Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday talk radio update

With two college courses on Thursday, and another on Friday, I've been winding up Outpost delivery on Friday afternoon. So I got to hear discussions of William Ayers on both O'Reilly and Sean Hannity this week.

Why anyone should care about Ayers at this point is beyond me. If Obama manages over the next four years to successfully wrap up two wars, capture Bin Laden, balance the budget and get the stock market back up over 12,000, he would get re-elected even if he were caught personally planting bombs in the White House basement. But Ayers was what talk radio had to offer.

The arguments are well worn. It's not that Obama is a terrorist, said Ms. Hill, it's what his association with Ayers tells us about his judgment.

So what does it tell us about Obama's judgment? That he is willing to meet with people who have done bad things in hopes of achieving mutually beneficial results? But we already knew that. That's basically his foreign policy. And noted terrorist enabler, David Petraeus, essentially endorses the idea.

The people you hang out with also tell us something about your character, Ms. Hill said. It's true that our mothers warned us about the company we keep. They warned Jesus, too, and look what happened to him.

Now, I don't think Obama is Jesus, or claims to be, although various bloggers might want you to think otherwise. But he is a Christian, so it's fair to ask what Jesus would do if he wound up living in the same neighborhood as a former member of the Weather Underground.

Jesus doesn't speak directly to me, but I spent quite a few years mulling over what he would do in tight situations, and I'm pretty sure I know how the Jesus I was taught to believe in would react. He would think: This guy has done bad things. He hasn't fully repented, but he realizes that he went too far. He isn't doing those things anymore, and he is instead holding a responsible job and working to improve the community in which he lives. I can work with this guy, and I should work with this guy, and I might even be able to save him.

I don't know if that's how Barack Obama thought about Ayers. I'm sure it's not how Hannity thinks.

Of course, Jesus probably couldn't get elected president.


Anonymous said...

I'm a little confused by your talk radio comments. This item argues that if Jesus were around today that he would forgive and try to work with William Ayers. And that Barack Obama probably had the same Christian attitude toward Ayers.

But your Thursday item had a decidedly un-Christian tone to it. Instead of being in a forgiving mood toward the Bush administration, you want to see its members prosecuted for war crimes. Not only do you ignore the advice you give Republicans about how they should treat Bill Ayers, but you ignore the regular advice you give Republicans about the need for civility and bipartisanship in politics. As far as I know, bringing war crimes charges against
administration officials would be unprecedented in the nation's history. It wouldn't just be a minor glitch in the effort to
heal the nation's partisan wounds; it would be like setting off a nuclear bomb.

Anyone who advocates this approach can't be taken seriously when they say they like to see civil discussions and bipartisan efforts in politics.

I don't even understand exactly what you or Greenwald want to prosecute administration officials for. The suggestion seems to
be that they broke some sort of law on torturing terrorists. I'll admit I'm not an expert, but I thought Congress chickened out and declined to ban waterboarding and torture of terrorists. There are international laws that deal with those sorts of things, but we don't enforce those laws, and international officials don't seem to either. There are lots of countries that torture many people in severe ways who have never heard boo from the international police, so I don't know why international officials would bother with Bush officials.

Moreover, as I understand it, waterboarding was only used 3 or 4 times and it got some valuable information that helped save lives. You could try to prosecute administration officials for that, but your chances of getting a conviction, I'd bet, would be somewhere between nil and none, considering the state of the laws, the nature of the people involved, the mood of juries, etc.

The Obama administration knows this is a fool's errand and that's why it will never prosecute just to try to placate a small minority on the far left. It would create tremendous ill will at the very time Obama says he wants to mend partisan wounds. And it does nothing to solve the problem he faces of what to do with the hundreds of terrorists he still has in custody.

If Obama can find it in his heart to forgive Ayers for his acts of terrorism, maybe you could forgive Bush & Co. as a small contribution towards ratcheting down our bitter partisanship.

David said...

Belief in Christian forgiveness doesn't mean that criminals shouldn't be prosecuted for crimes. Christians forgive the sinner but punish the sin.

I can't go into all the evidence for torture here. The best summary is Jane Meyer's "The Dark Side," a thorough and chilling read. I don't think anyone who has examined the issue closely can doubt that torture took place, and that it violated both U.S. law and international treaty, and that responsibility lies at the highest levels of the Bush administration.

I admit to being a bit squeamish about prosecution myself. It would be a painful and divisive experience. But I find the argument that no one should be above the law compelling. And I find it absolutely critical that we send a message to the world that we have put torture behind us.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reasoned input.

Couple responses. Indeed, forgive the sinner but punished the sin. Trouble is, Ayers was never punished for his crimes, although he admitted committing them.

I never read Meyer's book, but did read a long article she wrote for Vanity Fair or the New Yorker, which probably was an excerpt. It was quite a while ago, but my recollection is that I didn't find it overly convincing, as I felt some of her sources and arguments were shaky (I think this was based partly on what some of her critics were saying at the time). Also, she has a strong point of view and her article was, of course, quite one-sided.

The point being that, if administration officials were prosecuted, you wouldn't just hear the Meyer's case laid out in court. You would hear the other side of the story. You presumably would hear the many awful things these "victims" did and the future terrorist acts they were planning. You would hear about the many more mitigating factors that went into the decision making. You would hear about how there was some actual gratuitous torture committed by prison guards and how those guards were punished.

And on & on. So the chances of anyone being convicted would be quite slim, but you would have a process that would be highly divisive.

As for your belief that no one should be above the law, you probably have a chance to actually an impact on that front. As you know, the governor has been accused of violating Montana's election laws and its ethics laws, and the press has been pretty quiet in calling for these situations to be fully investigated and prosecuted. Speak out!

David said...

Ayer escaped earthly punishment for his crimes because human beings, human as they are, botched the case. I don't what that has to do with Christianity or with Obama.

Inevitably, Meyer's book does rely in part on anonymous sources. But I was rather surprised to find how much of it was based on official documents or on-the-record sources. Most impressive were a handful of solid conservatives who opposed what the administration was doing because it violated both eh law and American tradition.