Last spring I saw a mother bury her 14 year old daughter. During the funeral service my 13 year old daughter sat next to me, tears sliding down her freckled cheeks. As I looked at her and squeezed her hand I couldn't help but think of that mother's grief, of the pain she would endure the rest of her life. And how I couldn't imagine going on if it were me, if it were my daughter's small white coffin being borne up that long long aisle.
Elizabeth Edwards knows that pain, of course, because her teenage son Wade was killed in a car accident. Which brings me, in a way I also could never imagine, to Ann Coulter.
I did not see Coulter on Hardball. Thank God for small favors. But I did see the relevant clips a day later. And to me the most outrageous part of her appearance was her cruel exploitation of Wade's death to attack his father. But then Coulter does not have children, probably will never have children, so why would she care? That much she made clear after Elizabeth Edwards called in and said, in a voice astounding for its measured tone, its level of calm,"I'm the mother of the boy who died."
As for the enabler of this spectacle, Chris Matthews is free to make whatever mistakes he likes. If he wants to parade Coulter on his show flanked, bizarrely, by an audience of young people, allow her to make personal attacks on mothers of dead children, to peddle lies about presidential candidates, that's fine by me. He has every right to show exceedingly dumb judgment in the pundits he trots out. If he wants to lose all credibility as a serious journalist, that's his business. As any good parent would say, let him suffer the consequences.
But the real problem is not Matthews or even Coulter, as intentionally provocative as she is. It's a political culture that continues to promote hate speech and name-calling instead of thoughtful debate. That's the point Elizabeth Edwards tried to make when she called in to Hardball even as Coulter screeched over her, "She wants me to stop speaking!"
No, she doesn't. But it would be awfully nice, wouldn't it?
There's been some debate over whether Elizabeth Edwards did the right thing. Didn't she just draw more unwanted attention to Coulter by confronting her? No, what Elizabeth Edwards did was what many of those frustrated and disgusted with politics in this country have been wanting to do but have lacked the courage. She refused to let it slide. She refused to let Coulter get away with her toxic remarks.
Last night I happened to catch Edwards on a radio talk show. She urged people to take a stand against Coulter, the media, and others who encourage the culture of attack politics."I hope mothers and others will continue to speak out," she said.
As one of those mothers, here's a suggestion: Let's do that by boycotting Coulter's books.