Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"It's unacceptable to think"
Before the New York Times placed its opinion and editorial columns behind a par per view firewall, we lefty bloggers had a twice a week ritual that tied us all together. Every Monday and Friday we would all write a post that basically said, "Paul Krugmann is really good today; you should go read him." Now days ,those of us who have a premium pass to the Times occassionally grab a block quote from Krugmann and base a post on it. But, since we can no longer link to his whole column, linking to Paul is no longer a unifying experience in Left Blogistan.

Fortunately we have Keith Olbermann. For a while, most lefty bloggers only occasionally checked in on Olbermann to see what his rationale was for naming Bill O'Reilly the Worst Person in the World yet again. Lately, however, Olbermann has been producing a series of powerful editorials--indictments, really--aimed at the administration and its eagerness to embrace its worst instincts and impulses.
"Mr. President, former Secretary of State Colin Powell says the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism," he was asked by a reporter. "If a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former secretary of state feels this way, don't you think that Americans and the rest of the world are beginning to wonder whether you're following a flawed strategy?"

"If there's any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it's flawed logic," Bush said. "It's just -- I simply can't accept that. It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective."

Of course it's acceptable to think that there's "any kind of comparison."

And in this particular debate, it is not only acceptable, it is obviously necessary, even if Mr. Powell never made the comparison in his letter.

Some will think that our actions at Abu Ghraib, or in Guantanamo, or in secret prisons in Eastern Europe, are all too comparable to the actions of the extremists.

Some will think that there is no similarity, or, if there is one, it is to the slightest and most unavoidable of degrees.

What all of us will agree on, is that we have the right -- we have the duty -- to think about the comparison.

And, most importantly, that the other guy, whose opinion about this we cannot fathom, has exactly the same right as we do: to think -- and say -- what his mind and his heart and his conscience tell him, is right.

All of us agree about that.

Except, it seems, this President.

With increasing rage, he and his administration have begun to tell us, we are not permitted to disagree with them, that we cannot be right, that Colin Powell cannot be right.

And then there was that one, most awful phrase.

In four simple words last Friday, the President brought into sharp focus what has been only vaguely clear these past five-and-a-half years - the way the terrain at night is perceptible only during an angry flash of lightning, and then, a second later, all again is dark.

"It's unacceptable to think," he said.

It is never unacceptable to think.

And when a President says thinking is unacceptable, even on one topic, even in the heat of the moment, even in the turning of a phrase extracted from its context, he takes us toward a new and fearful path -- one heretofore the realm of science fiction authors and apocalyptic visionaries.

That flash of lightning freezes at the distant horizon, and we can just make out a world in which authority can actually suggest it has become unacceptable to think.

Thus the lightning flash reveals not merely a President we have already seen, the one who believes he has a monopoly on current truth.

It now shows us a President who has decided that of all our commanders-in-chief, ever, he alone has had the knowledge necessary to alter and re-shape our inalienable rights.

This is a frightening, and a dangerous, delusion, Mr. President.

This is only about half of the full editorial. As always, you should go read the whole thing.

In a way, it's too bad that Olbermann first came to the attention of many of us for his smart-alecy take on the news displayed in his countdown and cheap shots at O'Reilly. Olbermann is obviously an intelligent, articulate, thoughtful observer with a deep sense of historical perspective.

Still, it's never too late to start taking him seriously. We need more voices like this.

PS - Speaking of smart-alecy cheap shots, I must point out in Bush's defense that, when he says "It's unacceptable to think," he practices what he preaches.

No comments: