Friday, July 18, 2008

Thursday talk radio update

Sometimes what the talking radio heads don't say is more important than what they do. There has been considerable buzz in the blogosphere and on NPR this week about "The Dark Side," Jane Mayer's new book about the war on terror became a war on our own ideals. But not a word -- zippo that I could hear -- on commercial talk radio.

O'Reilly, who is often quick to challenge government competence and integrity, seems to have no trouble swallowing the administration's three-pronged position on torture: We have never tortured; if we did torture, it wasn't illegal; and if we did torture and it was illegal, it was all done by low-ranking people acting as rogues.

Hannity, of course, rarely allows consideration of anything that might make Republicans look bad. And this mess unquestionably does make Republicans look bad (and, for that matter, most Democrats don't look like paragons of virtue on this topic either). People like Hannity do the most harm to America not when they relentlessly pound on the shortcomings of every member of the opposite party but when they ignore, for partisan reasons, things Americans ought to be talking about. Like it or not, talk radio has an agenda-setting power that helps determine the national conversation.

I've often speculated about the nonsensical distinctions we make between conservatives and liberals, but the most difficult of all for me to get is the way in which so many so-called conservatives have allowed themselves to line up on the side of torture. Conservatives are supposed to be about traditional values, and few values in this country are more traditional than that while other countries may torture people, and throw people in jail without charges, and deny them legal representation, we don't do that. We're too good for that.

I am a bit consoled by the prospect of a McCain-Obama campaign this fall. Of all the available candidates, these two seem to be, among the possible winners in their respective parties, the candidates who are most likely to:

1. Reject torture.
2. Reach across the aisle to break down partisan gridlock.
3. Rein in the runaway executive.
4. Annoy Hannity and his ilk.

That gives me hope. But I also bought Mayer's book yesterday, and that gives me fear.


Eric said...

Call me harsh if you want, but I really couldn't care less what we do with captured enemies.

David said...

Eric, Nobody cares about the enemies (other than those of us who wish to see them punished). This is about those who aren't our enemies but who were nevertheless imprisoned and tortured. Do you not care about them?

Ed Kemmick said...

Eric: Harsh? No. Clueless? Yes.

KIrk Dooley said...

If we as a nation believe that we are the greatest nation on earth, then we must guide ourselves with the examples the founding fathers gave us in the Declaration and the Constitution. If we keep our "enemies" in the gutter, that means there's an American holding them there. And that means we no longer hold the moral high ground against guys like Chavez, Putin, Bin Laden and the Chinese.

6 Generations said...

Let us know some of your responses to Mayer's book. I was at a bookstore today and almost purchased the book, but since it wasn't on sale, I didn't buy it. just announced that the documentary Taxi to the Dark Side is available for purchase now. I wasn't able to catch it at a theatre in Atlanta. Mayer's book or the video? I asked myself, knowing that one would be depressing enough.

David said...

6 generations, I will do that. But we are working on our book review issue now, and I am trying to get three books read for that, so it may be a while.