In a September 20 op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, University of Chicago political science professor Charles Lipson called for an independent prosecutor to investigate ACORN by baselessly arguing that Attorney General Eric Holder was incapable of conducting a "fair-minded, independent" investigation into the organization, and that Holder "compounded these concerns" because cases against Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) and the New Black Panther Party were dropped. But Lipson cited no evidence to support the claim that Holder influenced either decision.
Glenn Beck fashions himself a proud and vocal defender of the Constitution, and yesterday, his self-appointed duties led him to attack President Obama's understanding of and commitment to that very document.
Beck began by presenting a montage of the Founding Fathers, and then cut to Obama's inauguration. After showing the president taking the oath of office, Beck played audio taken from a September 2001 radio interview Obama conducted with the public radio station WBEZ in Chicago. (The relevant portion of the discussion, if you would like to hear it, is in the "Slavery and the Constitution" clip on the page linked to above, 45 minutes and 20 seconds in.)
Played over the obligatory scary music, here is what Beck excerpted from the interview:
OBAMA: The original Constitution  I think it is an imperfect document, and I think it is a document that reflects some deep flaws in American culture -- the colonial culture nascent at that time.  I think we can say that the Constitution reflected a enormous blind spot in this culture  and that the framers had that same blind spot.  It also reflected the fundamental flaw of this country that continues to this day.
Now compare that with what Obama actually said:
HOST: Barack Obama, what are your thoughts on the Declaration and Constitution?
OBAMA: Well, you know, I think it's a remarkable document. I think --
HOST: Which one?
OBAMA: The original Constitution, as well as -- as well as the Civil War amendments, but I think it is an imperfect document, and I think it is a document that reflects some deep flaws in American culture -- the colonial culture nascent at that time.
African-Americans were not -- first of all, they weren't African-Americans. The Africans at the time were not considered as part of the polity that was of concern to the framers. I think that, as [program co-panelist] Richard [John] said, it was a nagging problem in the same way that, these days, we might think of environmental issues or some other problem that, where you have to balance, you know, cost-benefits, as opposed to seeing it as a moral problem involving persons of moral worth.
And, in that sense, I think we can say that the Constitution reflected a enormous blind spot in this culture that carries on until this day, and that the framers had that same blind spot. I don't think the two views are contradictory to say that it was a remarkable political document that paved the way for where we are now, and to say that it also reflected the fundamental flaw of this country that continues to this day.
What did Beck leave out? For one, he ignored the fact that Obama twice referred to the Constitution as "remarkable." More important, Beck eliminated Obama's highly targeted explanation of what he felt was the Constitution's imperfection: that "African-Americans were not ... considered as part of the polity that was of concern to the framers."
Such a reality is undeniable. The original version of the Constitution listed slaves as three-fifths of a human being for purposes of appointing representation (Article I, Section 2, Clause 3); prohibited Congress from outlawing the slave trade before 1808 (Article I, Section 9, Clause 1 and Article V); and required all states to return fugitive slaves to wherever they had fled from (Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3). It's worth noting that Condoleezza Rice made the same point Obama did when she delivered the commencement address at Boston College in 2006, saying, "We have thrived despite the fact that when the Founding Fathers said, 'We, the people,' they didn't mean me."
Does Beck really believe that such original elements of the Constitution should not be considered imperfections -- imperfections that were indeed the product of a cultural "blind spot" shared by the 18th century individuals who authored it?
Even if he doesn't, the intent of a segment such as this one is still clear. Beck isn't interested in seriously examining the Constitution, nor does he care to honestly reflect on race in America. Instead, he wants to portray Obama as a man who harbors a generalized and racially motivated resentment toward the Founding Fathers and the document they authored -- exactly the kind of person who would seek to exact race-based justice through reparations, which Beck has already declared to be at the heart of Obama's entire agenda.
This isn't the first time that conservatives have deliberately distorted this interview to make the exact same point. Rush Limbaugh did so last October, and the RNC did it again in May. It's the sort of willfully ignorant, historically inaccurate, deliberately deceptive, and racially provocative argument that has become common in the modern conservative movement. And it shows how untrustworthy individuals like Beck truly are.
A Washington Post article about recently released ACORN videotapes quoted Andrew Breitbart as saying the incident "is the Abu Ghraib of the Great Society," but the article did not make clear that no fraud or harm came to the government as a result of ACORN's actions. Moreover, the Post ignored facts which undermined the conservative filmmakers' credibility and ignored Breitbart's role in providing the videos to Fox News for aggressive promotion.
Over the past week, media outlets have given significant coverage to conservative filmmaker James O'Keefe, who, with Townhall.com columnist Hannah Giles, dressed up as a pimp and prostitute and secretly videotaped ACORN employees providing them with counseling. But this is not the first time O'Keefe has engaged in such activities in support of conservative causes; as a Rutgers University undergraduate, O'Keefe videotaped a classmate distributing to a Women in Culture and Society lecture a handout that emphasized that a "good wife always knows her place."
From the September 17 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
Loading the player reg...
From the September 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
Loading the player reg...
From the September 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
Loading the player reg...
In September 16 articles, The New York Times and Baltimore Sun covered attacks against ACORN based on videotapes of conservative activists posing as a prostitute and a pimp while speaking to ACORN employees in several states, including California and Maryland. However, those articles did not note that, as ACORN has alleged, some of the videotapes may have been taken illegally.
From the September 16 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:
Loading the player reg...
On September 15 and 16, Fox News devoted significant programming to conservative filmmaker James O'Keefe and TownHall.com columnist Hannah Giles' video of their interactions with an ACORN worker, who claimed she murdered her husband and gave advice on how to run a brothel, but stated after the video was released that she had merely been attempting to "shock them as much as they were shocking me." In running with the video, Fox News hosts frequently promoted the fake claim that the ACORN employee killed her husband without fact checking the allegation or indicating that they had contacted ACORN for a response.
National Journal's Stuart Taylor (whose legal analysis is, quite inexplicably, taken very seriously by the Beltway media) acknowledges that the Bush administration tortured detainees, but argues that those responsible have already "suffered" enough for their misdeeds. See, they've been called names, and their public appearances have been picketed:
Of course, when all is said and done, there is little doubt that some CIA detainees were tortured. This is a stain on our nation's honor that should never be repeated. But the responsibility was so widely diffused, across such a large number of honorably motivated officials who tried (and sometimes failed) to stay within the law, that it makes no sense to seek to atone for the nation's sins by singling out individuals for bar discipline or other punishment.
This is especially true when those individuals have already suffered greatly from being trashed as "war criminals," picketed at public appearances, stalked by grandstanding Spanish judges, and otherwise harassed across the country and around the globe.
Sure, John Yoo said it was fine with him if George W. Bush wanted to order interrogators to crush a child's testicles. But the man has been picketed! What more must he endure? Leave him alone!
Oh, and Taylor worries that a torture "truth commission" might become "adversarial":
The sort of fact-finding "truth commission" that many have advocated could report on what was done and the lessons learned -- although it could do more harm than good if such a panel conducted the sort of adversarial hearings that would become a public circus.
Yeah, we wouldn't want anyone to raise their voice to a guy who said it is OK to crush a child's testicles. That would be ... Rude. Or something.
Once again: Who cares what Stuart Taylor thinks?
From the September 10 edition of Fox News' The Glenn Beck Show:
Loading the player reg...
While discussing the John Adams Project -- an ACLU initiative that allegedly took pictures of CIA interrogators and allowed defense lawyers for detainees at Guantánamo Bay to show them to detainees -- frequent Fox News guest and former CIA operative Wayne Simmons claimed that the Justice Department will "stand idly by and allow this illegal outing of potentially covert CIA operatives," to which Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade agreed that the "White House, the administration, should move against" the group. In fact, the Justice Department reportedly already opened an investigation into the allegations, which was not mentioned by any Fox & Friends host.
Richard Cohen is, supposedly, a liberal columnist for the Washington Post. Never mind that he embraced the Iraq war, belittling those who did not buy the Bush administration's trumped-up case for war as "fools or Frenchmen." Never mind his defense of the Bush administration's outting of Valerie Plame, or his defense of Monica Goodling, or his defense of financial services executives who ran their companies into the ground and the business media that stood idly by while it happened, or his outrage that Stephen Colbert dared make fun of President Bush's low approval ratings at the White House correspondents dinner -- or the fact that he didn't seem to mind Bush's jokes at an earlier dinner about failing to find WMD in Iraq.
Never mind all that. Richard Cohen is the Washington Post's idea of a liberal. And Richard Cohen loves him some torture.
Here, Cohen describes the capture of a hypothetical terrorist:
Now he is in American custody. What will happen? How do we get him to reveal his group's plans and the names of his colleagues? It will be hard. It will, in fact, be harder than it used to be. He can no longer be waterboarded. He knows this. He cannot be deprived of more than a set amount of sleep. He cannot be beaten or thrown up against even a soft wall. He cannot be threatened with shooting or even frightened by the prospect of an electric drill. Nothing really can be threatened against his relatives -- that they will be killed or sexually abused.
"Harder than it used to be"? Only if torture works. If torture doesn't work, it may well be easier than it used to be.
Note, also, Cohen's nonchalant descriptions of torture: The repeated use of the word "even," designed to make the tactics (physically assualting a captive, making her think you're going to drill a damn hole in her head) sound like no big deal. A prohibition on making a captive think you're going to rape and murder his seven year old daughter is turned into "nothing really can be threated against his relatives."
Next, Cohen suggests that torture is little more than what New York Times reporter Judith Miller went through: "Special prosecutors are often themselves like interrogators -- they don't know when to stop. They go on and on because, well, they can go on and on. One of them managed to put Judith Miller of The New York Times in jail -- a wee bit of torture right there."
Yes, that's right: Judith Miller's prison sentance -- during which she had to suffer the indignity of her newspaper arriving a day late, leaving her woefully uninformed for her frequent visits from people like Tom Browkaw and Bob Dole -- was kind of like being waterboarded and having your captors threaten to rape and murder your children.
Back to Cohen:
No one can possibly believe that America is now safer because of the new restrictions on enhanced interrogation and the subsequent appointment of a special prosecutor.
Nonsense. If you think torture doesn't work -- and there is a great deal of evidence that it doesn't -- then of course America is safer for not torturing. We no longer waste time on tactics that don't work. We no longer enrage the world by engaging in barbaric and inhuman torture.
Cohen's claim is absurd on its face. But it is also a striking reminder of one of his darkest moments as a columnist:
Richard Cohen, in a column headlined "A Winning Hand For Powell," declared that Powell's presentation "had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool -- or possibly a Frenchman -- could conclude otherwise." Cohen was careful to make clear that he based his own conclusion not upon an examination of Powell's arguments and evidence, but on Powell himself: "The clincher ... was the totality of the material and the fact that Powell himself had presented it. In this case, the messenger may have been more important than the message."
Once again, Richard Cohen mistakes his own inability to see through conservative talking points for the truthfulness of those talking points.
Sure, Cohen makes a late assertion of his "abhorrence of torture." But after wading through his spurious claims about torture working, only a fool would believe him.
Citing a misleading Washington Post article that stated that alleged 9-11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed became cooperative after being subjected to waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and other interrogation techniques, conservative media have advanced the falsehood that three recently released 2004 CIA documents prove that these enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) were necessary to gain valuable intelligence. In fact, two CIA memos on the value of intelligence obtained from detainees do not discuss interrogation techniques, and a CIA inspector general's (IG) report of the CIA's interrogation program stated that "[t]he effectiveness of particular interrogation techniques in eliciting information that might not otherwise have been obtained cannot be easily measured."