The Coulter Mistake and How Not to Make It

The lead article at RedState this morning is about Rush Limbaugh and his embrace of conspiracy theory thinking as part of his continuous and shared quest to justify Trump. As noted in the headline, though, it’s not just Rush Limbaugh thus devolving.


Take, for example, Ann Coulter.

Before we go on, let’s just be clear about a few things. By “justify” Trump, you must understand that there is a market on the right, a cottage industry, dedicated to the proposition that all which Trump may conceive is immaculate. It is a defense industry.

The major players are no mystery to anyone reading this, and their task is familiar and exhausting. They spend as close to 100% of their time as possible defending everything Donald Trump ever says or does, ever has said or done, or ever may do.

They do this with zealous dedication, telling others (and themselves) the lie that it’s not really about him, it’s just that the left and the media are so unfair. They are often easily identified by the phrase “I’m no fan of Trump, but…” in tweets. (Rest assured there is no more certain fan of Trump than someone who starts their sentence with “I’m no fan of Trump.”)

That is where they begin, at any rate. Eventually, this job they have taken upon themselves to be the border wall around him wears them down. They start with “I’m no fan of Trump” and they end with this.

It’s inevitable.

That is what “justify” Trump means. Whatever lip service they pay to his being imperfect, in practice their job, their obsession, is making him perfect.


Let us also stipulate that the term “devolving” is relative. You may feel in some cases some of these people were already fully unhinged, and that’s fine. I don’t think so but it’s not that essential to determine whether this low is a new low or not. Let’s just agree that it’s low.

So back to Ann Coulter who said, I repeat, “Don’t think the FBI is incompetent? Just ask the 3,000 victims of the 9/11 attack” in the above tweet.

First, the obvious “what if Obama had said it” question. What if Obama had said it? What if Barack Obama called the FBI incompetent? What if he blamed the attacks on 9/11 on the FBI? Is there any doubt about how Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or the entire MAGA universe would have reacted?

The answer is “no.” There is no doubt. Zero. Remember “the police acted stupidly”? That times nine hundred and eleven.

And it wasn’t just one Tweet, I should note. Take a look:

It’s not Ann’s first foray (and thus the remark above about devolving), she’s been bashing the FBI for years. Obviously, I’m about to tell you how much she is getting wrong.


Coulter is calling the FBI incompetent because she believes they are too under the thumb of “political correctness” to do their job properly. This idea, that “political correctness” is the greatest scourge of modern times, is rampant on the right. More now than ever, but it’s always been there. It is especially there in the conspiracy swamps like Infowars and among white supremacists and white nationalists, who think not being able to use racial slurs is worse than being an actual slave.

In the case of 9/11, Coulter’s assertion is that the FBI is responsible for the greatest terror attack in history because they didn’t respond to the warning of a single agent who reported that many Muslim men were taking flying lessons and recommended looking into flight schools across the country for the trend.

Imagine thinking that you can pinpoint a single agent’s report and say “this is where it went wrong.” How absurd must you be?

Consider the variables. Even if the FBI had set off a thousand alarms and began earnestly searching the country for flying schools with a large number of foreign-born Muslim or Middle-Eastern men taking lessons, it’s not remotely certain that would have changed a thing.

The agent’s warning came a mere two months before the actual hijacking. There was no reason, in particular, to suspect that flying lessons should lead to suspects boarding aircraft as passengers. None of the men identified by the agent were actually involved in the attack. Oh, and by the way, the FBI didn’t ignore the report anyway.


From a Guardian article just a few months after the attacks.

The FBI sent the intelligence to its terrorism experts in Washington and New York for analysis and had begun discussing a nationwide check on flight schools when the September 11 attacks occurred, officials said.

At least one leader of the 19 hijackers, Hani Hanjour, received flight training in Arizona in 2001 but his name had not surfaced in the FBI intelligence from Arizona.

None of the Middle Eastern men identified by the Arizona counterterrorism agents or any information contained in their July 2001 memo pointed to the suicide plot, officials said.

“The Phoenix communication went to appropriate operational agents and analysts but it did not lead to uncovering the impending attacks,” said John Collingwood, assistant director of the FBI.

That there were intelligence failures in detecting and preventing the 9/11 attack is manifestly apparent. Beginning in the early 1990s and on through the actual events of the day, there were security failures, intelligence failures, communications failures. The best laid plans, you know. We learned from a lot of those errors.

But they did not consist wholly and exclusively of “the FBI was, in toto, too politically correct to look into a potential threat from flight schools.” I mean … obviously.

Nor should the fact of mistakes or prior bad planning be reason to call the FBI “incompetent.” In fact, Ann should thank the FBI for the dozens of terror plots they’ve thwarted over the last 17 years since 9/11, including in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Charlotte, and even Topeka.


In fact, here are 50 terror plots that were stopped by our intelligence agencies as part of the War on Terror, as compiled by the Heritage Foundation.

It is convenient lately for Ann to whip her old hobbyhorse, with so many others joining in. She wants you to think the FBI is cowed into inaction by the meddling nannies of political correctness. And that does happen. Nidal Hasan should have been red-flagged, for example. But then again, the FBI took seriously the report that Ann says they ignored. And they foiled many more, often in ways that included profiling.

Moreover, it is orders of magnitude different from pointing out specific failures to proclaiming the entire agency incompetent. To smear those risking their lives to protects us as worthless or weak or cowardly just to score cheap political points or get a little outrage press.

Ann is a Truther in spirit and action. The only differentiation between her and a standard Truther is which American she holds entirely responsible for 9/11.

And all of this is compounded by the fact that she and her newfound fellow travelers do this now in service of Trump. For no other reason than to preemptively clear him of any future wrongdoing or future finding of past wrongdoing.

So the Coulter mistake, you see, isn’t one she made. It’s one you make, when you take something Ann Coulter says as being sound, reasonable, informed, or even her actual opinion.

It’s easy not to make the Coulter mistake. Don’t buy into her bulls**t. Simple.


As for the rest of the right-o-sphere and their new hobby of trashing law enforcement, they should keep a few things in mind. First, that bad leadership, especially of a political nature, is not an indictment of an agency as a whole. Second, that you aren’t always getting the full picture you think you are from a few ill-informed or ill-conceived tweets by charlatans. Third, when you are saying the same thing that RT and the lunatic hordes of G8 protesters say, you’re headed far astray. Fourth, there is no conflict in believing the FBI is a good agency doing a pretty good job while also believing that there may be bad actors within the agency that need to be rooted out. Both things can be true.

Fifth, and finally, you can still fly in and out of New York City in airplanes, because someone is making it safe for you to do that.

Maybe remember that next time you open your fat mouth.


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