July 17, 2004

WingsandVodka: How to Talk to a Treasonous Slandermonger (If You Must)

by Wings&Vodka

Though I didn’t find it necessary to loosely interpret “well-known” in order to find a target, I did have to get flexible with the term “blogger.” I knew that if I was going to spend the better part of an afternoon combing thru someone’s prose, it would have to be the prose of someone I truly adore. And nobody makes my heart skip a beat like the lovely and talented Ann Coulter.

In her weekly web column from July 7th, the best-selling author/talk-show circuit diva/part-time lingerie model attacks Kerry’s choice of Edwards to ride shotgun this fall. She begins:

I guess with John Kerry's choice of John Edwards as his running mate, he really does want to stand up for all Americans, from those worth only $60 million to those worth in excess of $800 million.

Cheney and Bush having thrown most of their fundraising banquets with food stamps, I can understand her ire here. But she quickly makes it clear that her problems with Edwards go well beyond his immense richitudiness:

In one of the many stratagems Democrats have developed to avoid telling people what they believe, all Edwards wants to talk about is his cracker-barrel humble origins story. We're supposed to swoon over his "life story," as the flacks say, which apparently consists of the amazing fact that ... his father was a millworker!

This is just jealousy. Given his campaign theme, Bush would give Tom Ridge’s left lung to have a dad that was a mill worker. All we’ve heard for the last six months are constant reaffirmations of Bush’s being in touch with the values of normal, everyday Americans, and Kerry’s being “out of the mainstream.” Now, I think most real liberals would give anything for Kerry and Edwards to be a little bit further out of the so-called mainstream on any number of issues. But Bush started the “I’m A Rich Guy Who’s More Normal Than the Other Rich Guy” competition, and the Democrats are just trying to fight cracker barrels with cracker barrels. Even so, Ann still disapproves:

That's right up there with "Clinton's stepdad was a drunk" and "Ted Kennedy's dad was a womanizing bootlegger" on my inspirational life-stories meter. In fact, I'm immediately renouncing my university degrees and going to work for the post office just to give my future children a shot at having a "life story," should they decide to run for president someday.

Silly Ann. You can’t renounce degrees. Hell, you can’t even have them stripped away by the Patriot Act. You’re stuck being a Michigan grad for life. Sorry.

What is so amazing about Edwards' father being a millworker? That's at least an honorable occupation -- as opposed to being a trial lawyer. True, Edwards made more money than his father did. I assume strippers make more money than their alcoholic fathers who abandoned them did, too. This isn't a story of progress; it's a story of devolution.

This, too, is pretty cheap, and not just because she brings innocent strippers into the mix. I think Republican critics completely misunderstand Edwards’s goal when he brings up his father’s occupation. It’s not that he thinks his dad’s being a mill worker makes his own achievements more impressive or his own story more inspirational. Rather, he brings up his father’s job because he wants to get that embarrassing fact out into the open before the Republicans can use it against him.

I remember once, as a kid, when a few of my friends from elementary school agreed to come over to my house and play, but then promptly decided to leave when they discovered that I didn’t own a Nintendo. Do you have any idea how embarrassing that was? I wet my bed for a week. Imagine if Edwards had invited Bush over to his house and Bush had been like, “Hey, where’s your Dad’s Secret Service detail?” What the hell would Edwards have done then? Well, I’ll tell you what he would have done--he would have peed in his bed. So quit harping on the mill worker thing, okay? He had no choice.

Obviously not wishing to inflame me any further, Coulter moves on to her indictment of Edwards’s legal career:

Despite the overwrought claims of Edwards' dazzling legal skills, winning jury verdicts in personal injury cases has nothing to do with legal talent and everything to do with getting the right cases -- unless "talent" is taken to mean "having absolutely no shame." Edwards specialized in babies with cerebral palsy whom he claimed would have been spared the affliction if only the doctors had immediately performed Caesarean sections. … In one of Edwards' silver-tongued arguments to the jury on behalf of a girl born with cerebral palsy, he claimed he was channeling the unborn baby girl, Jennifer Campbell, who was speaking to the jurors through him: "She said at 3, 'I'm fine.' She said at 4, 'I'm having a little trouble, but I'm doing OK.' Five, she said, 'I'm having problems.' At 5:30, she said, 'I need out.'"

Okay. That’s pretty hideous. Even if I’m not against these tactics for ethical reasons, I’m certainly willing to admit a problem with Edwards on rhetorical grounds. But I’ve got to wonder: Would the criticism of Edwards be any lighter if he’d been defending the doctors? Wouldn’t conservatives just fold it into his pro-choice stance and call him a multi-tasking baby killer? Perhaps it would have been better for him to have avoided malpractice cases altogether and gone to work for a big firm…maybe one working for Enron? Somehow I don’t think that would have helped Edwards escape Coulter’s criticism, either.

The truth is, Ann hates lawyers. She’s a self-loathing attorney, and she’s taking out her frustrations on this poor guy from North Carolina who was just trying to make a buck. I mean, come on. His dad was a mill worker for chrissake. But she refuses to back down:

In addition, the "little guys" Edwards claims to represent are having a lot more trouble finding doctors to deliver their babies these days as obstetricians leave the practice rather than pay malpractice insurance in excess of $100,000 a year.

Well, yes, you could attribute that to a rise in malpractice litigation. But some people might point out that the increase in malpractice insurance rates has significantly outstripped the increase in number and size of malpractice suits. Others might point out that insurer-enforced caps on allowed annual deliveries are the result of actuarial horse hockey. And still others might point out that a nationwide total of annual malpractice jury awards would look pretty meager compared to a nationwide total of annual tax breaks received by insurance companies in BushWorld. But those people are clearly communists.

And may we ask what the pre-born Jennifer Campbell thinks about war with Iraq? North Korea? Marginal tax rates? If Miss Cleo here is going to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, I think the voters are entitled to know that.

If I were Michael Moore, I’d argue that Jennifer Campbell is preferable to, say, the Saudis. But Michael Moore is a fruitbat, so I’ll keep my mouth shut. Ann keeps going:

While making himself fabulously rich by taking a one-third cut of his multimillion-dollar verdicts coaxed out of juries with junk science and maudlin performances, Edwards has the audacity to claim, "I was more than just their lawyer; I cared about them. Their cause was my cause." If he cared so deeply, how about keeping just 10 percent of the multimillion-dollar jury awards, rather than a third? In fact, as long as these Democrats are so eager to raise the taxes of "the rich," how about a 90 percent tax on contingency fees?

You know…you’re right. I’ll see your 90 percent tax on contingency fees, and raise you a 90 percent tax on publishers’ advances. But somehow I don’t think that would go very far in making up for the Bush tax cut. That is, unless your advances have gotten a lot bigger without me noticing. But I’m thinking that if they had you’d be sucking down banana coladas in Cozumel instead of posting weekly on the Web, so maybe we’d better stick with taxing the rich in general.

I guess the thing that confuses me is the focus on Edwards’s pre-political life instead of his six years as a U.S. Senator. As a liberal, I would say that Edwards’s votes for the Patriot Act and the war in Iraq make him a lousy senator; it seems like conservatives could just as easily point to the votes and say that they make him a hypocrite. I’d also point out his bullshit equivocating on the gay marriage issue and say that if he expects the support of the gay community in November, he ought to do a little more than the minimum in order to earn that support. Conservatives could point to his bullshit equivocating and call him an Evil Satanist Homosexual. But that’s not what Coulter’s after, and I don’t blame her. Focusing on Edwards’s actual performance as an elected official forces the same sort of focus on Bush’s performance, and that’s not good for anybody. So, we’ll stick to the past which, I think, can be summed up thusly:

John Edwards was spectacularly successful in the shameless exploitation of disabled babies for financial gain, while George Bush was spectacularly unsuccessful in the shameless exploitation of the environment for financial gain.

The Big Conclusion? It’s simple, really. Disabled babies are more lucrative than oil. Especially when they’re born into a family of mill workers.

See you in November.

July 17, 2004 5:59 PM | TrackBack
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