MSNBC's Keith Olbermann reminded us why it is so great to be an American. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's insulting rhetoric reminded us why we are allowed to disagree with the government. Being a great American means having the freedom to question our leaders and hold them accountable. While Rumsfeld doesn't believe this is true, Olbermann stepped in with a sound rebuttal to set the facts straight about the politics of dissent. (Video at Crooks and Liars)
Before Olbermann's "Special Comment" on Rumsfeld's speech to the American Legion, there is something to be said about using the Nazi party and fascism to compare the present terrorist threat that we face in the 21st century. To be perfectly blunt, it's inaccurate, especially when RJ Eskow puts it in perspective. Comparing today's Islamic extremists with the SS forces of the fascist Nazi party is a "false historical analogy." A more accurate comparison would be comparing such groups to the Ku Klux Klan. But as we have seen from Rumsfeld's speech, "fascism" is the latest buzzword to rally support, probably because it sounds the most familiar, and the 60 percent of Americans who oppose the Iraq effort just don't understand the magnitude of the threat so we need something from the history to serve as a feeble parallel.
In other words, our administration thinks we are too dumb to understand the method behind their madness, so they're using a really big dinosaur with four legs to show us how rats learn to walk. Rumsfeld said it himself, that critics of the administration's tactics are "morally and intellectually confused," to paraphrase. He also mentioned that ignoring the threat of terrorists was similar to appeasing Hitler. Not only is 60% or more of the country stupid, but we are also, according to Rumsfeld, on par with Nazi sympathizers.
So, Keith Olbermann side-stepped a possible joke about Ted Williams' birthday and cryogenics because he was "going to get in enough trouble" for the remarks he would make on the air and in his blog (which I will excerpt here, but it should be read in its entirety and posted in every classroom in the country). Keith, why you worry about stating the truth, I'll never know.
Olbermann's was a sharp statement on the nature of dissent, and why it exists when the intelligence of the American people is so gravely insulted by elected and appointed officials of the government, people who are paid by our tax dollars, put into power with our votes and are expected to act in our best interests. If they fail on the third point, they can be held accountable. There is much to be said about the delicious irony of Rumsfeld's Nazi comparison, but the bigger and more important message is about an administration that claims a "monopoly on truth," constantly telling its constituents that they know what is best for the country, and anyone who disagrees with them is for hurting Americans.
But this administration hasn't given us any reason to trust them, Olbermann says, citing their failures on full disclosure of 9/11, WMDs and the impact and response to Katrina. All of these failures, Olbermann alleges, have "profited and benefited" the administration, "both personally and politically."
"And yet [Rumsfeld] can stand up, in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emperor's New Clothes?"
This was not the basis on which America was founded. This is not how a democracy works. This is why the First Amendment is first.
"In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised?...On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused the United States of America?...
"The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: the destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought...This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed."
Olbermann notoriously closes his broadcast with the words of Edward R. Murrow: "Good night, and good luck." Tonight, he preceded those words with one of Murrow's most popular speeches, which was used in the movie "Good Night, and Good Luck." Keith apologized for repeating the speech in full, and I make no apologies for once again repeating it here:
"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular.
"And so good night, and good luck."