Several weeks ago, Keith Olbermann began doing a series of Special Comments. His inspiration for doing them was the late, great Edward R. Murrow. (Mr. Murrow lived in Pawling, NY, where I currently live, though not while he was alive. Pawling is very proud that he was a part of its history.) In his comments, Mr. Olbermann pulls no punches and says the things that need to be said to the people who should be listening but doubtless are not, even if the only reason they refuse to listen is that Mr. Olbermann is liberal. Too bad, because liberals have been maliciously, mendaciously, and methodically demonized by their ideological opponents for far too long. They should admit it: Liberals have fought for and helped bring about virtually every major sociological change in this country, from the Revolutionary War itself through the Civil Rights movement and all kinds of things in between, and conservatives fought against them every step of the way. You conservatives should think about where your kids would be today if life were as it was a hundred years ago under conservative rule. If they were alive, they would probably be working in a factory, and certainly not going to elementary school. There was none, until the liberals changed that. And lest you think we're all "soft on defense", keep in mind that many of us have served in our country's armed forces, in both peace and war. Like the vast majority of us on the left, Mr. Olbermann is not merely unashamed about being liberal, he's proud of it. And liberals have become sick and tired of hypocrisy in our government. Whatever excesses were permitted in the past through acquiesence on the part of the public and of us liberals, regardless of the political party of the person involved, we are going to see that it comes to an end. We are not going to just keep letting them get away with it without speaking up and demanding accountabililty. Exposure of the truth is their enemy, and they are about to face it like they haven't seen it before. They pushed us to see just how much we would take before we fought back, and they're about to find out. They should also remember that just because we prefer to resolve things peacefully and through talking it out, it doesn't mean we won't fight if we have to. (And we're the "brainy" ones, so I'd be concerned about what we're capable of doing if you intend to push us that far.) Still, like true liberals, I would rather see a peaceful resolution to our differences, but it must be agreed by all that this particular administration has gone way too far.
When former Secretary of State Colin Powell wrote that "the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism," President Bush responded with an address from the Rose Garden in which he said some very chilling words during a very deceitful response to a reporter's question. As has beconme the standard operating procedure when the president is called upon to justify his actions that are being criticized, he put up a straw man and completely mischaracterized the question and then said something frightening. He used the phrase "it's unacceptable to think." The reporter asked him, "Mr. President, former Secretary of State Colin Powell says the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. 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 followuing a flawed strategy?" The president then twisted the question into one about the compassion of Americans (a subject not even diatantly approached by the reporter) and then uttered the jaw dropper. He said, "If there's any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it's flawed logic." I'm going to stop right there and say two things. First, who the fuck was comparing them because it certainly wasn't us or the reporter? And second, will you ever stop bringing up these ridiculous, stupid, insulting straw man arguments? Just because you can't justify your actions and tell the truth at the same time, it doesn't mean that we're too stupid to realize you're doing it. And then he made it even worse. "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 actions of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective."
For the President of the United States of America, the country that is the greatest testimony to freedom of speech in history, to say that it is unacceptable to think something, is to insult every person who has fought and died for that freedom. And to distort the question being asked in order to make that incredible statement shows a callousness this opresident has usually been better at hiding, though it is undoubtedly there. As Mr. Olbermann so eloquently put it, Bush owes us an apology.
In the aftermath of September 11th, the White House and the Republicans assured us that they would not politicize that horrendous day, and then proceeded to do just that. And all of that was bad enough, but they also haven't done anything about rebuilding what was lost, despite all the grand promises. Five years later and what do we have to show for our rebuilding efforts on that sixteen acres? A hole in the ground. Mr. Olbermann expressed the outrage over this quite well in his special comment titled This hole in the ground. As you read this, keep in mind that it was several more days after this comment that more remains were found under a manhole at Ground Zero.
The president's attempt to equate questioning him or his policies with the terrorists' attempt to manipulate the media prompted this reply, 'Have you no sense of decency, sir?' He also broke the rule against invoking Hitler or the Nazis.
Tired of hearing what a lousy job he's doing, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld lashed out at his critics and compared them to Nazi appeasers. What a petty, petty, man. The arrogance, to think that he is right and everyone who disagrees is wrong, when the plain evidence before us clearly shows the opposite, is bewildering. Mr. Olbermann explored that in Feeling morally, intellectually confused?. Bear in mind with this one the subsequent events. The Military Times is expected to run an editorial Monday calling for Rumsfeld's resignation or firing at once. One can wonder if Mr. Olbermann's Special Comment had any influence on that editorial's content. Perhaps not.
When Fox News Channel's Chris Wallace ambushed former president Bill Clinton with that bullshit question about why he didn't do enough to stop bin Laden (under the dubious claim that it was what their viewers told them to ask via e-mail; weeks later, FNC ignored tens of thousands of e-mails asking them to ask Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice why they didn't respond to the bombing of the USS Cole. But that's a topic for another thread.) For a network that claims to do things "Fair & Balanced", it was a very unfairly framed question. It presumed that it was possible to do enough in the first place, that trying alone should have guaranteed success, and that if he didn't succeed it could only have been for lack of trying. And yet the evidence is quite clear that where President Clinton admitted that he didn't do enough because bin Laden was alive when he left office, President Bush, by contrast, did NOTHING. Because Bush is a coward who will not face scrutiony for his failures, Mr. Olbermann decided it was time to call him out on that in A textbook definition of cowardice.
Over the past couple of months, as stories come out showing all the failures of the administration, and reports come out that contradict what Bush's p[eople say is happening, Bush has been hitting the campaign trail and lying, lying, lying. His biggest problem seems to be an inability to distinguish between the enemy he says we face and the people who say he's wrong Mr. Olbermann tried to help him understand in A special comment about lying.
After five special comments, mostly directed at the president, Mr. Olbermann was hardly going to contain himself when Bush decided that nearly 800 years of guaranteed rights was long enough and, with a stroke of his pen, signed legislation denying certain people any rights at all. This is NOT an exaggeration. A writ of habeas corpus (you must have the body), is your sole right to be brought before a judge of some kind when the government picks you up to ask, "Why am I here?" Without this right, your other "rights" are rendered meaningless because how will you ever get them enforced, especially if the government refuses to admit that they have you in their custody? The Military Commsions Act of 2006 will deny people classified a certain way, the right to have their staus challenged. And how do they get this status? It would only take the President's or the Secretary of Defense's signature - with no accompanying proof required whatsoever - to label someone with this status. (It's actual name is irrelevant, as it is just another deceitful name on their part.) Once you are given this label, your right to have that label challenged ceases to exist. No court would have any jurisdiction to hear your complaint. If a judge is not allowed to listen, who's gong to make sure your other rights are not violated? Mr. Olbermann spoke to this in Beginning of the end of America.
When the Republican Party debuted an ad on their web site, before actually airing it on TV, they knew that the cable news channels, at least, would air it for them at no charge. And they weren't wrong. And with the free air time came the free criticism. Because it was a horrible, despicable, loathesome attempt to terrorize the American people. And let there be no misunderstanding about what this commercial constituted: it was Terrorism. They were doing the work of the very enemy they claimed we were fighting for them. The enemy need only sit back and do nothing. Advertising terrorism was Mr. Olbermann's explanation for why this was so.
Finally, in his most recent special comment to date, Mr. Olbermann responded to President's Bush insulting attack on our nation's fine troops. You see, John Kerry was beginning to rattle off some lame jokes at a campaign stop when he completely, and unintentionally, botched up a joke very badly. This is an irrefutable fact no matter what the nay-sayers on Fox think. Kerry's staff quickly put the word out that Kerry meant to say that when you don't learn, you get us stuck in Iraq, meaning President Bush, which was unmistakably clear from his words leading up to this point. But he left out the word us. So it came out sounding like he was saying that the stupid ones end up serving in Iraq, and that was obviously NOT what he would EVER say at any time. But facts mean nothing to a political party so hell-bent on winning at all costs, despite the fact that just about all major polls show the public does not want them in control. Bush seized upon Kerry's two hundred tenth verbal gaffe to LIE and say that Kerry was insulting the troops. It was Bush, in fact, who was the one insulting our troops for pretending that someone would actually say that (and mean it) about our troops. This was the subject of Mr. Olbermann's most recent rebuke of the president. Bush owes troops apology, not Kerry.
I know that I am not alone in applauding Mr. Olbermann for his courage, talent, and willingness to speak truth to power. These are things that need to be said because the people who the president listens to will never say these things. Someone has to. Someone has.