A reader sent an e-mail with constructive criticism. He called me a "rabid witch." I offer my personal e-mail address, and this is the best liberal minds can offer?
However, I'm a two-bit columnist. Liberalism's finest minds focus on the right's big guns: Hannity, Coulter, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and, when liberals tell the story of the 2000 presidential elections, all of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Who are the left's heavy hitters? Al Franken! Saturday Night Live's Stuart Smalley, the 12-step Richard Simmons-like character, has been hoisted by the left's petard to icon. His books? "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me," Stuart Smalley's tome, and perfect NEA training manual for new teachers. This literary masterpiece was followed by "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot."
His new book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right," features cover pictures of Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, George Bush and Dick Cheney — the "liars" of the right.
Eric Alterman, with his "What Liberal Media: The Truth About BIAS and the News," has also emerged as a lefty leader. After slogging through Alterman's and Franken's work, I can pronounce that years of therapy are needed for these two residents of Hotel Denial. I daily troll the depths of liberal prose and its loss of a grip on reality, but these two top even Molly Ivins.
The books demonstrate that name-calling and ad hominem attacks are the best liberals have to offer. Alterman calls columnist Robert Novak a "Republican pooper-scooper" and Newt Gingrich a "pot-smoking, draft-dodging, multiply adulterous, deadbeat dad." No footnote offered. Laura Ingraham is "nasty, ignorant and frequently silly."
To Alterman, Robert Bartley, the retired editor of the Wall Street Journal, is "nutty." Ann Coulter is also "nutty." Franken says Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson are "nuts" and members of the Christian right are "nutcase evangelicals." Mental illness, per Tipper Gore, is, well, an illness. When hurled about by liberals at conservatives, it is, however, the ultimate insult.
Franken calls Karl Rove "human filth" and Barbara Bush a "b----." The Los Angeles Dodgers are "the most notoriously right-wing team in the history of Major League Baseball." Puzzling! Is it too much Skoal? Driving SUVs to practice?
Alterman writes that Peggy Noonan "does not appear to research her columns" because she cited the Clinton-Gore crew vandalism of White House offices upon their departure, such as removing the "W" keys from computers. Alterman and Franken call the vandalism charges "phony." But the vandalism occurred, and the GAO report confirmed it, calling the damage "intentional" on p. 10 of the report. Both books are wrong. Noonan was right.
These books are fast and loose with assertions, light on documentation. Franken flogs Ann Coulter on facts, but she has footnotes. Franken has humorous ones. I checked his limited endnotes. He spends a chapter (43 in 377-pages) on challenging Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, to a fight. Franken's endnote reads, "Rich wrote about our interaction in his August 28, 2000, New York Post article entitled, 'Why I Won't Fight Al Franken.' "
There is no such Post editorial, something that escaped his research team of 14 Harvard students — TeamFranken. Franken is a fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. I condemned Harvard earlier this year for having Will Farrell speak at graduation. I apologize. Harvard has created an affirmative action program for washed-up SNL stars. The Lowry editorial was not in the Post but National Review, and on Aug. 22, 2000, not Aug. 28.
Alterman says Coulter's assertion that Sen. Jim Jeffords "voted against Clinton's impeachment" is a lie because "the Senate never voted on impeachment. The House has the power to impeach; the Senate only votes on whether or not to convict." Jeffords did vote against conviction. Wow — he really caught her in a whopper!
Both books follow the liberal script used on the 16 words in President Bush's state of the union address, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." "A lie!" they shout. Bush misjudged the quality of British intelligence and the vetting processes for his speeches had gaps. The failure of the CIA to nix this statement confirms what I have written about CIA director George Tenet (a Clinton appointee) since 2000: He is inept. But tossing about accusations of "lying" based on errors made without premeditation or intent to deceive diminishes leftists' credibility.
These books bubble with such silly "Ah-ha's!" They write of technicalities, not lies. These Clinton supporters should know a lie when they see it, having studied at the finger-wagging feet of the master for eight years.
I long for something more than name-calling, but the best the left can offer is a comedian with a staff of 14 Harvard students who can't match an editor with his publication. They dwell on verb choice — impeaching vs. convicting. Their best shots come from the Clinton hymnal on the meaning of the word "is." This ideological battle is not even a fair fight. So, I remain, due to liberals' lack of ammunition, a rabid witch.
Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org