When somebody as smart and as gutsy as Ann Coulter equivocates over so direct a question � Was Jack Kennedy a traitor? -- you know (and they know) � that something is very wrong with the position they are defending. Equally disturbing was Coulter�s use of the phrase, �functionally treasonable� � as in �[the Democratic Party] has become functionally treasonable.� This is a problematic phrase on several counts. In the first place, �treasonable� is not a word but seems to suggest �capable of treason,� which is different from being actually treasonous. The distinction is important.
But �functionally treasonable� is also disturbingly reminiscent of the old Stalinist term �objectively fascist.� This was how people who swore their loyalty to the cause were condemned (often to death) if they deviated from the party line. Stalinists defined all dissent as �objectively� treacherous. This is not a path that conservatives should follow. When intent and individuality are separated from actions in a political context, we are entering a totalitarian realm where Ann Coulter does not really want to be.
Why is she equivocating about Jack Kennedy anway? Kennedy was not only not a traitor, he was not even a weak anti-Communist, as she claims. He was arguably stronger than Eisenhower or Nixon in prosecuting the Cold War. His politics were that of Ronald Reagan. He was a militant anti-Communist and a military hawk, authorizing the largest defense buildup in peacetime history. What can she mean when she says that Kennedy was �surrounded by bad policymakers� � i.e., policymakers who were presumably liberals and therefore harmed the country and its national security? Kennedy was surrounded by Republican policymakers. His secretaries of State, Defense and Treasury � the three key foreign policy posts � were all Republicans. He launched his administration by declaring that America would pay any price to defend the cause of freedom. He tried to overthrow Castro by force. It�s true that he bungled the invasion but Dwight Eisenhower failed the Hungarians in 1956, while Nixon and Kissinger betrayed the Vietnamese in the infamous truce of 1973. In 1961, Kennedy stood the Russians down in Berlin � risking nuclear war to do so � and a year later he again risked nuclear war to force the removal of Soviet missiles in Cuba. He put 16,000 troops into Vietnam rather than write that country off to the Communists. Why is Ann equivocating on the question of his loyalty and commitment to the anti-Communist cause?
The author is David Horowitz, writing in FrontPage Magazine, which lies between Michael Savage and National Review on the axis of far-right militant conservatism. I found his critique of Coulter's book to be rigorous and authoritive. I find this piece to be a mark of integrity. Horowitz has views and opinions that I personally find outrageous - but they are views, not coldly calculating triangulations of poitical expediency. As a result, his critique (which starts out with an expression of admiration for Coulter as a brilliant satiricist, a perspective of her that I had honestly not considered before and which dramatically affects my evaluation of some of her writings) is all the more definitive on the matter.
What may be disingenious, or (to be charitable) perhaps simply naieve on his part, is the last question (underlined above). I think the answer is obvious, and I'll let another extremely conservative columnist, Tom Bevan in RealCLearPolitics.com, answer:
The entire cable talk show industry formula is out of whack. You can't go around the country searching out the most outrageously loud and obnoxious people, put them on air and order them to generate instant ratings by being loud and obnoxious, and then fire them when they end up being loud and obnoxious.
But it's the same pattern with Coulter: conservative "bomb thrower" taps into huge, right-leaning media market and experiences phenomenal success. Bomb thrower gets bolder, Makes bigger, more elaborate bombs and throws them harder than ever at other side. Bombs explode in face.
Bevan's final sentence is one that I absolutely agree with, and which gain strikes me as a mark of integrity: "We need to see and hear less from the Michael Savages and Michael Moores of the world and more from people who are interested in serious, thoughtful debate." Unfortunately, the current "media environment" which he holds to blame for this is almost entirely the result of the conservative dominance of media. And that is why these critiques, coming from within conservatism itself, are so essential, and deserve recognition.
UPDATE: another voice of integrity speaks:
Just because I don't hate Muslims as you do doesn't mean I'm a dupe for Islamism. Just because I'm concerned about the progress of the Iraq war doesn't mean I'm a defeatist. Just because I don't adore President Bush doesn't mean I'm a leftist. Learn to accept nuance. Learn to tolerate gradations of belief.
And above all, learn that this is a site for discussion. If you want to be led by the nose and have the latest half-baked essay thrust at you as epic lit, this ain't the place. I'm not that guy. I don't believe that all creeds are created equal. I do believe in an objective moral code. I do believe in the ultimate victory of the right. I do believe in God, America, and the Dallas Cowboys. That's why I'm not afraid to open the doors to all comers and let them have it out. It's not "moral equivalence." It's confidence. If you can't take it, then I'm sorry you're on my side.
People like Tacitus make heated disagreement fun again.
regular readers will be reminded that I also put John Derbyshire in the same category as these. I've been getting some extremely hyperactive email from avrious super-liberal groups after my newfoundfame in Salon and I think that mentioning my admiration for the Derb - a man of integrity, compassion, and morality - will hopefully insulate me from the onslaught.