Ann Coulter's comments about a core group of 9/11 widows — that they enjoyed their husbands' deaths — was crude, rude and ultimately stupid. Why stupid? Because Ann's underlying point is lost, and it's actually a good point. Fortunately, a couple of year's ago Dorothy Rabinowitz made the correct point in a Wall Street Journal article. Here's an excerpt:
A fair number of the Americans not working in the media may, on the other hand, by now be experiencing Jersey Girls Fatigue–or taking a hard look at the pronouncements of the widows. Statements like that of Monica Gabrielle, for example (not one of the Jersey Girls, though an activist of similar persuasion), who declared that she could discern no attempt to lessen the casualties on Sept. 11. What can one make of such a description of the day that saw firefighters by the hundreds lose their lives in valiant attempts to bring people to safety from the burning floors of the World Trade Center–that saw deeds like that of Morgan Stanley's security chief, Rick Rescorla, who escorted 2,700 employees safely out of the South Tower, before he finally lost his own life?
But the best known and most quoted pronouncement of all had come in the form of a question put by the leader of the Jersey Girls. "We simply wanted to know," Ms. Breitweiser said, by way of explaining the group's position, "why our husbands were killed. Why they went to work one day and didn't come back."
The answer, seared into the nation's heart, is that, like some 3,000 others who perished that day, those husbands didn't come home because a cadre of Islamist fanatics wanted to kill as many of the hated American infidels in their tall towers and places of government as they could, and they did so. Clearly, this must be a truth also known to those widows who asked the question–though in no way one would notice.
Who, listening to them, would not be struck by the fact that all their fury and accusation is aimed not at the killers who snuffed out their husbands' and so many other lives, but at the American president, his administration, and an ever wider assortment of targets including the Air Force, the Port Authority, the City of New York? In the public pronouncements of the Jersey Girls we find, indeed, hardly a jot of accusatory rage at the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. We have, on the other hand, more than a few declarations like that of Ms. Breitweiser, announcing that "President Bush and his workers . . . were the individuals that failed my husband and the 3,000 people that day."
Out of their loss and tragedy the widows had forged new lives as investigators of 9/11, analysts of what might have been had every agency of government done as it should. No one would begrudge them this solace.
Nor can anyone miss, by now, the darker side of this spectacle of the widows, awash in their sense of victims' entitlement, as they press ahead with ever more strident claims about the way the government failed them. Or how profoundly different all this is from the way in which citizens in other times and places reacted to national tragedy.
From August 1940 to May 1941, the Luftwaffe's nightly terror bombings killed 43,000 British men, women and children. That was only phase one. Phase two, involving the V-1 flying bombs and, later, rockets, killed an additional 6,180. The British defense, was, to the say the least, ineffectual, particularly in the early stages of the war–the antiaircraft guns were few, the fire control system inadequate, as was the radar system. Still, it would have been impossible, then as now, to imagine victims of those nightly assaults rising up to declare war on their government, charging its leaders, say, with failure to develop effective radar–the British government had, after all, had plenty of warning that war was coming. It occurred to no one, including families who had lost husbands, wives and children, to claim that tens of thousands had been murdered on Winston Churchill's watch. They understood that their war was with the enemies bombing them.
Nor, to take an example closer to our time, did the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing give rise to a campaign of accusation (notwithstanding a conspiracy theory or two) against the government for its failure to prevent the attack.
Essentially, it's precisely the same point Coulter made, without the inflammatory viciousness that obscures the point's underlying merit: namely, that these women, while they surely are not celebrating their husbands' horrific deaths, are glorying in the spotlight that allows them to put forward their (to me, dubious) political views.
Hat tip: Michelle Malkin