|The ultimate epithet in the liberal lexicon
By Michael M. Bates
Ann Coulter drives liberals nuts. The late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi didn't qualify for rhetoric as harsh as that directed at the blond, but certainly never bland, pundit.
What unleashed the current fury was Miss Coulter's criticism of four 9/11 widows who've used their status to lobby for a Democratic agenda. Even Mrs. Clinton, who often leaves such mundane duties to flunkies, personally jumped in: "Perhaps her (Coulter's) book should have been called 'Heartless,'" said the senator from New York who never lived there until she decided to be crowned senator.
Then she played the Democrat's trump card, the one they never leave home without. Mrs. Clinton found it "unimaginable that anyone in the public eye could launch a vicious, mean-spirited attack. . . "
Mean-spirited is the ultimate epithet in the liberal lexicon. It's the adjective that they never tire of using, of ascribing to anyone who doesn't share their views. For decades we've been subjected to its wearisome reiteration.
In 1984, President Reagan was about to receive tax policy recommendations from his treasury secretary. "Of all the mean-spirited proposals," huffed Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale, shortly before losing 49 states.
Former Democratic House speaker Tip O'Neill used his 1987 memoirs to convey his scorn for Ronald Reagan's advisors and "their mean-spirited philosophy."
Jesse Jackson was running for president in 1988 and campaigning in Texas when he learned that an "English Only" proposition was on the Republican ballot. Mean-spirited, moaned the Rev.
When the Senate voted in 1994 to cut federal funding to schools teaching acceptance of homosexuality, the reaction was unsurprising. The late Minnesota Democrat Paul Wellstone complained the amendment was "very mean-spirited."
The golden age of mean-spirited kicked in a year later when the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives after 40 years of Democratic dominance. By February, House minority leader Richard Gephardt had assayed the situation and determined: "These (budget) cuts are mean-spirited, they're wrong, they won't help our people." By "our people," I think Dick meant Democrat politicians who never met a tax hike they didn't like.
The following month the House examined the way school lunch programs are administered. A little-known governor, Vermont's Howard Dean, assailed the move as "the most despicable, mean-spirited legislative proposal I have seen in all my years of public service."
1996 was another presidential election year. Jesse Jackson told his party's national convention that Democrats needed to "protect the first lady (Mrs. Clinton), too, from their (Republican) mean-spirited attacks." Closer to the election, candidate Al Gore was asked about the Christian Coalition's intent to distribute candidate information leaflets at some Illinois churches. That's just plain mean-spirited, said the veep. And in the Senate, John Kerry denounced the Defense of Marriage Act as "an unconstitutional, unprecedented, unnecessary and mean-spirited bill."
And so it goes. When Bill Clinton's special relationship with his favorite White House intern surfaced in 1998, Mrs. Clinton claimed it was the result of the vast right wing conspiracy and "the unfortunate mean-spiritedness of American politics right now."
A House proposal that year cutting federal money to implement a San Francisco ordinance requiring contractors to provide benefits to same sex partners? A "mean-spirited, bigoted amendment," according to Congressman Patrick Kennedy.
A 2000 California initiative defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman? Simply "mean-spirited in too many ways," said Al Gore.
That same year Mrs. Clinton was nominated for senator and called for an end to the "mean-spirited politics of revenge and retribution." The detectives she and her husband have used over the years digging up dirt on a variety of people could not be reached for comment.
Al Sharpton was sentenced in 2001 to 90 days in jail for one of his protests. Affronted was New York Congressman Charles Rangel, who termed the prosecution "mean-spirited and stupid." A year later someone woke up Senate majority whip Harry Reid long enough to deliver the revelation, "This (Bush) administration is mean-spirited."
Carol Moseley Braun was thinking of running for president - yes, of the United States - in 2003 when she grumbled about the "mean-spirited right-wing ideologues" who had taken over the Republican Party.
Teddy Kennedy pronounced the Bush White House "vindictive and mean-spirited" in 2004. The man who has become a Teddy clone when it comes to voting, Barack Obama, condemned opponent Alan Keyes for a "mean-spirited attack" against homosexuals who want to adopt children.
Earlier this month, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howlin' Howie Dean told gay activists that their "families are the targets of mean-spirited attacks by Republicans."
Liberal Democrats really need to find a new way of expressing their displeasure. They've beaten their favorite adjective into the ground through constant, grinding, tedious, monotonous repetition.
Or is that mean-spirited to say?
Mike Bates is the author of Right Angles and Other Obstinate Truths. This column originally appeared in the June 15, 2006 Oak Lawn Reporter.
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