The worst in politics vs the worst in journalismThe whole Sen. Zell Miller-Chris Matthews controversy gives me seriously mixed feelings.
For those not aware, the Georgia Senator all but challenged the MSNBC host to a duel. With Matthews in a separate studio, Miller added, "I wish I was over there, where I could get a little closer up into your face."
The nominally Democratic senator, who supports President Bush's re-election, had just given the keynote address of the Republican convention where he launch a savage assault on John Kerry. Not surprisingly, the accuracy of many of his claims have been rubbished by several groups. But Miller was clever enough gain credibility by being specific, knowing full well that most ordinary viewers were unlikely to read reports of the fact checkers. His attack has been likened to Pat Buchanan's infamous address to the 1992 Republican convention.
As I said, the Matthews-Miller encounter leaves me with seriously mixed feelings. Chris "the Interrupter" Matthews represents the worst in what passes for American political journalism. Matthews is actually more obnoxious than Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly is smug, but Matthews is like the insecure student who's constantly trying to prove to everyone how smart he is.
Matthews sees political "journalism" as something to entertain the masses, not to help them make more informed choices. Matthews thinks politics should be treated in the same way as professional wrestling or Jerry Springer but for an audience that likes to think of itself as enlightened. Politics as a game, rather than something that matters to lives of real people.
Part of me is pleased that someone finally told the insufferable Matthews where to go.
Miller, on the other hand, represents the worst in American politics. He incarnates the insidious mentality that criticism of a president's reckless policies is tantamount to treason. Sure, he said, "It is not their [the Democrats'] patriotism - it is their judgment that has been so sorely lacking."
But he proceded to attack the Democrats' patriotism. "Now, while young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrat's manic obsession to bring down our Commander in Chief," he snarled.
The fact of the matter, Mr. Senator, is that America is being torn apart by the president's messianic insistence on bloating the size of the American Empire on the backs of other people's sons and daughters.
Miller sniffed, "And nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators."
American troops are used as occupiers. He may not like that politically incorrect fact, but it's a fact nonetheless. They have been ordered to invade and/or occupy countless non-threatening countries throughout the last hundred plus years.
Though Iraq is the most egregious recent example, there is also Cuba, the Philippines, Panama, Grenada, the former Kingdom of Hawaii and numerous others. Haiti and the Dominican Republic have had that "honor" multiple times each.
And that's not counting the countries where we made "regime change" via more stealthful, underhanded methods. There are probably a few countries in the world in which the United States' government has never intervened, sometimes justified though usually not, in any way shape or form, but they are a small minority.
If Miller wants use the euphemism 'liberation' to refer to the unsollicited invasion, occupation and exploitation (or sometimes outright annexation) of a non-threatening sovereign entity, he's free to do so, but most would recognize it as a perversion of the word.
American soldiers are occupiers not because they want to be, but because the president wants them to be.
I don't care that Miller criticized Kerry's policies (he actually did spend a little time on that, even if their verarcity was dubious). But Miller, like many in this country, hold the un-American belief that the president is an elected (sort of), absolute monarch who should be immune from criticism, no matter how horrible the effects of his policies on the nation we all claim to love... though most who hold that belief now, didn't seem hold it under Democratic presidencies.
Criticizing the president, any president, should NEVER be off-limits. Whether you agree with the criticism or not, it should never be impermissible. Ever!
Once criticizing the president is taken off the table, we become an absolute monarchy. In a democratic country, you have an obligation to criticize their leaders when their leaders are doing dangerous and foolish things. Failure to do so in an dereliction of civic duty. Failure to do so may make you complicit with the crimes committed in your name.
Disagreement is necessary for this experiment called the United States to work. Ironic that it was a military man who appreciated this better than some of today's civilians. Gen. George Patton once said, "If everyone thinks the same, someone is not thinking."
Criticizing a president's policies does not put soldiers' lives at risk and it's a slanderous lie to suggest otherwise.
However, sending them unnecessarily and for dubious reasons into harm's way DOES puts their lives at risk.
So let's not forget who's kicking whom.
Miller and his ilk forget that if dissent were unpatriotic, we would all still be singing God Save the Queen.
I'd love to see both Miller and Matthews get their commupence. Maybe they could temporarily suspend the anti-duel laws.