“The rule, Miss Manners regrets to say, is that good manners make bad television and vice versa.”
This was certainly true when Elizabeth Edwards confronted Ann Coulter on Hardball regarding comments Coulter had made about Edwards’ husband, presidential candidate John Edwards.
When I first read the media quotes, I was appalled at the crassness Coulter displayed. I’m not particularly familiar with Ann Coulter, never read her books or columns nor have I gone out of my way to watch her on TV. Calling Edwards a “faggot” and wishing he had been the “victim of a terrorist attack”, as the media reported, was just over the top, imo, and I prepared to write a scathing blog entry about it.
But as I started to research the subject to create accurate quotes and reference links, I began to come to a different conclusion. The full transcripts yielded the context in which the comments were made and it wasn’t quite as horrendous as the hyperbole made it out to be.”Hardball” host Chris Matthews at 2:26 minutes into the YouTube video below, acknowledges that the media has truncated Coulter’s quote and taken it out of its context. Coulter defends herself quite sufficiently so the point of this blog entry is not to rehash the meaning of Coulter’s comments in whatever context they were said but rather whether Elizabeth Edwards has justifiable grounds to condemn Coulter.
First, the video:
At 4:15 minutes into the video, Matthews reveals that Elizabeth Edwards is on the phone who then appeals to Coulter, “I’m asking politely that Ann stop with the personal attacks.” To which Coulter responds, “Then stop using my name to raise money on your web site.”
Coulter’s comments are what struck me. “Raising money?” After more digging, I found what she was referring to. The John Edwards presidential campaign was using Coulter’s “personal attacks” to raise campaign funds:
“How about you stop raising money on the Web page?” Coulter asked in response, referring to the e-mail campaign the Edwardses launched with video of Coulter’s March remarks. They are using the video to raise funds referred to as “Coulter cash” for his campaign.
However sincere the request may have been, Elizabeth Edwards is no naif, and Tuesday afternoon’s TV political stunt had a clear purpose. By breakfast Wednesday the political story of the day was, once again, team Edwards challenging Coulter’s incendiary comments. By lunch, the Edwards campaign had sent out a fundraising e-mail seeking more “Coulter cash.” ABC News article
How offended, really, can someone be if they are using the insult they claim is so damaging and negative to make money? Etiquette would dictate that we not dignify ad hominem insults and verbal attacks with a response but the Edwardses not only dignify it, they elevate it to the status of a national emergency and give Coulter’s claims enormous amounts of publicity….and dare I say it?…credibility. If one were to rate Edwards’ concerns for the country based on his campaign email solicitations, one would conclude that Ann Coulter was a far greater threat to the US than the immigration bill, the war on terrorism, the economy, etc. Beware the ANN!
The Edwards’ response looks like insincere indignation while silently rejoicing that Coulter has provided them the means to solicit more campaign cash. Coulter, on the other hand, isn’t coy about the nature of her work and words. At about 2:36 into the video, Christ Matthews asks Coulter what her reaction is to “people who gas you, politically, basically to raise money”. Coulter answers, “It doesn’t really make a difference. It raises more money for me.” She candidly reveals that much of the drama and political machinations shown on TV are really a means to obtaining money. Bad manners makes for great TV which in turn sells soap for advertisers. Are any of us shocked by this? I’m not.
Did Elizabeth and John Edwards have the right to condemn Coulter? Let’s see what Miss Manners said on the issue of publicity and celebrities:
“An individual who has marketed normally private aspects of his or her life for financial or psychological profit is not, in Miss Manners’ opionion, entitled to run around grousing about how rude people are being curious to know more….Â Â Miss Manners does not presume to judge people who chose to expose themselves; she merely refuses to allow them to condemn others who point, stare or request details.”
The Edwardses as public figures have chosen to “expose” themselves, and if campaign consultant Bob Shrum is correct in his book, “No Excuses”, Edwards creeped out John Kerry with his “secret” about his son’s death. A “secret” it seems that many people knew from Edwards’ own lips. Coulter wrote,
Manifestly, I was not making fun of their son’s death; I was making fun of John Edwards’ incredibly creepy habit of invoking his son’s tragic death to advance his political career — a practice so repellant, it even made John Kerry queasy. Article
I’m not going to judge the wisdom of John Edwards choosing to become a public figure with all its accompanying personal exposures but, like Miss Manners, I refuse to allow the Edwardses to condemn someone who has pointed, stared and commented negatively on those exposures over the course of John Edwards’ political career. It’s all part and parcel of being a public figure.
Yes, the crass is always greener on the other side of the political aisle.