Keith Olbermann makes a brave and worthwhile
effort to restore faith in at least one American Journalist.
The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see
shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.
Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.
We end the countdown where we began, our #1 story.
with a special comment on Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarkable
speech to the American Legion
yesterday. It demands the deep analysis - and the sober
contemplation - of every
For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or
intelligence - indeed, the loyalty - of the majority of
oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in
Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants -
employees - with a total omniscience; a total omniscience
common sense, nor this administration’s track record at
home or abroad,
suggests they deserve.
Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s
human freedom; And not merely because it is the first
roadblock against the
kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as
"his" troops still
fight, this very evening, in Iraq.
It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile…
is right - and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.
In a small irony, however, Mr. Rumsfeld’s speechwriter
adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the
For, in their time, there was another government faced
peril - with a growing evil - powerful and remorseless.
That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld’s, had a monopoly on
facts. It, too, had the secret information. It alone had
picture of the threat. It too dismissed and insulted its
terms like Mr. Rumsfeld’s - questioning their intellect
That government was England’s, in the 1930’s.
It knew Hitler posed no true threat to Europe, let alone
It knew Germany was not re-arming, in violation of all
treaties and accords.
It knew that the hard evidence it had received, which
contradicted it’s own policies, it’s own conclusions -
it’s own omniscience - needed to be
The English government of Neville Chamberlain already
Most relevant of all - it "knew" that its staunchest
needed to be marginalized and isolated. In fact, it
portrayed the foremost
of them as a blood-thirsty war-monger who was, if not
truly senile - at
best morally or intellectually confused.
That critic’s name… was Winston Churchill.
Sadly, we have no Winston Churchills evident among us
evening. We have only Donald Rumsfelds, demonizing
disagreement, the way
Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill.
History - and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over
- had taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his
certainty - and his own
confusion. A confusion that suggested that the office can
not only make the
man, but that the office can also make the facts.
Thus did Mr. Rumsfeld make an apt historical analogy
excepting the fact that he has the battery plugged in
His government, absolute and exclusive in its knowledge,
is not the
modern version of the one which stood up to the Nazis. It
is the modern
version of the government… of Neville Chamberlain.
But back to today’s Omniscient Ones.
That about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this:
This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely. And as
all voices count - not just his. Had he or his president
proven any of their prior claims of omniscience - about
Laden’s plans five years ago - about Saddam Hussein’s
weapons four years ago
- about Hurricane Katrina’s impact one year ago - we all
might be able to
swallow hard, and accept their omniscience as a bearable,
recipe, of fact, plus ego.
But, to date, this government has proved little besides
arrogance, and its own hubris.
Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or
intellectually, about his own standing in this matter.
From Iraq to
Katrina, to flu vaccine shortages, to the entire "Fog of
Fear" which continues to envelope this
nation - he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies,
have - inadvertently
or intentionally - profited and benefited, both
personally, and politically.
And yet he can stand up in public, and question the
the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the
receipt for the
Emporer’s New Clothes.
In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised?
As a child, of whose heroism did he read?
On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one
With what country has he confused… the United States of
The confusion we - as its citizens - must now address, is
stark and forbidding. But variations of it have faced our
men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have
darkened our skies and
obscured our flag. Note - with hope in your heart - that
Americans always found their way to the light and we can
The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense,
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.
And about Mr. Rumsfeld’s other main assertion, that this
faces a "new type of fascism."
As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew
everything could get everything wrong, so too was he
right when he
said that - though probably not in the way he thought he
This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed.
Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in
tribute… I have utterly no claim to the words of the
Edward R. Murrow.
But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing
come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an
earlier generation of
us, at a time when other politicians thought they (and
they alone) knew
everything, and branded those who disagreed, "confused"
Thus forgive me for reading Murrow in full:
"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty," he said,
"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
driven by fear into an age of un-reason, 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,
defend causes that were - for the moment - unpopular."
And so, good night, and good luck.