When I was a boy, at Knicks games, my dad would never let me boo players on opposing teams. He would say, "You don't know these people. They've never harmed you. And as brutally as they may be beating up on the Knicks, there's no reason to stoop to the level of the drunk fans behind you and say something as inarticulate as the word 'boo.'" Some time has passed since then, but I've pretty much kept to this mantra. Unless somebody is harming me personally (yes, this includes the SAT), I refrain from booing. That said, in the last month, almost every time I have seen an arrogant politico talking on television, I have cupped my mouth with my hands and let out a booming "Booooo."
Recently, political pundits from Rachel Maddow to Bill O'Reilly have chastised the Obama Administration for refusing to release to the public their legal justification for killing U.S. citizens in drone strikes. In John Brennan's hearing for a position as the head of the CIA, he was repeatedly asked by senators to explain his decisions as chief counter-terrorism advisor to the president to order drone strikes that could potentially result in the deaths of U.S. citizens. Sure, Republicans and Democrats alike have every right to make these inquiries. But I think it would do everyone good to take a step back and consider who is really killing Americans.
The number of U.S. citizens who have died in drone strikes in the past decade is said to be four (the exact number is uncertain) -- less than five percent of the number of Americans (2,200-plus) killed by guns since the massacre at Sandy Hook. In the two wars started by Bush Administration, in Iraq and Afghanistan, over 6,000 American soldiers have died -- not to mention the estimated tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi and Afghan civilian casualties. How, in good faith, do Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh say things like "constitutional scholar Barack Obama is demanding the right to kill American citizens without making his case to a judge," while being staunch supporters of President Bush's right to water board and vehemently opposed to any and all gun control? Booooo.
Recently, there has been a lot of talk about cutting the debt. Republican intellectuals, including and especially the previously-esteemed-but-currently-a-joke George Will, have been advocating for the U.S. to go forward with sequestration cuts: a series of "automatic, across-the-board cuts to government agencies, totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years, split 50-50 between defense and domestic discretionary spending," without addressing the root of much of our deficit (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and tax loopholes). But in reality, the debt our country faces is almost entirely the responsibility of the Bush Administration's two wars and massive tax cuts. How can so many political pundits go on television, blame President Obama for our debt, and then advocate for policies that could potentially throw our economy into free-fall, especially when you consider that President Obama has lowered our deficit more in the past three years than Ronald Reagan? Booooo.
One of the saddest parts of my most recent disenchantment with politics and the media is that it has coincided with a newfound addiction to The West Wing. Aaron Sorkin's dialogue has kept me awake far longer than I should have been night after night this week by making me forget that the tremendous nobility present in Sorkin's Washington only exists in fiction. The issues debated in The West Wing, written over a decade ago, are nearly identical to what is being debated in Washington right now. From gay marriage to a hike on the minimum wage, Josh, Toby, Sam and Jed fought for the same legislation Democrats are fighting for now, but because that show was fiction, some of it actually gets passed. In real life, the White House deputy communication manager doesn't look like Rob Lowe (although Boehner comes close) and Republicans aren't willing to compromise. And that is a reality that leaves me with no choice but to say: Booooo.
Follow Sam Koppelman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sammykoppelman