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On criticizing a 12-year-old girl

Tuesday, Aug 10, 2004

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No column I have written has elicited more hate mail than my last one on the 12-year-old girl who spoke at the Democratic National Convention and publicly ridiculed Vice President Dick Cheney. I have written against same-sex marriage; on behalf of the president’s international policies, capital punishment and Israel; argued for the superiority of the Judeo-Christian value system; and even defended divorce. Yet no column has elicited so much anger, use of expletives and foolish thinking.

It is clear I hit a deep nerve among many liberals and Democrats.

I wrote that this young girl exemplified the modern liberal desire to erase distinctions between children and adults, citing a number of examples, including the desire to lower the voting age first to 18 and now in California to 16 or even 14; not having children call adults “Mr.” or “Mrs.”; and having students rather than professors determine college curricula.

And I wrote that “Democrats went crazy . . . listening to a 12-year-old publicly mock the Republican vice president of the United States.”

But what most infuriated my liberal correspondents was my writing, “This girl has accomplished nothing compared to Dick Cheney. She has no wisdom, no humility and no knowledge beyond the leftist platitudes spoon-fed by her parents and schools. She is a mere child, more foolish than most, in that she actually thinks she has earned the right to publicly ridicule the vice president of the United States.”

Here are some examples:

“Has it come to this? The desperation of the GOP? Insulting a 12 yr old girl. You sure are a class act.”

“You’re an a–hole for saying that Wexler girl has not earned the right to criticize Cheney. F— YOU d–k head.”

“I have found that my own kids, aged 5 and 6 now can make very profound statements and can be very wise.”

“Ilana Wexler earned the right to criticize anyone she wants to on the day she was born an American, you idiot!”

“Picking on little girls — too pathetic for comment, really. I will pray for you. Geek.”

“You are a very sad person if picking on the kid at the convention is your idea of clever writing.”

“You have some nerve picking on a child. But I guess that is what we should all expect from Republicans now. Bible thumping and self righteousness all the while raping and molesting children when they think no one is looking. So, blow it out your ass.”

“In re: your incredibly harsh words for Ilana Wexler . . . Go F— Yourself.”

Obviously, two themes particularly disturbed my thoughtful correspondents: That I criticized a 12-year-old girl and that I wrote she had not earned the right to publicly ridicule the vice president of the United States.

Regarding the first, the criticism of me presupposes that my column was all about the girl. It wasn’t. It was about the Democrats’ use of her.

Having said that, however, why should a 12-year-old girl be immune from adult criticism? Because of her age? This objection is staggering in its inversion of traditional wisdom, which held that it is 12-year-olds who generally need to hold their tongues before they criticize, let alone ridicule, an adult; and that it is adults’ role to criticize the young so as to make them responsible adults. Unlike those liberals who take great pride in a 12-year-old publicly mocking the vice president of the United States, I would be ashamed of a 12-year-old conservative who publicly ridiculed a Democratic vice president.

Furthermore, note the double standard invoked here. A 12-year-old girl should be invited to speak at a national political convention and be taken seriously when she speaks — but criticizing her is out of bounds because she is 12! This line of thinking reinforced my contention that the Democrats hid behind a 12-year-old girl because they did not have the courage to attack Vice President Cheney themselves.

I am also certain that the fact that the child was a girl added to the dismissal of me as out of line in criticizing her. In the feminist world in which liberals live, liberal girls and women of any age are immune from criticism, especially from men. We are allowed only to celebrate opinionated liberal females, whether Teresa Heinz Kerry or Ilana Wexler.

The second major liberal objection — that all Americans have the right to free speech, so only an enemy of free speech could question the right of Ilana to do what she did — is a non-sequitur.

You have to willfully misread what I wrote to infer that I questioned the girl’s legal or constitutional right to do what she did.

What I wrote is that “She is a mere child, more foolish than most, in that she actually thinks she has earned the right to publicly ridicule the vice president of the United States.”

I was simply asserting that before one mocks the American vice president at a national political convention, one ought to have earned the stature to do so, and I cannot imagine any 12-year-old who has. It is abundantly clear that the notion of earning stature is alien to many, probably most, liberals’ thinking. Rights thinking so dominates the liberal mind that having the right to speech has to come to mean the same as always exercising it.

Childhood is the time to be a child and to be imbued with the values that will enable one to be a politically wise adult. I have enormous interest in speaking with children, but I have little interest in their political views. But, hey, I’m not a contemporary liberal.

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