July 19, 2007

Ann Coulter vs. John Edwards

The following is a quote from a June 26 Associated Press article by Mike Baker:
On ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday, Coulter was asked about a March speech in which she used a gay slur to refer to Edwards."If I'm going to say anything about John Edwards in the future, I'll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot," Coulter said Monday, picking up on remarks made by HBO's Bill Maher. Maher suggested in March that "people wouldn't be dying needlessly" if Vice President Dick Cheney had been killed in an insurgent attack in Afghanistan.
Sometimes, I just shake my head when I read about these kinds of remarks by Ann Coulter. What was the point of this statement? She has to know that the context of what she says will be ignored in most of the coverage of such extreme statements. The Associated Press article I quoted above is a rare exception to that rule.

At this point, it is useful to examine the Tu quoque logical fallacy and when this logical fallacy actually applies to an argument. Assuming the Associated Press article is accurate, what Coulter said was a play on Maher's statement. Pointing this out is not a justification for what Coulter said. It provides context for why Coulter made that statement.

While Maher said about Vice President Cheney months ago explains Coulter's statement, it does not excuse Coulter making a similar (though not identical) statement about Senator Edwards. It was a stupid and uncivil thing to say. It does not convert anyone to conservatism and it lowers the level of political discourse. Coulter could have easily made a less inflammatory play on what Maher said. A while back, Ann Coulter made another inflammatory statement about John Edwards during her speech at the CPAC conference. Coulter said:
I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot'...
It seems clear to me that what Coulter said here was meant to illustrate how silly the Left is when they foam at the mouth every time she says something. Nonetheless, there are better ways to point that out. Like the later quote, what she said did not add anything productive, will not change anyone's mind, and serves to energize and motivate the Left. Politically speaking, it was a dumb thing to say. But there's also no doubt that calling Edwards a "faggot" was also meant to be an applause line from the conservative audience.

Most importantly, statements like the ones Coulter made about Edwards lowers the level of political discourse. Conservatives can argue until they're blue in the face that the Left gets away with saying things that are as bad or worse, but that doesn't excuse the things Coulter has said. Refusing to sink to the level of a Bill Maher does not make conservatives wimps and it does not cost us votes. It only makes us civil.

What is unfortunate is that Coulter is a very intelligent woman who can educate people about conservative arguments. However, she spends too much time inflaming and not enough time convincing. Instead of being a serious pundit, she comes off as a clown and any convincing arguments she has is forgotten when she is is intentionally offensive. She can still be uncompromising and aggressive, while leaving out the personal attacks that become the focus rather than the arguments she tries to make.