STAND BY ME

One of the less than super features of my six years at the high school formerly known as Akiba Hebrew Academy was the seemingly endless succession of assemblies hosting guest speakers from organizations like the ZOA speaking on topics like the caginess of Arabs and the awesomeness of what we’ve since learned to call “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Then my senior year I organized a human rights conference that included Ian Lustick, a Zionist with some concerns about human rights in Israel, and I got called into the Principal’s office and told that he didn’t like having controversial speakers without counterbalancing speakers there to offer “the other side” (in the end I was able to negotiate a compromise where Lustick would speak alone after an Ahmadinejad-at-Columbia-style introduction from the Headmaster and Lustick and Daniel Pipes would be invited to have a debate at Akiba later on).

A couple months later, the Headmaster announced that everyone in the school would be bussed to an “Israel Solidarity Rally” downtown. After a bunch of kids objected to being forced to participate in a rally defending the Likud government from criticism, Akiba agreed to let kids who wanted to skip the rally and stay at school to watch Exodus and think about what they’d done. A couple months after that, Akiba’s administration announced at my graduation that everyone in the Class of 2002 would receive a copy in the mail at college of Myths and Facts About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (“Myth: Palestinians. Fact: Israelis.”).

All this came to mind when I opened my e-mail and saw an e-mail circulating amongst Akiba Alumni to “Seek neutrality on political issues at Akiba.” What instigated it? Apparently some of my more right-wing friends were appalled that Akiba sent out an e-mail announcing an event hosted by the insufficiently-Likud-friendly New Israel Fund.

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Ann Coulter’s latest column demonstrates all the talents that have so endeared her to her fans – farcically forced fury, painfully flat humor, recklessness with facts and incoherent logic. A choice selection:

Absurdly, liberals claim to hate J. Edgar Hoover because of their passion for civil liberties. The left’s exquisite concern for civil liberties apparently did not extend to the Japanese. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt rounded up Japanese for the internment camps, liberals were awed by his genius. The Japanese internment was praised by liberal luminaries such as Earl Warren, Felix Frankfurter and Hugo Black. Joseph Rauh, a founder of Americans for Democratic Action – and celebrated foe of “McCarthyism” – supported the internment.

There was one lonely voice in the Roosevelt administration opposed to the Japanese internment – that of J. Edgar Hoover. The American Civil Liberties Union gave J. Edgar Hoover an award for wartime vigilance during World War II. It was only when he turned his award-winning vigilance to Soviet spies that liberals thought Hoover was a beast.

Here Coulter employs a favorite tactic – citing illiberal choices made or perpetuated under Democratic administrations and using them, despite contemporary criticism from the left or pushes from the right for even more draconian moves, as evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the left as a whole (she does this masterfully with segregation, for example). The fact that FDR, bowing to the pressures of fear and jingoism within and outside of the government, betrayed the values of the left and trampled on the Constitution and principles of human decency in signing Executive Order 9066 simply demonstrates that FDR was neither as courageous nor as Left as history makes him out to be. The fact that a man like Daniel Pipes, who refuses to condemn internment, is considered a distinguished scholar and an ally of this administration in foreign policy, and that a man like Howard Coble (R-NC), who came out in support of the camps last February, chairs a house subcommittee on domestic security raises troubling questions about the agenda this administration (Republican, for those of you keeping score at home) wants to lead this country. Coulter, for her part, spent her last column gloating about a Department of Justice report acknowledging abuse of immigrants detained after September 11 as evidence that the government isn’t letting details like the constitution get in the way of the Bush Doctrine (but this is the same woman who maintains both that we should “bomb their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity” and that conservatives are the most compassionate suffering people in the world). Coulter, in fact, seems not to have ever met a regressive policy towards immigrants that she couldn’t countenance, spin, and celebrate – but at least she’s against internment camps… Congressman John Rankin famously declared, “I’m for catching every Japanese in America, Alaska, and Hawai’i now and putting them in concentration camps…Damn them! Let’s get rid of them!” He was also instrumental in securing the place of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in American Government.

The final lines excerpted above raise the self-parody to an even higher plane. Faced with the information she provides – the leftist ACLU praised Hoover for opposing FDR assault on civil liberties and condemned him for later launching his own – a logical person might conclude that the left supports protecting civil liberties – maybe even that some on the left are willing to condemn political allies who pursue regressive policy and work with political opponents for shared progressive goals (the ACLU’s coalition against the PATRIOT Act – one of Coulter’s favorite pieces of legislation – is a contemporary example as well). Instead, Coulter judges the left as hypocritical for supporting Hoover’s left-wing moves and opposing his right-wing ones. One can understand why this might bother Coulter – for her, personality trumps politics every time.