Monday, October 13, 2008

Why Krauthammer Opposes Free Speech

He doesn't share Rev. Wright's poisonous views of race nor Ayers' views, past and present, about the evil that is American society. But Obama clearly did not consider these views beyond the pale. . . . [F]or the years in which he sat in Wright's pews and shared common purpose on boards with Ayers, Obama considered them a legitimate, indeed unremarkable, part of social discourse.
Charles Krauthammer, October 10, 2008

58,000 American soldiers were killed in Vietnam. More than 150,000 were wounded. The South Vietnamese army may have lost more than 250,000 soldiers while 1,100,000 died fighting for North Vietnam. Civilian deaths might have been as high as 2,000,000.

Surely a discussion of whether the United States’ actions in Vietnam were justified is a legitimate part of social discourse. Certainly this discourse can include consideration of the immorality of different methods of opposing that war, but consideration of the morality of the war itself cannot be “beyond the pale” in a country that claims to embrace freedom of speech.

In 1953, the CIA overthrew the legitimate government of Iran and installed the Shah in its place. This led to the 1979 Islamic revolution and the taking of American hostages. During the 1980’s, the Reagan Administration provided support to both sides in the Iran-Iraq war depending on its perception of the United States' interests at the moment. After the first Gulf War, the Bush 41 administration urged the Kurds and Shia to rise up and overthrow Saddam Hussein and then turned a blind eye as Saddam viciously suppressed them. Over the years, the United States has supplied the arms that kept the Saudi monarchy in power while that same monarchy funded the Wahabbist sect from which Osama bin Laden sprang.

Is it really beyond the pale to consider the connection between the foreign policy of the United States in the Middle East and the 9/11 attacks? Is the very suggestion that “America’s chickens came home to roost” on 9/11 so outrageous that anyone who dares to articulate that possibility must be shunned from all polite society?

Why is Krauthammer so eager to paint these issues as illegitimate subjects of discussion. Could it be because he was one of the biggest cheerleaders for the War in Iraq? Could it be that he simply wants to quash all discussions of the consequences of America’s military adventures in order to avoid discussing the morality of his own positions?


  1. Ayers' views... about the evil that is American society

    The problem is thinking that America is what's wrong with the world.

    I don't know anyone who doesn't think we've made mistakes. Some people take that one step farther -- we are a mistake.

    This becomes an issue in a presidential campaign because people rightly wonder if we want a president who hangs out with people who think America is the problem with the world; how much does he espouse their views? What would that mean for a president?

  2. If I understand your position correctly, it is alright for someone to talk about the problems with American foreign policy, the problems with CIA’s attempts to undermine foreign governments, the problems with America’s support of repressive dictators, and the problems with America’s military interventions. However, somewhere there is a magic line that the person must not cross in his discussion of these problems because it would rise to the level of suggesting that America is the problem. Perhaps it would cross that line to suggest that America is a destabilizing influence in its foreign interventions rather than a beacon of democracy. Once he had crossed that line, it would not only establish him as person of no character or patriotism, but it would also be reasonable to question the character and patriotism of anyone who associated with him.

    As far as I am concerned, the real problem is trying to decide that some political thoughts are unthinkable and unutterable. It does nothing to help the nation face its problems and learn from its mistakes. Its only purpose is to avoid discussing America’s problems by attacking people who bring them up.

  3. There are a lot of unutterables in our society, but this is not one of them.

    An example might clarify our concern. Say you own a paper factory, and you're looking for a new manager. You've narrowed it down to two people.

    One disagrees with your business model and wants to take your company in a completely different direction.

    The other thinks making paper is evil and wants to shut down the factory.

    Who is the better choice to run your factory?

    The concern about someone who thinks there's something fundamentally wrong with America is that you can't tell what they'd try to do at the helm.

    Now, I don't actually think Sen. Obama hates America, but if he doesn't why does he hang out with people who do? I can't think of a good way to answer that question.

  4. you probably hang out with more people who hate America than you realize.

  5. Let’s go with your example Chris.

    You own a paper factory. There are people in your community who think that your factory is a poor corporate citizen because you pollute the local water supply. These people think that the community would be better off without your factory. These people blame you personally for the problems your factory has caused.

    Do you want a manager who considers the complaints that these people have and takes them seriously or do you want a manager who refuses to talk to anyone who thinks that the factory should be shut down? Do you want a manager who tells you that the people who are critical of you and your factory are crackpots unworthy of your attention? Which manager is more likely to be able to address the problems your factory is having with the community?

    Following up on pokeyandsoap’s comment, do you think that William Ayers walked around wearing an “I hate America” tee shirt? Chicago Tribune Columnist Eric Zorn took a look at Ayers standing in Chicago during the 1990’s.

    But the record shows he just wasn't a very controversial figure. Aside from Royko's "I still think he's a jerk" column in 1990, I found only two objections to Ayers' civic rehabilitation in the decade's news archives: a 1993 letter to the Tribune and a 1999 guest commentary.

    If there were protests or organized efforts opposing Ayers, the papers didn't cover them.

    If any of Mayor Richard M. Daley's feckless opponents tried to use his approval of Ayers as an issue in the 1990s, I can find no evidence of it.

    And if any of the pillars of society who helped oversee the Chicago Annenberg Challenge education grants ever resigned or otherwise tried to distance themselves from Ayers, who played a key role in securing those grants, the available historical record is silent on the matter.

    During the time that Obama knew him, Ayers literally was just a “guy in the neighborhood.”

    On the other hand during the time that Todd Palin was a member of the Alaska Independence Party and Sarah Palin addressed its convention, the AIP openly advocated giving Alaskans the opportunity to vote themselves out of the United States. I suspect that they both encountered a lot more open hostility to the United States than Obama ever encountered in his contacts with William Ayers.

  6. Vinny, you don't get it. I'm familiar with your mode of not getting it; it's classic stuff. It's diagnostic of a certain kind of thinking.

    It goes like this: I call David Duke a racist, and he says, "Why can't I criticize black people? What, are they sacred or something?"

    But, you know, you can criticize black people. It's perfectly allowed. But if you start claiming they're subhuman, and that they're naturally criminal, and all the other crazy crap Duke believes, I'm going to write you off as a malicious lunatic.

    Get it?

    Criticism is one thing, and irrational hatred is another. Blaming somebody for something he arguably did, is one thing; blaming him for absolutely everything, is another.

    Your paper factory analogy starts out with the assumption that all of the criticism is accurate. It's an analogy carefully chosen to obscure the issue. My David Duke analogy is much better, because it starts out by observing the very important fact that critics can be wrong.

    So what's happening here, is this: You say something that isn't true. Somebody calls bullshit, and you pretend that he objects to the truth being spoken. Wrong. He objects to bullshit being spoken. You're a bit disingenuous there. You're also a bit disingenuous in pretending that Ayers' only objection to the US is Vietnam. His hatred of the US is a great deal broader and more detailed than that. He hates capitalism, he sees racism everywhere he looks, blah blah blah. The usual left-wing stuff.

    Do you consider Duke's views "a legitimate, indeed unremarkable, part of social discourse"? I don't, but some do[1]. That's their right. Personally, I wouldn't vote for them, and I would encourage others not to vote for them either. Does that mean I "oppose free speech"? No, that means I EXERCISE IT.

    [1] You're very close to Duke, actually. The belief in scapegoats is a way of looking at the world. The choice of scapegoat always turns out to be negotiable; that's how August Kreis turned pro-Muslim, and David Duke agrees with Noam Chomsky about foreign policy these days. The white supremacist fringe has turned anti-American because they (correctly) see massive growth opportunities on the left.