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April 23rd, 2009
An Idle Mind: If at first you don’t secede

An Idle Mind: A column

Okay, I’m not going to take another shot at our state’s “Coif-in-Chief” about his idea of Texas seceding from the union.  Having run that idea up the flagpole to a round of ridicule, he’s now saying that’s not what he’s advocating. He’s probably heard from some of his old constituents and family in Haskell about the potential loss of revenue from federal cotton subsidies but I don’t think we’ll be hearing a lot more about his secession strategy. I just hate to miss an opportunity for a bad pun.

No, instead I’ll go out on a limb and do something I was bound to do sooner or later so might as well do sooner—agree with my fellow columnist over at Freethought about our junior Senator’s outrage about the Obama administration’s release of information about the use of torture by the United States.

Mr. Hankins is far better than I at explaining the legalities of it all. So I’ll stick with the morality, the effectiveness and even the political fallout of this whole controversy.

Yes, in the days after 9/11, I would have joined the vast majority of Americans in loving to see Osama bin Laden (have you heard the rumor that’s he a Muslim?) strung up over a bed of hot coals and made to listen to endless replays of Debbie Boone’s “You Light Up My Life,” but this is the United States. And we’ve been raised to believe we’re the good guys. I don’t remember Captain America ever torturing the Red Skull to disclose the location of the Cosmic Cube.

Still if it would really save lives, I could rationalize the use of extreme measures but recently concluded scientific studies have concluded that such information is extremely unreliable.

If the studies aren’t conclusive enough for Cornyn, Cheney and crowd, I would fall back on another source with first-hand experience on the effectiveness of torture — President Obama’s recently vanquished opponent and a man I greatly respect — U.S. Sen. John McCain.

As a POW in Vietnam, McCain has frequently cited the torture that was applied to him to give up the names of the fellow members of his flight crew when they were shot down. As McCain tells it, he did finally give up names — of the Green Bay Packers offensive line. Somewhere in Vietnam, there is an elderly Viet Cong veteran taking credit for shooting down Fuzzy Thurston, Jerry Kramer and Forrest Gregg — something the Dallas Cowboys never seemed able to do when the ball was on their goal line.

Actually, McCain also told a Pittsburgh reporter that it was the Steelers’ offensive line he gave up but one has to make allowances for political expediency particularly when Pennsylvania was a swing state. The fact remains that the only candidate on the national ballot who had been subjected to torture was outspoken that it was not an effective tool of information gathering.

To get to the political ramifications of this discussions, this controversy has much to do with the widely accepted punditry that the Republican Party has lost its way after the last eight years.

Thus, we see panicky attacks on a variety of actions by the new president (Why didn’t he refuse that book from President Chavez and punch him in the nose? Why is he easing sanctions against Cuba?) Trying to create issues that many Americans — selfishly worrying about keeping their jobs and homes — don’t seem to be too excited about is not getting them very far.

The effect of trying to demonize the new president from the get-go is clearly not gaining traction. Yes, he may be the most liberal President since FDR and his policies may fail in the long run.

But the simple truth is, as all polls show, is that a large majority of Americans have hopes about the Obama administration and are willing to go with their hopes. Obama seems to have the same Teflon charm that the Republican’s greatest hero—Ronald Reagan—had in wooing those who may not have favored his policies in different times.

He may fail and if he does the Republicans can start loading their political cannons. But he may succeed and if that happens, today’s doomsayers will have dug themselves a deeper hole instead of finding their way back to the Promised Land.

Grousing about being diplomatic to our critics abroad and getting the band to strike up “Dixie” is going to look pretty foolish if our economy and foreign relations improve. Being part of the solution might be a radical idea in the snake pit of American politics—but it’s one that the loyal opposition might want to consider if they’re to find their way back.


Since I love reading the comments about my “Idle Mind,” I want to respond and create even more of an interplay between reader and writer. So for those who commented last week:

To “Institutional Memory”: Sorry I’ve let you down with no movie reviews yet but I promise they will be coming. I should warn you that I’ve become a big fan of Japanese Yakuza films partially such Seijun Suzuki masterpieces as “Tokyo Drifter” and “Pistol Opera.” Do I really need my own Charles O’Dell? I’ve already been through enough the last couple of years.

To Bibb: Of course it was Walt Kelly who said “We have met the enemy and he is us” and not Al Kapp. I guess I was thinking of Al Kapp before he went over the deep end.

To Diana: What the heck is a Twitterblast? Sounds like something you get at Dairy Queen.

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