Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Franken vs. Coulter....coulter loses ....again....

An Evening with Ann Coulter: Opening Statement
COULTER DEBATE OPENING STATEMENT – UNIVERSITY OF JUDAISM

Thank you. First of all, I know I join Ann in thanking the University of Judaism for hosting this event. We’ve had an opportunity to spend some time with President Wexler and have dinner with many folks from the University community.

And I’d like to answer the question that I actually get asked the most when I do an event for a Jewish organization. Yes, I had enough to eat.

You know, in these kinds of debate forums, someone has to go first. It’s always preferable to go second, because you can react to what’s been said, giving you something of a tactical advantage. More importantly, it pretty much spares you the chore of writing out pre-prepared remarks.

Both Ann and I said we preferred going second, but I didn’t insist on it, because I understood somebody had to go first. And being a liberal, I just wasn’t tough-minded enough to insist on a coin toss.

So, I’ll try to use my time to define the terms of the debate – if you will. “Whence Judaism?”

No. I think we should talk about the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress and what it has accomplished over the past five years. I’m talking, of course, about well over two trillion dollars added to the national debt, the increase in poverty in our country and the added millions of Americans, including children, without health insurance. I’m talking about the sale of our democracy to corporate interests that pollute our water and our air. I’m talking about the widening gap between the haves and the have nots in this country. And I’m talking about the war in Iraq.

I’m talking about an increasingly corrupt, secretive, and incompetent federal government that rewards cronies, a Republican majority in Congress that’s acted as a rubber stamp, that has performed virtually no oversight and which excludes the minority party from the legislative process in a way unprecedented in our recent history.

I also want to discuss with Ann the coarsening of dialogue in this country. I want to discuss values with Ann. Values like love, of family, of your fellow man, of country. Ann has said repeatedly that liberals hate America. I disagree.

Last year I had the honor of speaking at West Point. It was an audience not so very different from this one. Except that instead of you, the audience was made up of about twelve hundred cadets. Many of whom will be going to Iraq in the next year or so.

The occasion was the Sol Feinstone Lecture on the Meaning of Freedom endowed by philanthropist Sol Feinstone. It’s an annual event and Sol Feinstein’s granddaughter, who is about my age, attended.

After telling a number jokes and getting the cadets on my side. I told them that we had been lied into the war in Iraq. I had just published a book entitled The Truth (with jokes), and I told the cadets that you can’t have freedom without the truth. You can have freedom without jokes, as has been proven by the Dutch and the Swiss.

I proceeded to prove that we had been lied into war, citing example after example of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and Condi Rice, who had been National Security Advisor in the lead-up to the war, telling the public information that they knew not to be true.

At the end of the speech I received a standing ovation from the cadets. Sol Feinstone’s granddaughter told me she had gone to every lecture for the last thirty or so years, and that I received only the second standing ovation. The other was for Max Cleland, who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam.

By the way, Ann has written that Max Cleland was lucky to have lost his legs and his arm in Vietnam. I disagree. More importantly, I know Max, and he disagrees.

I believe I received the standing ovation because the cadets knew that I was speaking from the heart, and that the information I had given them was all true. And as I said, you can’t have freedom without the truth.

You can’t have good government without the truth. During the crafting and passage of the Medicare prescription drug bill, the chief actuary of Medicare was told to withhold from Congress the true cost of the bill. He’d be fired if he told the truth.

The bill costs so much, in large part, because the bill prohibits Medicare from negotiating with the pharmaceutical companies on the price of drugs. As a result, seniors now pay on average 44% more than veterans getting the same drugs through the VA which is allowed to use its size to negotiate with the drug companies. To get the bill passed, the vote was held open for three hours. Tom DeLay was later admonished by Republicans on the ethics committee for attempting to bribe, and then extort, Republican Nick Smith of Michigan to get him to change his vote. The chairman of the Commerce Committee Billy Tauzin who ushered the legislation through, soon left Congress for a two million dollar a year job as the chief lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry. Obviously, a complete coincidence.

During the 2000 campaign George Bush ran for president by saying repeatedly, and I quote, “by far the vast majority of my tax cut goes to those at the bottom.” Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, the president continues to ask for and sign tax cuts that go primarily to those at the top. By the way, until George W. Bush, our country had never cut taxes during a time of war.

As a result, our deficits grow and the cuts – in Medicaid, Pell Grants, food stamps, low-income housing subsidies, community block grants – are targeted at the poorest in our society.

George W. Bush famously said that Jesus was his favorite political philosopher. Frankly, I don’t get it.

I’m Jewish. Thank you. I’m not an expert on the New Testament. But I know that if you cut out all the passages where Jesus talks about helping the poor, helping the least among us, if you literally took a pair of scissors and cut out all those passages, you’d have the perfect box to smuggle Rush Limbaugh’s drugs in.

I don’t understand when the Christian right says that equal rights in marriage threatens marriage. I’ve been married 30 years, many of them happy. I don’t think that if my wife and I were walking around in Boston, where we met, if we saw two men holding hands with wedding bands… I don’t think I’d say “Hey, that looks good. Y’know, honey, you don’t like watching football on Sundays. Maybe I could marry a guy, watch football with him, and then if I wanted to have sex, I could come over and have sex with you.”

I was just talking to Newt Gingrich the other day. And I said to him, “Don’t you want for a gay couple what you had with your first wife? Don’t you want that bond that comes with the pledge of fidelity that you had with your second wife? Don’t you want what comes with that lifelong bond that you may or may not have with your third wife – I have no idea what’s going on there.”

You know, Bill O’Reilly always talks about his “traditional values” – as opposed to “the far left’s secular humanist values.” I didn’t realize phone sex was a traditional value. I didn’t think the phone had been around long enough. Maybe telegraph sex.

In her book Slander, Ann referred to Democrats and our “Marquis de Sade lifestyle.” I’ve been married for thirty years. Ann, you’re an attractive woman. And I know you support the president’s abstinence-only sex education. I want to congratulate you for saving yourself for your one true love.

When my daughter was six years old, her teacher asked all her students to write about how their parents had met. We told Thomasin that we met at a mixer freshman year of college. I saw Franni across the room, gathering up some friends to leave. I liked the way she was taking control and I thought she was beautiful. So I asked her to dance, and then got her a ginger ale, then escorted her to her dorm and asked for a date.

My daughter wrote, “My dad asked my mom to dance, bought her a drink, and then took her home.” Now all the facts were accurate, but what my daughter wrote was extremely misleading. Now my daughter wasn’t lying. She didn’t realize that what she wrote made her mom seem like a slut.

Ann, however, is not six years old. And she has developed her own techniques for misleading, by leaving out important facts. Let me give you an example of Ann lying by omission.

Also in her book Slander, Ann tells her readers that Al Gore had a leg up on George W. Bush when applying to their respective colleges. Harvard and Yale. Ann writes:

“Oddly, it was Bush who was routinely accused of having sailed through life on his father’s name. But the truth was the reverse. The media was manipulating the fact that – many years later – Bush’s father became president. When Bush was admitted to Yale, his father was a little-known congressman on the verge of losing his first Senate race. His father was a Yale alumnus, but so were a lot of other boys’ parents. It was Gore, not Bush, who had a famous father likely to impress college admissions committees.”

What does Ann omit? Well, that Bush’s grandfather Prescott Bush was also a Yale alum and had been Senator from Connecticut, the home state of Yale University. That Prescott Bush had been a trustee of Yale. That Prescott Bush had been the first chair of Yale’s Development Board – the folks who raise the money. That Prescott Bush sat on the Yale Corporation for twelve years. That Prescott Bush, like George W. Bush’s father, George H. W, Bush, had been a member of Skull and Bones. That the first Bush to go to Yale was Bush’s great great grandfather James Bush, who graduated in 1844. That in addition to his father, grandfather, and greatgreatgrandfather, Bush was the legacy of no less than twenty-seven other relatives who preceded him at Yale, including five great great uncles. Seven great uncles. Five uncles, and a number of first cousins.

Now why did Ann leave out these somewhat relevant facts? Ann grew up in Connecticut. Ann, did you really not know that Prescott Bush had been your senator when you were born?

Ann, is it possible that when Prescott’s son George H. W. Bush became president, it totally escaped your notice that his father had represented your state in the United States Senate? Did neither of your parents mention it in passing at the dinner table? Did no one at home in Darien make any comments about the new president’s lineage?

Understand. This isn’t sloppiness. This is deliberate. For Ann’s purposes – to claim that the media that was manipulating facts here – Ann herself had to manipulate facts – in such a shameless way. This is what she does.

And she does it over and over and over again.

Let me give you another example.

On page 265 of her book Treason, Ann writes of Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist. “He blamed twenty years of relentless attacks by Muslim extremists on- I quote – ‘religious fundamentalists of any stripe.’”

This didn’t sound like Tom Friedman to me, so I found the one Friedman column that contained that phrase – “religious fundamentalists of any stripe.” It was from a December 26, 2001 column called “Naked Air,” about an airline where everyone would fly naked. “Think about it,” Friedman writes, tongue firmly planted in cheek, “If everybody flew naked, not only would you never have to worry about the passenger next to you carrying box cutters or exploding shoes, but no religious fundamentalists of any stripe would ever be caught dead flying nude.”

Let me repeat. Ann wrote of Tom Friedman, Jewish by the way, that “he blamed twenty years of relentless attacks by Muslim extremists on – I quote – ‘religious fundamentalists of any stripe.’” She bothered to put “I quote” in there for emphasis.

Friedman actually wrote “no religious fundamentalists of any stripe would ever be caught dead flying nude” in service of a conceit that illustrated our dilemma of either becoming less open as a society or learning to live with much higher risks than we’ve ever been used to before.

Friedman was not blaming 9/11 on the Lubavichers, as Ann suggests.

Now this sort of deliberate misrepresentation contributes to a coarsening of our nation’s dialogue. Ann recently told an audience:

“We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens’ creme brulee,” Coulter said. “That’s just a joke, for you in the media.”

Here’s my question. What’s the joke? Maybe it’s a prejudice from my days as a comedy writer, but I always thought the joke had to have an operative funny idea. I’ll give you an example of a joke.

Like they do every Saturday night, two elderly Jewish couples are going out to dinner. The guys are in front, the girls riding in back. Irv says to Sid, “Where should we go tonight?”

Sid says, “How about that place we went about a month ago. The Italian place with the great lasagna.”

Irv says, “I don’t remember it.”

Sid says, “The place with the great lasagna.”

Irv says, “I don’t remember. What’s the name of the place?”

Sid thinks. But can’t remember. “A flower. Gimme a flower.”

“Tulip?” Irv says.

“No, no. A different flower.”

“Magnolia?”

“No, no. A basic flower.”

“Orchid?”

“No! Basic.”

“Rose?”

That’s it! Sid turns to the back seat. “Rose. What was the name of that restaurant…?”

That’s a joke. What exactly is the joke in “We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens’ creme brulee?” Is it the crème brulee? Is that it? Because Stevens is some kind of Francophile or elitist? Is it the rat poison? See, I would have gone with Drano. I’m really trying here, Ann. Please, when you come up, explain the joke about murdering an associate justice of the Supreme Court. One who by the way, was appointed to the Supreme Court by Gerald Ford, and who, also, by the way, won a Bronze Star serving in the Navy in World War II. What is the joke? ‘Cause I don’t get it.

Now in Ann’s defense, she doesn’t always make horribly offensive remarks or knowingly craft lies. Very often Ann is just wrong out of ignorance or pure laziness. Take this from the MSNBC Show – Saturday Final – on August 30, 2003 – MSNBC. She is talking about how well the war in Iraq is going.

COULTER: I think the rebuilding is going extremely well. Douglas MacArthur was in Japan five years after V.J. Day. There were enormous casualties in Germany after World War II. The rebuilding is actually going quite well compared to past efforts. And really, all we’re getting from Democrats is constant carping.

Ann, do you know how many combat fatalities the American military had in Germany after V-E day? Zero. You know how many in Japan after V-J day? Zero.

Ann and I have debated once before. In May of 2004, and Ann still felt the war was going amazingly well. Let me quote her from that debate:

“…. This war is going amazingly well… the casualty rate is incredibly small for the rebuilding. It is going better than can be expected. You cannot read about how well things are going against Al Sadr, where you have Iraqis protesting against Al Sadr; all these stories about how Al Sadr had (this) vast support among the Iraquis… oh no no no. They recently held a protest march saying, ‘Al Sadr, get out.’”

As you know, Ann, Moktadr al Sadr, recently picked the Shiite choice for prime minister for the new government, Mohamed al Jafaari. Sadr has thirty-two seats in the Iraqi assembly compared to Ahmed Chalabi’s zero. And remember, it was Chalabi to whom we were going to turn over the Iraqi government.

Things are not going amazingly well in Iraq. And they haven’t been going amazingly well since we allowed the looting of Baghdad. A week ago, former prime minister Ayad Allawi said that Iraq was already in a civil war. And as George Bush said in September of 2004, we should listen to Allawi because – and I quote – “he understands what’s going on there – after all, he lives there.”

The first thing this Administration needs to do in Iraq is to start acknowledging the truth and level with the American people.

I think the one lesson we can all agree on from Vietnam is that we cannot blame the troops. By and large, the vast, vast majority of our troops have performed heroically. And they deserve our gratitude and support. And that means supporting them after they’ve come home.

Two thirds of the wounded in Iraq now have brain injuries. That’s because so many of the casualties are from IED’s, and the injuries are concussive and not ballistic. Each one of those brain injuries is going to cost a million dollars over the course of that veteran’s life. And we need to fund programs for those who come back with post traumatic stress disorder – a higher percentage than in any previous war.

Now another value I believe in is love of country. For some reason it rankles Ann that I’ve done six USO tours and have had the nerve to talk about it. I do so because I want people to be aware of the work that the USO does. I want anyone here today who is a Hollywood celebrity to think about giving up a couple weeks of your life to entertain our men and women in uniform. I think it rankles Ann that I’ve talked about going on the USO tours because she can’t conceive that anyone would actually do something for anyone else. I didn’t go to Iraq to prove that Democrats are patriotic, Ann. I did my first USO tour in 1999, when Clinton was president. We went to Kosovo, a war that was vehemently and vocally opposed by many Republicans. Even so, we didn’t call them traitors. I was invited by the USO to go to Iraq because they know I do a good job and that it means a lot to the troops when anyone comes over to show them we care.

My daughter is 25. She teaches inner city kids in the Bronx. And that makes me proud. She hates when I say it, and that makes me even more proud.

My son is an engineering student. He wants to build fuel efficient cars. He’s a junior in college and got a job at Ford this summer working on a new manufacturing process for power trans. I don’t know what that means either. But he got there because he works his butt off.

But my son doesn’t feel that he got where he is because he is some kind of rugged individual. That he did it all himself. He knows that he stands on the shoulders of those who stood on the shoulders of those who stood on the shoulders of those who stood on the shoulders of those who stood on the necks of Indians.

My wife and I tried to instill certain values in our kids. But we don’t love them because they’re perfect. We love them because they’re decent, loving kids. Kids who care about others and care, by the way, about the truth.

One last thing. Speaking of the truth. A few months after my last debate with Ann, the following appeared in a New York Observer story about Ann. From the September 13, 2004 issue..

The writer asks Ann in the article:

“She debated Al Franken recently?

“’Yes,’ she said. ‘It’s not an interesting debate, because liberals can’t argue. So it’s never like point-counterpoint; all we do is hear about his fucking U.S.O. tours for three hours. Excuse my French.’”

Ann, let’s see if we can have a point-counterpoint, and an interesting debate. And by the way, Ann, I have here a DVD of that entire three hour debate – And I’ll bet you my speaking fee tonight that I spoke about my USO tours for less than a grand total of three minutes. How about it Ann? My speaking fee against your speaking fee?

I mean we care about the truth, don’t we?

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