Lou Dobbs is a bright man. Thoughtful, concerned and caring, as well. The shame is that too often he tends to get distracted from using those qualities together when a microphone is placed before him.
We need people getting on soapboxes. It's just that when you put yourself forth as the oracle of Grand Issues That Face Us All, and instead have tunnel vision so myopic you make Mr. Magoo seem clear-sighted, it makes your otherwise Grand Issues seem petty, small and silly.
You see, the problem with piling soapbox upon soapbox to be sure you're high above the crowd -- is that it ignores how much one teeters under such conditions. And last Thursday, Lou Dobbs outdid himself and became a Saturday Night Live sketch.
"You know, I have heard a lot of reasons over the years as to why George W. Bush should be impeached," Dobbs told his audience, wondering in anticipation of what deep thoughts on this visceral, divisive issue were to come. And come they did.
"For them to leave the Food and Drug Administration in this state," he went on," -- its leadership in this sorry condition and to have no capacity apparently or will to protect the American consumer -- that is alone to me sufficient reason to impeach a president who has made this agency possible and has ripped its guts out in its ability to protect the American consumer. It's insane what is going on here."
Lou Dobbs is right. "Insane" is a very good choice of words.
Impeachment has been a grave concern of probably tens of millions of Americans for the past four years. It's a profound issue, deeply controversial enough that Democratic House Speaker leader Nancy Pelosi has attempted to calm fears by stating that impeachment was off the table.
Countless national discussions have been held whether the president -- and even vice president and others in the Bush administration -- committed impeachable acts. And whether the nation could handle an impeachment trial, or if it would rip apart the country. Or cleanse the country.
And I'm just going to go out on limb here to guess that in none of those debates, prior to Lou Dobbs, did the concept of tomatoes, the FDA or consumer protection come up. Even once.
Mind you, I'm not saying that destroying the FDA and consumer protection isn't horrible. And given the track record of this administration, illegality could probably be proven without much difficulty. It's just that on the food chain of impeachable offenses it's so low down as to deserve only an asterisk, designating "And other offenses."
There are so many ways to address the ludicrousness of Lou Dobbs's "outrage" that the head spins, trying to figure out both where to start, and how to avoid the obvious.
At the very least, it's worth noting that having "no capacity apparently or will to protect the American consumer" is not actually "sufficient" constitutional reason to impeach the President of the United States. It's probably not even be sufficient reason to impeach your town councilman, though local laws vary.
Also, while it's nice that Lou Dobbs is enraged at the theoretical guts being ripped out of consumers, one would think that having the actual guts ripped from American soldiers in an illegal war would be higher up on Mr. Dobbs's list. After all, he acknowledges having heard "a lot of reasons" why President George Bush should be impeached, so you have to figure that this was one of them. It's been in all the papers. Yet Mr. Dobbs puts the FDA above that.
Actually, it goes beyond this -- because as Lou Dobbs stated, this gutting of consumer protections "is alone to me" reason to impeach George Bush. "Alone." So, that whole Iraq stuff, nah. This -- tomatoes, salmonella -- this is alone reason.
Okay, if you really wanted to be fair, it should probably be noted that the Bush administration probably hasn't protected the American consumer. But the only reason it's acceptable to make that assumption is because the Bush administration hasn't really protected the American... well, American.
Ask the people in New Orleans how well the administration has protected them, before and after Katrina. Ask those in Minneapolis how well administration cutbacks in taxes protected them and their bridges. Ask pet owners and parents and people who brush their teeth how well the Bush Administration's Federal Trade Commission protected Americans from lead poisoning. Ask Americans how well they feel protected by the administration from attacks, with national resources drained.
And none of this even touches on illegal spying on Americans, illegally outing an intelligence agent, illegally using the Justice Department for political purposes, illegally using federal agencies for political campaigning, illegally subverting new laws by creating "signing statements," illegally removing habeas corpus protections, illegally destroying legally-protected emails. And none of that even touches on the entire illegalities surrounding the Iraq War.
On an old episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a novice cameraman brings back footage of a bug crawling, to show that just a few feet away from a raging fire, "life goes on." A furious Mr. Grant, who's just lost a big scoop, replies with controlled fury, "Couldn't you have shown that a few feet away from a bug...THERE'S A FIRE GOING ON?!!!"
Yes, Lou Dobbs is right: a bad tomato patch is problematic. But the entire farm is on fire.