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She-Devil and Straw Woman
by Gary Larson
19 March 2004Ann Coulter

All that matters, of course, is the "charge."   Enough, you see, for today's liberal media to sanctify with fake credibility. 

Scourge of the far left, Ann Coulter dares to criticize ex-Senator Max Cleland’s record. Contrary to slurs from liberal critics, she’s ‘questioning' no one’s patriotism.

A curious mix of hate and hubris marks liberal critics’ take on Ann Coulter’s column last month on the record of ex-Senator Max Cleland (D-GA). In knee-jerk fashion (reflexive, you say?) some over-the-top liberals resort to an insidious form of political warfare. They berate Coulter for “questioning” Vietnam war hero Cleland’s patriotism. It’s a bogus charge.

Go line by line in her syndicated February column, “Cleland drops a political grenade.” Nary a peep about anyone’s lack of patriotism.  "No one ever challenged Cleland’s patriotism,” Coulter preemptively wrote, likely foreseeing a “charge” to come from the bash-happy left.

A few Democrats say their patriotism today is held suspect. It's a surreal claim, more anticipatory than based on reality. Why make such a peculiar claim? To distract from duplicitous records in the war on terrorism? To ward off barbs about being called soft on Al-Qaeda?

In brief, here's the scheme:  (1) Conjure up a phony charge. (2) Tie it to a straw man -- in this case, a straw woman. (3) Scream bloody murder against the “charge” you made up for the voodoo doll you created.  Presto!  Ann Coulter becomes your She-Devil, object of liberals' hate, bitch goddess out to malign a good and decent vet’s very honor by “questioning” his patriotism. Only it’s all bunk.

To hear media pump it up, you’d think truth itself was thundering down the mountain. They pounce on every red herring and lavish attention on every spurious “charge.”  Ergo, public attention is drawn from the Real Issues.  Indeed, that might be The Plan.

Always a lighting rod for the left’s brutish hostility, Coulter is smeared as a straw woman.  Media buy into gratuitous slurs. “Charges” are recycled in hateful letters.  One gets the impression that the “liberal” classes, from young apoplectic party wonks to their pandering media allies, just can’t handle simple truths. So they make up their own faux realities.

Do anything, say anything to win.  Facts are immaterial. Falsely-premised charges do nicely. Campaign strategists call the cheap shots, counting on fawning media to recycle them.  Howard Dean sums up this Machiavellian strategy in his exit speech: “Whatever it takes…to beat Bush.”  Whatever?  Such as lying? Creating straw persons? Yeeaaaah!

Win-at-all-cost politicos do not endure truth-telling.  It rips their pipe dreams of the way things ought to be, and would be, if only they had the power.  Of course this trait is NOT exclusive to the political left, which only has the resources -- read, liberal media support -- to recycle red herrings and foist silly charges on the electorate.

The fervent left has honed their tactics to near demagogic perfection. Remember Ken Starr as Inquisitor Torquemada? Robert Bork as “Strict Constructionist?"  Newt Gingrich as, well,  as himself?  Subject of gross misrepresentations, of lies endlessly repeated, they were imbued by passionate liberals and media with detestable values they’d never recognize, let alone espouse. Coulter joins the august group of the put-upon-falsely-by-the-loony-left.  Likely she relishes her status in the pantheon of the hate-fest celebrities. After all, it validates a few of her views of the left’s wretched excesses.

Straw person tactics go beyond spinning a message. They alter the message.  Straw persons are made for bashing. After unleashing their straw-made creatures, the political Dr. Frankensteins snarl at vile “charges” they’ve created for them.  Hypocritical?  Sure. Why, even mature liberals decry such deceits when pressed to declare plain honesty.

Democrats’ Party Boss Terry McAuliffe recites a canard that Cleland was “thrown out of office” by voters of Georgia “because Republicans called him unpatriotic.” That’s hooey.  A sham allegation, it demeans a majority of Georgia voters. No matter.  All that matters, of course, is the "charge."   Enough, you see, for today's liberal media to sanctify with fake credibility.

Cleland does nothing to disabuse the public of the “unpatriotic” notion. Instead he dutifully picks up the Party line.  On the campaign trail, John Kerry and Cleland now adopt, for the political stage, the Big Lie they know to be one -- i.e., that their patriotism is “questioned.” That’s scripted stuff of DNC talking points made for media-peddling and for the otherwise gullible. (Again, P.T. Barnum got it largely right. How terrifying is that?)

A signed commentary in the editorially leftist Minneapolis (MN) Star Tribune illustrates the straw person gambit.  [“For ‘gutter politics,’ look to the Bush camp,” by Deputy Editor Jim Boyd, Feb. 20, 2004.] Boyd bashes Coulter’s column without even a nod to the truth, buying the lie about "questioning" Cleland’s patriotism.  Okay, so he’s 100% biased.

Piling on, Boyd insists “blond guided missile” Coulter was “unleashed” by “Republicans” (VRWC?) to discredit Cleland. Surely he jests. Nope. The daffy deputy editor is quite serious about moving that Party line.  He fails to see Ann Coulter as her own woman -- strong, conservative, the very worst kind of all? -- reporting to no one but herself.  

So what’s Boyd’s beef?  Likely this, from her column: “He [Cleland] should stop allowing Democrats to portray him as a war hero who lost his limbs taking enemy fire on the battlefield of Vietnam.” The turn of phrase “on the battlefield” gets daft left-liberals such as Boyd all lathered up, their undies tied up in bundles. Off they go, half-cocked, wildly hip-shooting, losing all perspective.

(For the record: Cleland’s injury was not the result of enemy fire, but a horrendous accident. He picked up a loose, live hand grenade in a staging area in Vietnam. He barely escaped with his life while becoming a triple amputee for his unquestioned heroism.)

Says Coulter: “Voters in Georgia may have given [Cleland] a pass to Congress as a Vietnam veteran, but he didn’t get a lifetime pass.” Touché! Cleland’s record, no lack of patriotism, separated him from another term as a lifetime U.S. Senator, she suggests.

Boyd labels Coulter “a political operative.” But she’s a mere columnist, a pundit. (Shoe-on-the-other-foot dept.: Is smug, snippy Maureen Dowd a covert political operative?   Does Michael Moore speak for all Democrats?) Come on.  Let's get real.  Coulter is no “shill” for “for the Bush White House.”  Or part of a conspiracy. How paranoid can the  ultraliberal mud-slingers get?

Editor Boyd’s biggest laugh line is possibly unintentional, and quite ironic:  “Democrats are capable of some [sic!] of this, too.” Oh, really? Who would have guessed it?

Here's one example:  Look only to Boyd himself equating President Bush’s war policies to those of the most reviled man in history, Adolph Hitler. In a 2002 column, Boyd quite agrees with a German cabinet minister’s remark laying on the Nazi line on the U.S. president.  How’s that for dirty God-awful punditry? Can’t get more gutter-style “capable” than this lowest of all blows from the wild-eyed left.

Political foul play is what far left-liberals say, at least, they abhor. (Gosh, so they're both hypocritical and malicious?)  Myopic individuals, many on the hard left don’t “get it,” likely never to join their responsible liberal colleagues seeing flaws in false premises.  Seeing motes in others’ eyes, they see no beams in their own.  Call it a political blind spot, often inbred, more likely the result of their  collegiate indoctrinations. Oh well.  That's life in biased times.  

Making straw persons to malign is a  phenomenon conservatives and libertarians now come to expect -- not only in adversaries’ Party organs, but also in “mainstream” media.  The two morph into a truth-defying, single-minded voice, akin to the prosaic output of Oceania’s Ministry of Truth,  in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.  Our hero Winston Smith wailed: “Until they [proles] become conscious they will never rebel…” against the Party line.  Or question it. ‘Tis a pity, such intellectual myopia.

Gary Larson is a retired association CEO and former business magazine editor residing in Minnesota.  He is not the cartoonist of the same name.  Larson is a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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