Looks like a few more liberals have forgotten how to be liberal.
On “Morning Joe” on MSNBC today, the subject turned to the mosque and cultural center near Ground Zero. Two liberals and a scary conservative took the position that the President of the United States should use his substantial power to stop the crackpot minister in Florida from burning Korans – because, they said, to allow him to go forward would incite radical Muslims and put our troops in Afghanistan in danger.
(I’m not going to mention the minister by name in this column. I don’t want to show him even that much respect.)
But what about freedom of speech, you know, that pesky First Amendment? Eugene Robinson, one of the many liberal columnists at the Washington Post said: We all know you can’t shout fire in a crowded theater and this is pretty much the same thing.
Donnie Deutsch, a former MSNBC host and passionate liberal, said if the Koran burning would increase the chances “by even one percent” that our troops might be harmed, then the president should find stop the minister’s book burning protest.
The scary conservative was Pat Buchanan, someone who gives right-wingers a bad name. The president, he said, should act in his capacity as commander-in-chief, and shut the minister's protest down. Let the judges decide after the fact, he said -- presumably when it would be too late to matter -- if the president violated the United States Constitution. You’d expect that from a loyal member of the Nixon administration.
And there was lots of talk -- wishful thinking, actually; at least from the two liberals -- about how the president’s popularity would go up if he showed some guts.
They also made another point: that it was none other than General David Petraeus who first said the Koran burning would put American troops in danger. And that was all they needed to know since the general is a serious man. This is shallow commentary even by television standards.
What never occurred to these “wise men” – at least it never came up in the conversation – is this: What if some other president used the full force of law – and the FBI or the national guard – to shut down a protest he didn’t like? What if President Bush, for example, had thought that burning the American flag would harm the troops? Would these “deep thinkers” be in favor a presidential decree to ban flag burning? Sure, Buchanan probably would think that would be a good idea, but who on the Left would? Not liberals like Eugene Robinson or Donnie Deutsch, that’s for sure.
Or what if Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon had decreed that anti-war demonstrations were putting the lives of American soldiers at risk in Vietnam? Would Robinson or Deutsch have been in favor of shutting down that kind of speech? Buchanan probably would have been in favor of not only shutting down the anti-war demonstrations, but deporting the “traitors” to Siberia. I wouldn’t be surprised if he proposed just that to his boss, the president.
Yes, I know two liberals don’t represent every liberal in America. And one other liberal on the panel -- Lawrence O'Donnell -- said the others didn’t understand what free speech is all about. But I suspect they do, and simply don’t care -- not when shredding the Constitution suits their political purpose. They think that the Ground Zero mosque controversy has shown that we’ve become a nation of Muslim-haters. They detest the Florida pastor. They hate what he stands for. Therefore, putting a muzzle on him is perfectly okay.
I detest what that screwball in Florida stands for too. But that’s precisely why we have a First Amendment: to protect unpopular, even stupid, speech.
The Florida minister, who by the way seems to have changed his mind and said he will not burn Korans (at least not on September 11) has every right to burn them. But it would be insensitive to do it. Just because he has the right doesn’t mean it is right.
Not an original idea, I know. That's why I brought it up. Because it's something my liberal friends may want to think about next time they're about to call someone a bigot, just because that someone thinks building a mosque near Ground Zero isn't the right thing to do.