In the aftermath of the latest fatal assault by a right-wing conspiracy nut, conservative talk radio hosts this week were somber and reflective, wondering whether their relentless attacks on Barack Obama, Democrats and liberals in general might in any way be endangering the republic.
No, wait, that was in Bizarro World. On this planet, they were blaming liberals.
Yes, liberals. Please don't ask me to explain.
Look, I wouldn't try to stop anybody from speaking out freely. And I don't think we ought to be prosecuting, or even persecuting, talk show hosts just because some nut gets carried away.
If I hosted a talk show that reached an audience of millions every day; and if I believed that my show influenced opinion and the political culture, as all of these guys seem to think; and if I spent three hours every day attacking the president's patriotism and honesty and competence; and if I spent a lot of that time suggesting that the president is a socialist or a fascist or worse; and if I had suggested that he might even be deliberately undermining the country's economic well being in order to promote his one-world goals; and if all of that was followed by a string of attacks by gunmen who question the president's patriotism and think he is a socialist and believe that he wants one-world government -- then I might be moved to reflect, at least for a moment, on the possibility that my words might be making this planet a little more dangerous than it really needs to be.
Which may be why I will never host a talk show like that.
Thursday's shows were singularly lacking in reflection not only upon that topic but also upon others that seemed worthy of serious contemplation:
1. The transfer of Uighurs from Guantanamo to Palau and Bermuda. To the extent this was mentioned at all, it was only to point out that it would have been cheaper to keep them locked up in Cuba, although they haven't done anything wrong. Better to imprison innocent people, apparently, than burden taxpayers.
2. The election in Iran. NPR played this big all day, but the talk shows barely touched it. Hannity did say that he had no confidence the election would be honest. Fair enough. But the fact that the election was drawing so much enthusiasm within Iran, and was so closely contested, sounded like big news to me. Why not to Hannity? I suppose because he has spent so many years branding Ahmadinejad as a brutal dictator. We can't have brutal dictators losing elections. It damages the narrative.
3. The Abu Ghraib photo release. Hannity actually had a segment on this, interviewing John McCain, who pretty angrily opposed Democratic opposition to a bill that would forbid release of additional incriminating photos. Good topic, yes? Nobody wants to endanger American soldiers, but do we really want Congress blithely passing bills aimed specifically at suppressing evidence of government wrongdoing? Nice topic for debate. Of course, we got none. Instead, we got a screed.
4. Reading Miranda rights to terrorists. Fred Thompson and Hannity both went on at length about this, and you would have thought Obama had issued orders commanding G.I.s in the field to read a Miranda warning before aiming their rifles. Not quite so.
So what did we get instead of thoughtful discussions of these important topics? Um, we got an interview with the deposed California beauty queen. And we learned that Letterman went too far in poking fun at Sarah Palin.
And that shooting at the Holocaust museum? Liberals did that.