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CRITICIZING THE “JERSEY GIRLS”

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By Michelle Malkin  •  June 7, 2006 09:12 PM

***update: Lucianne.com thread here***

You’ve read the story of the day, all day, on Drudge: Ann Coulter is antagonizing the Left with her comments about the liberal 9/11 widows known as “The Jersey Girls.” Hillary Clinton is going ape. TV producers of all partisan stripes are ecstatic. So are Ann’s publicists and publisher.

Unfortunately, lost in all the hype and hyperbole on both sides is the central point about the absolute moral authority the MSM confers on victims they agree with–while victims whose politics they do not share can’t get the time of day. Ann told Sean Hannity today she hopes her comments will demolish the “liberal infallibility” the MSM confers on its faves. (Video here.) Ironically, IMO, the facade has already eroded considerably–thanks to new media, talk radio, Fox News, etc. Case in point here.

In any case, when was the last time anyone paid attention to the Jersey Girls?

Dorothy Rabinowitz had the definitive piece on the 9/11 widows two years ago. Worth reading the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

“I watched my husband murdered live on TV. . . . At any point in time the casualties could have been lessened, and it seems to me there wasn’t even an attempt made.”

–Monica Gabrielle

“Three thousand people were murdered on George Bush’s watch.”

— Kristin Breitweiser

No one by now needs briefings on the identities of the commentators quoted above. The core group of widows led by the foursome known as “The Jersey Girls,” credited with bringing the 9/11 Commission into being, are by now world famous. Their already established status in the media, as a small but heroically determined band of sisters speaking truth to power, reached ever greater heights last week, when National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice made her appearance at a commission session–an event that would not have taken place, it was understood, without the pressure from the widows. Television interviewers everywhere scrambled to land these guests–a far cry from the time, last June, when group leader Kristin Breitweiser spoke of her disappointment in the press, complaining to one journalist, “I’ve been scheduled to go on ‘Meet the Press’ and ‘Hardball’ so many times, and I’m always canceled.”

No one is canceling her these days. The night of Ms. Rice’s appearance, the Jersey Girls appeared on “Hardball,” to charge that the national security adviser had failed to do her job, that the government failed to provide a timely military response, that the president had spent time reading to schoolchildren after learning of the attack, that intelligence agencies had failed to connect the dots. Others who had lost family to the terrorists’ assault commanded little to no interest from TV interviewers. Debra Burlingame–lifelong Democrat, sister of Charles F. “Chic” Burlingame III, captain of American Airlines flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, did manage to land an interview after Ms. Rice’s appearance. When she had finished airing her views critical of the accusatory tone and tactics of the Jersey Girls, her interviewer, ABC congressional reporter Linda Douglass marveled, “This is the first time I’ve heard this point of view.”

That shouldn’t have been surprising. The hearing room that day had seen a substantial group of 9/11 families, similarly irate over the Jersey Girls and their accusations–families that made their feelings evident in their burst of loud applause when Ms. Rice scored a telling zinger under questioning. But these were not the 9/11 voices TV and newspaper editors were interested in. They had chosen to tell a different story–that of four intrepid New Jersey housewives who had, as one news report had it, brought an administration “to its knees”–and that was, as far as they were concerned, the only story.

A fair number of the Americans not working in the media may, on the other hand, by now be experiencing Jersey Girls Fatigue–or taking a hard look at the pronouncements of the widows. Statements like that of Monica Gabrielle, for example (not one of the Jersey Girls, though an activist of similar persuasion), who declared that she could discern no attempt to lessen the casualties on Sept. 11. What can one make of such a description of the day that saw firefighters by the hundreds lose their lives in valiant attempts to bring people to safety from the burning floors of the World Trade Center–that saw deeds like that of Morgan Stanley’s security chief, Rick Rescorla, who escorted 2,700 employees safely out of the South Tower, before he finally lost his own life?

But the best known and most quoted pronouncement of all had come in the form of a question put by the leader of the Jersey Girls. “We simply wanted to know,” Ms. Breitweiser said, by way of explaining the group’s position, “why our husbands were killed. Why they went to work one day and didn’t come back.”

The answer, seared into the nation’s heart, is that, like some 3,000 others who perished that day, those husbands didn’t come home because a cadre of Islamist fanatics wanted to kill as many of the hated American infidels in their tall towers and places of government as they could, and they did so. Clearly, this must be a truth also known to those widows who asked the question–though in no way one would notice.

Who, listening to them, would not be struck by the fact that all their fury and accusation is aimed not at the killers who snuffed out their husbands’ and so many other lives, but at the American president, his administration, and an ever wider assortment of targets including the Air Force, the Port Authority, the City of New York? In the public pronouncements of the Jersey Girls we find, indeed, hardly a jot of accusatory rage at the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. We have, on the other hand, more than a few declarations like that of Ms. Breitweiser, announcing that “President Bush and his workers . . . were the individuals that failed my husband and the 3,000 people that day.”

The venerable status accorded this group of widows comes as no surprise given our times, an age quick to confer both celebrity and authority on those who have suffered. As the experience of the Jersey Girls shows, that authority isn’t necessarily limited to matters moral or spiritual. All that the widows have had to say–including wisdom mind-numbingly obvious, or obviously false and irrelevant–on the failures of this or that government agency, on derelictions of duty they charged to the president, the vice president, the national security adviser, Norad and the rest, has been received by most of the media and members of Congress with utmost wonder and admiration. They had become prosecutors and investigators, unearthing clues and connections related to 9/11, with, we’re regularly informed, unrivalled dedication and skill.

The day of Ms. Rice’s appearance before the Commission, a radiant Gail Sheehy, author of “Hillary’s Choice,” beamed gratitude as she congratulated the host of “Hardball” for bringing the women on as guests. She had been following the New Jersey moms for two years, Ms. Sheehy said, and they were always leaks ahead–of everyone. She wanted to note, too, “how the moms kept making that point that it was her [Ms. Rice’s] job” to inform the president. Another indicator of their expertise.

Ms. Sheehy was hardly alone in her faith in the widows and their special skills. Their every shred of opinion about the hearings last week was actively solicited–as will be true, no doubt, this week. Asked what question she would put to Ms. Rice, if she could, one Jersey Girl answered, after some thought, that it would be, What did she know and when did she know it? The answer wasn’t the first to suggest that the nation now confronted a new investigation of government malfeasance, and coverups on the order of Watergate, and that we’d been brought to this cleansing by the work of four New Jersey widows. One NBC journalist ended his summation of Ms. Rice’s testimony with an urgent coda: The issue of real significance that day, he explained, would be how the families of the 9/11 victims reacted to her testimony. There would have been no doubt, in the mind of anyone listening, which families he meant.

Really? How can that be?–is the only reasonable response to that claim, which would not have been made in a saner time. How could it be that the most important issue emerging from an inquiry into undeniable intelligence failures, at a time of utmost national peril, was the way the victims’ families reacted to the hearings?

Reader Dan F. of NYC e-mails:

I’m a lifelong resident of NYC and my wife narrowly escaped with her life after the first attack on the WTC in 1993. No one I knew personally was killed on 9/11, but like most New Yorkers the attack hurt and angered me deeply – and still does. “The widows'” act (all four of them) was getting tired long ago and Ann Coulter or that creep Ted Rall weren’t the first to point it out. Dorothy Rabinowitz of the WSJ may have that distinction and said as much in 2004. Of course, she is more subtle than Coulter or Rall, but boiled down to its essence, Rabinowitz made Coulter’s case two years ago. So you out-of-towners in Tenn., CA, and Minn. can curb your indignation…

***

Discussion:

Hot Air
Ed Morrissey
The Anchoress
Instapundit
More at Memeorandum
Chuck Simmins
Ace of Spades

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