Thursday, June 28, 2007

And It's . . . Coulter vs. Edwards

Wednesday, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Presidential candidate John Edwards, telephoned Ann Coulter to ask her to stop her rhetoric of anger and hate—to “raise the level of political discourse in America above personal attacks.” Of course, Coulter refused and responded with more personal attacks.

Coulter is part of an alarmingly large segment of America today, a group that includes people like Rosie O'Donnell, as well as Rush Limbaugh and other “hate radio” talk show hosts. A large number of listeners pay attention; I'm sure many agree with these speakers, but probably just as many are merely entertained by watching a good fight. Apparently audiences loved seeing Rosie O'Donnell go head-to-head with Donald Trump and others. It's like a pseudo-intellectual version of a wrestling match; instead of clever twists and arm-holds, it uses loud, mean-spirited, personally injurious dialogue.

No, “dialogue” is not the correct word. By Merriam-Webster’s definition, a dialogue is “an exchange of ideas and opinions,” a discussion aimed at resolution of a problem. In the Coulter-type dialogue, the objective is to out-shout the other, to outwit him or her with the most hurtful barb, to defeat. Heightened adrenalin gives a satisfying rush. Nothing constructive or positive comes from this kind of “dialogue.” It is a down-and-dirty way of bashing ideas around, and as such, it lowers the level of political discourse, as Elizabeth Edwards said.

If we are really concerned about the direction America should go, I believe we must engage in true, rational discussion. We must try to solve problems instead of shooting each other with flaming arrows. Some people are busily trying to rid the airways of hate radio, as I found on this linked web site. Maybe it’s a good idea, but we have to be careful not to become hate-mongers ourselves in the effort!

Elizabeth Edwards should not have let herself be drawn into a harangue with Ann Coulter; that’s just the thing Coulter would most like, to fuel her fires. Why did she do it? This linked article gives Edwards’s explanation:

On Wednesday, the Edwards campaign sent out a letter to supporters written by Elizabeth which explained "why I called Ann Coulter."

"Last night I had an important talk with Ann Coulter and I want to tell you what happened," Elizabeth Edwards wrote. "On Monday, Ann announced that instead of using more homophobic slurs to attack John, she will just wish that John had been ‘killed in a terrorist assassination plot.’”

The letter continues, "Where I am from, when someone does something that displeases you, you politely ask them to stop. So when I heard Ann was going to be on 'Hardball' last night, I decided to call in and ask her to engage on the issues and stop the personal attacks. I told her these kinds of personal attacks lower our political dialogue at precisely the time when we need to raise it, and set a bad example for our children."

"How did she respond?" Edwards writes. "Sadly, perhaps predictably, with more personal attacks. John's campaign is about the issues—but pundits like Ann Coulter are trying to shout him down. If they will not stop, it is up to us cut through the noise."

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