It's easy to pick apart the arguments of people like Ann Coulter -- the discussion is at sewer level, the syntax is simple, the shots are cheap. Read enough rants by Coulter and the Coulteresque, however, and you begin to fall into the trap of thinking that, by comparison, the more polysyllabic right-wingers sound "reasonable." Some do, of course, but don't be fooled by literary allusions or the occasional acknowledgment that it's safe to allow (some) liberals around small children -- people such as, oh, say, Richard Brookhiser are fighting essentially the same fight as Coulter, using somewhat different rhetorical weapons ... and they're as full of it as Coulter is. To show you what I mean, I've annoted this passage from Bookhiser's latest New York Observer column:
Without care, however -- and they are not showing much care these days -- liberals can become infected with left-wing arguments and attitudes, adopting them as their own, or not balking when others do so. The idea that we are bombing Iraq for oil is a perfect example. Where is it flowing? Who is pumping it? What gas prices have dropped as a result?(*) Another example of a left-wing opinion that liberals toy with is the notion that the Palestinian situation motivates the jihadists. This is a particular favorite of self-hating, self-loving Jews: self-hating because they want Israelis to be at fault; self-loving because they believe in their own omnipotence (if we were perfect, all would be well). If you think that greedy oil men and malicious Jews have led us into war in the desert, then you will speak in tongues, in poetry anthologies and to passersby.(**)
How many tongue-speakers are there in America? The red and blue county map, the close balance of Congress and the polls suggest that they are about half the country.(***) Half the country, and more of the talk. If George Bush wins re-election, it will mean that, though millions of people care about the clothes, lovers and twelve-step programs of the stars, they do not give a damn about their opinions.(****)
(*)In other words, this could only have been a war for oil if it had been a successful war for oil; if a war fails to achieve an objective, that objective was, by definition, not the motivation for going to war.
(To tell you the truth, I don't think this was exclusively, or even primarily, a war for oil. I think it was a war for empire; a war inspired by the virulent, cockamamie Saddam = 9/11 theories of Laurie Mylroie; a war that appealed to an immature, impatient president because it promised to be the big gusher, the quick kill, that turned back terrorism and remade the Middle East in one fell swoop. But the fact that we screwed up in our attempt to get easy access to lots of oil proves nothing about whether this was, in fact, an oil war.)
(**)Is the Palestinian situation a grievance invoked by jihadists? I think so, and I'm guessing you do, too. Notice that Brookhiser sidesteps the question of whether this is actually true; much easier (and nastier) to attack this notion by attacking those who believe it -- or, to be precise, a straw-man version of those who believe it.
(***)In the previous paragraph, liberals (people who are sadly misled but basically sane and salvageable) were distinct from leftists (nutjobs suffering the dread Michael Moore Disease). All of a sudden, in this paragraph, everyone who's votes Democratic is a certified loon. "Tongue-speaker" is a rather more high-minded insult than you'd get from Coulter, but make no mistake: Brookhiser's saying that everyone who says "I'm voting for Kerry" to a pollster is a wacko.
(****)At the end of the day, you can give a right-winger an education, but he's still going to play to the cheap seats by invioking those crazy lefties from Hollywood.