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Jewish World Review May 3, 2001 / 9 Iyar, 5761

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Pulitzer's P.C. surprise: To h-ll with good writing

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- "THOSE moral differences are for all Vermonters to wrestle with in the privacy of their spiritual domain." That's good writing.

At least it is according to the totally nonbiased Pulitzer Prize committee. The author of that paragraph, David Moats, editorial-page editor of the Rutland (Vt.) Herald, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his "evenhanded and influential series of editorials commenting on the divisive issues arising from civil unions for same-sex couples."

The Pulitzer committee evidently has a penchant for illiterate compositions packed with run-on sentences, verbs and nouns that don't agree, multiple prepositions, legal errors and cloudy thoughts. It is wholly coincidental that the gist of these turgid, gaseous editorials was to support gay marriage.

That "spiritual domain" number was one of the sentences highlighted by The New York Times as an example of Mr. Moats' "plain-spoken" editorials. Not to be a stickler, but differences in morality -- differences that "exist today" and "will continue to exist" -- cannot be "wrestled with" in private. Any wrestling of differences has to occur among the people who disagree. The moral opinions themselves can be wrestled with in private, but not the differences.

Masking the illiteracy of his sentences with excess verbiage, Mr. Moats writes: "What the House required was not more finely calibrated gauges of public opinion, but the power to weigh the opinion it heard against the requirements of the law."

So, the House required the power to weigh opinions? What kind of legislature does Vermont have if it doesn't already have the power to weigh opinions? Doesn't Mr. Moats mean the House needed to weigh opinions, and not that it "required" the "power" to weigh opinions?

In another felicitous turn of phrase, Mr. Moats describes the gay marriage bill as "extending fair treatment to neighbors who have had to conduct their personal lives in a shadow of discrimination." If gays -- or neighbors conducting personal lives -- are only in the shadow of discrimination, whose discrimination is casting the shadow? Who's really being discriminated against up there?

Mr. Moats egged on the Vermont legislature, saying, "The confidence of their own convictions ought to serve as their best shield against criticism." Convictions can't have confidence, self-assurance, low self-esteem or bad hair days. Convictions can give humans confidence or humans can have confidence in their convictions. There cannot be confidence of convictions.

He continued: "The swift, sure action they have taken ought to serve as the best protection against the deep division that a protracted conflict would create." If the legislature has already avoided a protracted conflict, it has also avoided the consequences of a protracted conflict. No "protection" is necessary. By taking "swift, sure action" the legislature has thoroughly bypassed the fallout from not taking "swift, sure action."

In another profundity, Mr. Moats writes: "By establishing the principle that same-sex couples have equal rights, the court has set down a benchmark."

No, no, no! A "benchmark" is a point of reference for making measurements. If the court had required gay marriages to be made legal by a certain date or ruled that homosexuals were entitled to one-half of the rights of heterosexuals, those would be benchmarks. Simply announcing that homosexuals have equal rights is a principle, a holding, a hard-and-fast requirement. (Moreover, if "benchmark" meant what Mr. Moats thinks it means, that sentence would read: "By establishing a principle, the court has established a principle.")

Mr. Moats' dazzling writing style is matched only by his impressive legal acumen. He stated that it is "likely" that the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, which permits states not to recognize gay marriages consummated in other states.

While it's always dangerous to make predictions about what the inventors of Roe vs. Wade might discover lurking in the "penumbras" of the Constitution, it can be categorically stated: There is zero possibility that the Supreme Court will find the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

The Full Faith and Credit Clause gives Congress express authority to determine the effect to be given state laws in other states. Congress' exercise of that authority has been repeatedly upheld in analogous cases. That law is so bullet-proof, I highly doubt that anyone would be stupid enough to bother challenging it. In the six months before Mr. Moats won a Pulitzer for his "influential" editorials, seven state senators and 29 House members who supported the law retired or were defeated, the Vermont House of Representatives passed a bill repealing the gay rights law, and the governor who signed the gay marriage law saw his approval ratings fall from 63 percent to 41 percent.

The editorials were highly influential, however, with the Pulitzer Prize committee. As Mr. Moats might put it: Those linguistic differences were not for all Pulitzer committee members to wrestle with in the privacy of their ideological domain.


JWR contributor Ann Coulter is the author of High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton. You may visit the Ann Coulter Fan Club by clicking here.

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