Friday, June 09, 2006

Pre-defending Ann

Irony abounds in the wake of the Matt Lauer assault on Ann Coulter. One time Coulter critic Dorothy Rabinowitz was two years ahead of her lambasting The Jersey Girls:

The core group of widows led by the foursome known as "The Jersey Girls," credited with bringing the 9/11 Commission into being, are by now world famous. Their already established status in the media, as a small but heroically determined band of sisters speaking truth to power, reached ever greater heights last week, when National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice made her appearance at a commission session--an event that would not have taken place, it was understood, without the pressure from the widows. Television interviewers everywhere scrambled to land these guests--a far cry from the time, last June, when group leader Kristin Breitweiser spoke of her disappointment in the press, complaining to one journalist, "I've been scheduled to go on 'Meet the Press' and 'Hardball' so many times, and I'm always canceled."

No one is canceling her these days. The night of Ms. Rice's appearance, the Jersey Girls appeared on "Hardball," to charge that the national security adviser had failed to do her job, that the government failed to provide a timely military response, that the president had spent time reading to schoolchildren after learning of the attack, that intelligence agencies had failed to connect the dots. ....

The hearing room that day had seen a substantial group of 9/11 families, similarly irate over the Jersey Girls and their accusations--families that made their feelings evident in their burst of loud applause when Ms. Rice scored a telling zinger under questioning. But these were not the 9/11 voices TV and newspaper editors were interested in. They had chosen to tell a different story--that of four intrepid New Jersey housewives who had, as one news report had it, brought an administration "to its knees"--and that was, as far as they were concerned, the only story.

.... 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.

....The day of Ms. Rice's appearance before the Commission, a radiant Gail Sheehy, author of "Hillary's Choice," beamed gratitude as she congratulated the host of "Hardball" for bringing the women on as guests. ....

Ms. Sheehy was hardly alone in her faith in the widows and their special skills. Their every shred of opinion about the hearings last week was actively solicited--as will be true, no doubt, this week. Asked what question she would put to Ms. Rice, if she could, one Jersey Girl answered, after some thought, that it would be, What did she know and when did she know it? ....

Little wonder, given all this, that the 9/11 Four blossomed, under a warm media sun and the attention of legislators, into activists increasingly confident of their authority--that, with every passing month, their list of government agencies and agents guilty of dereliction of duty grew apace. So did their assurance that it had been given to them, as victims, to determine the proper standards of taste and respectfulness to be applied in everything related to Sept. 11, including, it turned out, the images of the destroyed World Trade Center in George Bush's first campaign ad, which elicited, from some of them, bitter charges of political exploitation.

....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.

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