wished Dick Cheney had been killed in a terrorist attack. So I’ve learned my lesson. If I’m gonna say anything about John Edwards in the future, I’ll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot."

For his part, Maher had previously clarified his comments by saying, “I believe that were he [Cheney] not in power, our troops would likely come home sooner. But I don't wish him dead.”

The Edwards campaign first responded as it did back in March, when Ann Coulter then directed an ad hominem attack at Edwards, calling him a "faggot": by asking supporters to send donations to defy her remarks and help Edwards meet his goal of raising $9 million in the second quarter.

On Tuesday, when Coulter appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews to promote the book, Elizabeth Edwards called in to the show to publicly confront Coulter about her incessant use of ad hominem attacks, appealing to her to stop engaging in hate speech and to participate in legitimate political dialogue instead.

Needless to say, Coulter was not receptive to Edwards' suggestion and the conversation quickly degraded, with Coulter shouting over Edwards' voice on the phone.

“I think we heard all we need to hear. The wife of a presidential candidate is asking me to stop speaking,” Coulter said.

Coulter, naturally, was being deliberately obtuse. Being asked to engage in civil, reasoned discourse and to cease with the cheap shots isn't the same as being told to shut up entirely. And considering that Coulter has made her money and acquired her fame by appealing to people's baser instincts, it's a sure bet she has no intention of exchanging the low road for the high road.

In my opinion, Edwards would have scored more of a direct hit if she'd treated Coulter in a pitying manner when she called Hardball, treating her as an ignorant person who didn't know any better. Indeed, my father always told me that using this tactic would elicit more of the desired effect than any criticism would. I would have laughed my ass off if Edwards had said in an unctuous tone, "I'm going to PRAY for you!"

In a later interview on Today, Edwards expanded on her remarks to Coulter: “I hope I was provoking people across the country to speak out when they hear this kind of hate language,” Edwards said. “It made a difference in the South when racist language used to be the way that everyone spoke.

“But then when decent people spoke out and said, ‘We don’t want to hear that anymore,’ it changed. And now racist language is not a part of civil dialogue in the South,”
she added.

Edwards does not hold Coulter solely responsible for the decline in political civility in recent years: “It’s not just Ann Coulter on the right,” she said. “Michael Savage is another example of someone who uses awful inflammatory language that degrades the political process, and the same is true on the left.” She also said, “This is not legitimate political speech. This is speech of hatred and meanness meant to distract us from the issues.”

Coulter has long made John Edwards one of her special targets, starting when she accused the Edwardses of using the 1996 car accident death of their son, Wade, for political advantage. John Edwards noted, however, that he's not the sole target of her cheap shots in the 2008 presidential race, pointing out that Coulter has made fun of Hillary Rodham Clinton's legs and compared Barack Obama to terrorists because his middle name is Hussein.

Why does anyone take this overgrown schoolyard bully seriously?

Elizabeth Edwards is dead on the money. It's time for political discourse in this country to return to the realm of adulthood with civilized, reasoned debates and to leave the juvenile ad hominems behind.


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