July 31, 2002
Buckner, Rose, and Coulter

An interesting piece in Salon today by Keith Olbermann about understanding the consequences of one's actions. Here's the part that got me:

It will never occur to [Ann] Coulter that in the vast crowd of us who appeared on television news in 1998, and focused entirely on the itinerary of President Clinton's genitalia, she was up near the front. It's a big crowd, and some of us tried to disperse it. But we're all there -- I'm including myself -- and as we head to purgatory for our sins, if not hell, we should all solemnly acknowledge that in fact there most obviously was something else to which we should have been paying attention, and didn't.

Last September I went back and checked the logs of my old MSNBC show and discovered to my surprise that in the two months before we changed the meaning of the parent company's acronym to "Nothing But Clinton," my most frequent guests were James Dunegan, a craggy bespectacled man who talked endlessly of terrorism and the Middle East and the threat of anthrax being delivered to Broadway, and Dr. Richard Haas, then of the Brookings Institution, who warned constantly of terrorism and the Middle East and the threats to, and in, this country.

Then one day Mr. Dunegan and Dr. Haas were swept away, never to appear again. Instead we got Terry Jeffrey and Bob Barr and Christopher Hitchens, and our lower-grade sister shows got Newt Gingrich and Barbara Olson and Ann Coulter. That I escaped Coulter was merely a throwaway favor from my masters. They had been hinting she'd have to be a guest sooner rather than later. Then she went over-the-top: Despite an eye infection, she could not keep herself off television. I begged my bosses not to make me interview a guest who was literally wearing a huge, distracting eyepatch. Thus my imagery of her as a pirate: For a week she continued to flail away at the wrong evil while looking like a refugee from some camped-up version of "Treasure Island." But not on my show.

Mistake me not here: Ann Coulter didn't cause Sept. 11. Not in a billion years would I accuse her, or any of the others (not even Barr), of that. But with hindsight one has to ask why the prospect of a country unprepared for terrorism wasn't a sexy enough topic for her and the others to use to pound Clinton and the Democrats. Certainly they got with the program after Sept. 11, blaming Clinton for being soft on Osama bin Laden and terror. The Clinton folks struck back, and for a while it was compelling television controversy and worthwhile political debate, a hot TV commodity that at least contained some crumb of public good. Why wasn't that interesting before Sept. 11?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 31, 2002 to Other punditry