On Martin Luther King Day, let’s see …
As Glenn Greenwald rightly explains in a devastating column on the “centrist” opposition to the rule of law by the Brookings Institution — a Washington, D.C. think tank widely regarded as the best and most “independent,” with a reputation for rising “above partisanship” — the difference is more than a matter of words and tone, nice or otherwise. Way more. It’s not a matter of good manners. It’s a matter of ideas and actions.
Bill Kristol and John Yoo are both extremely “civil” […] all while they advocate indecent and repellent ideas. That, by itself, demonstrates the irrelevance of these vapid notions of “civility” to which […] most DC denizens cling as a means of justifying what they’re actually advocating (we may be defending repulsive and destructive ideas — we’re cheering on wars and insisting on legal immunity for torturers — but at least we’re doing it in a soft-spoken manner while sitting in plush think tank conference rooms with name plates and pitchers of water, which entitles us to respect and deference).
Greenwald goes on to talk about, among other things, Obama’s abject but typically civil refusal to investigate, let alone prosecute, the criminality of the Bush regime. The “twisted reasoning employed to defend the full-scale immunity which Obama has vested in Bush officials for their chronic lawbreaking” is but another illustration of the difference between decency and civility.
Which brings to mind a stellar gathering of liberals and leftists convened by the New Democracy Project and The Nation at NYU in May of 2004. As I wrote then, Paul Krugman “launched the conference with fightin’ words about the [Bush] regime’s deceit and incompetence” and the hope that, if “regime change” came the following November, the next administration would “throw open the records” and not be “too magnanimous” to Bush and his cronies. “I believe the sunshine is going to be quite deadly,” he said.
Krugman went on to list seven progressive ideas needed to “change the mindset” of America. None of them were startling in themselves. But they were a collective touchstone for the rest of the conference, and he drove home each point as contrary to what the current regime [that is, the Bushies] believes: 1) intelligent economic policy works; 2) social insurance works; 3) health care works; 4) regulation works; 5) environmental protection works; 6) civil liberties work; and 7) democracy works.
In 2004 regime change didn’t happen of course. The majority of the American electorate saw to that. And now, seven years and several elections later, even with the regime changed, whatever sunshine there is (thanks to Wikileaks) has been called treasonous, and all seven of Krugman’s points, the healthcare reform bill notwithstanding, have been indecently refudiated.
Here’s Martin Luther King, Jr., showing what decency is:
(Thanks to Amy Davidson for the video tip.)