The Ethics Hero Odd Couple: Ann Coulter and Howard Dean

Two impolitic, frequently uncivil, ideologically zealous and widely disliked public figures just picked up Ethics Hero credentials by bucking the worst tendencies of their natural political allies, and making a stand for more understanding and less mindless partisan combat.

First, Ann Coulter, the political commentator/performance artist whose acid comments about the liberal establishment would make Rush Limbaugh blush: She was kicked off the bill for the ultra-conservative WorldNetDaily’s “Taking America Back Conference” in Miami because she agreed to speak at Homocon, an event organized by gay Republican group GOProud.

Joseph Farah, editor and CEO of WND, told the media, “Ultimately, as a matter of principle, it would not make sense for us to have Ann speak to a conference about ‘taking America back’ when she clearly does not recognize that the ideals to be espoused there simply do not include the radical and very ‘unconservative’ agenda represented by GOProud.”

Coulter is speaking at Homocon anyway, rightly believing that treating gays as social outcasts is wrong. Who knows: maybe next she’ll come around on same-sex marriage.

The second half of our odd couple Ethics Heroes is Howard Dean, the former Democratic Party chief who has impeccable credentials as a progressive and relentless conservative-basher, he shocked most observers by opining that the Ground Zero Mosque was not necessarily a good idea, and should probably be built elsewhere. More than that, he accused Democrats of “demonizing” opponents of the proposed Islamic center as bigots, when there are legitimate “emotional” reasons for “decent people” to find the project offensive.

Unlike Harry Reid, Dean isn’t running for re-election, so his comments can’t be dismissed as campaign pandering. His comments pulled the rug out from under demagogues in his own party, who have insisted on tarring all opposition to the mosque as coded bigotry. In doing so, he helped make real dialogue, which is only an option when adversaries respect each other, possible.

That’s what Coulter did too, by refusing pressure to treat gays as unworthy of inclusion in civic discourse. These are small steps toward healing the jagged ideological divide in America, but they are forward steps, and it took courage to make them.

If Howard Dean and Ann Coulter can be fair and reasonable, anything is possible.

Either that, or the world is about to end.

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