Ann Coulter’s Latest Lie
Ann Coulter, serial liar and firebug, has surfaced after some months of relative quietude with another of her typically overwrought and manifestly untrue provocations. Appearing yesterday on The Joy Behar Show, Coulter, aiming to counter the idea that President Obama might become vicitm of a right wing assassin, said, “Every presidential assassination or attempted presidential assassination has been committed by some left wing loon, communist, anarchist, commutarians–yes they were!–or they had no politics at all. They were all liberals!”
It’s true that a number of presidential assassins were political left wingers. Lee Harvey Oswald, of course, traveled to the USSR and expressed communist sympathies. Leon Czolgosz, the assassin of William McKinley, was an anarchist, and though he would probably resent Coulter’s connecting him to tepid liberalism, was on that side of that line. Sara Jane Moore, who attempted to kill Gerald Ford, was involved in left wing politics, as were the Puerto Rican nationalists who tried to kill Harry Truman. Giuseppe Zangara, who fired at the great liberal president Franklin Roosevelt, insultingly described Roosevelt as a capitalist. Make of that what you will.
Now things start to get spongier for Coulter. The Bible scholar John Schrank, who tried to kill Theodore Roosevelt, objected to TR seeking a third term in politics. Hard to think of that as being particularly liberal. Charles Guiteau, the assassin of James Garfield, spent time in the Oneida Community, a community built around group marriage, but he was notably unsuccessful participant in the community and was thrown out. He became a lawyer who specialized in bill collecting, and then got involved in politics as a backer of President Grant and then James Garfield. He killed Garfield because he had been denied an ambassadorship. Is a failed commutarian still a commutarian?
Now comes the phrase that renders Coulter’s provocative contention that all assassins are liberals meaningless–“or they had no politics at all.” John Hinckley Jr., the attempted assassin of Ronald Reagan, was simply a deranged person whose personal politics are meaningless. Richard Lawrence, who fired two shots at Andrew Jackson, believed he was King Richard III of England. Based on her membership in the Manson Family, I suppose you could say Squeaky Fromme was a commutarian, as though commutarian was phrase that could be usefully ascribed to a group of drug-addled psychopaths, or that a commutarian philosophy had anything to do with her attempted murder of Ford.
Of course, the figure who undermines Coulter’s argument most thoroughly, who negates it on its face, is the country’s first assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Abraham Lincoln was nothing if not a liberal president–a proponent of a strong central activist government, a pro-business advocate of industrialization, an enemy of slavery, a proponent of a dynamic, multi-ethnic, pro-immigrant society. Booth, of course, was the vainglorious champion of an aristocratic, agrarian, racist slavocracy. Of course, acknowledging this exception would drain Coulter’s thesis of its provocative power, which would in turn make her a more conventional pundit, which would lessen her book sales and lecture fees, and leave her–deservedly–ignored.
Booth, of course, is just one. But so what if right wingers haven’t traditionally figured heavily among presidential assassins? Doesn’t Coulter think that people who have formed lynch mobs, bombed churches, assassinated civil rights leaders, murdered abortion doctors, and bombed office buildings and day care centers are capable?