Ann Coulter is in the news (again) for her latest book's attack on some of the 9/11 widows. Here's an excerpt from that article:
'Ann Coulter, the conservative pundit with a penchant for creating controversy, caused a ruckus when she called 9/11 widows "witches" and accused them of using their husbands' deaths for their own political gain.'
I saw her interviewed on TV and she coupled her playground insults with an actual argument. She said that what frustrated her was the fact that she saw the widows as saying "Because we're widows, our positions simply can't be attacked and our motivations simply can't be questioned." Now, I've not heard them claim this directly, but technically she's right: to say that one's stance guarantees the truth of one's statements is a logical fallacy. Unfortunately, to talk about this in such a manner is basically another, subtler ad hominem attack. Instead of taking the high ground and doing what she thinks they should do, which is attack arguments on their own merits, she's poisoning the well: everyone leaves the discussion viewing the war widows' putative unimpeachability as arrogance.
What then do we do with John Murtha, whose Vietnam experience doesn't guarantee the truth of his claims, or Cindy Sheehan, whose loss doesn't guarantee the truth of hers? One word: respect. It's possible to combine an attack on someone's position with a deep respect for their experiences. How not to do this was demonstrated on the floor of the House by Louis Gohmert.
Rep. Gohmert: Let me close by saying some have not had nice things to say about our colleague Mr. Murtha, and others wanting to pull out of Iraq quickly. I understand the faithful visitation that he does routinely. So I say thank God for his big heart. I say thank God for his compassion. Thank God for his visits to the wounded. Thank God for his ministering to grieving families. But thank God he was not here and prevailed after the bloodbaths at Normandy and in the Pacific or we would be here speaking Japanese or German. Thank you.
Rep. Murtha: Was the gentleman at any of those locations? Either at Normandy or any of those locations?
Rep. Gohmert: You want to know which locations?
Rep. Murtha: Yeah. Normandy?
Rep. Murtha: I say were you there?
Rep. Gohmert: No, sir. I wasn't.
Rep. Murtha: Were you in Vietnam?
Rep. Gohmert: No, sir.
Rep. Murtha: Iraq?
Rep. Gohmert: No. I have been over there. I haven't been fighting.
So, to sum up:
Left: takes experiences as guarantors of truth. WRONG.
Right: takes possible arrogance because of such experiences as excuse for ad hominem attack. WRONG.
Gohmert: to attack a decorated Vietnam vet by saying thank God he wasn't at Normandy, while simultaneously comparing Iraq to World War II? Wow. I mean, wow.
Final score: Dr. Trammell 2, John Murtha 1, Ann Coulter 0, Louis Gohmert -957.