April 2008: Nobody asked me, but…

The Moyers-Wright interview, military justice on trial at Gitmo, and other observations

With a tip of the baseball brim to legendary columnist Jimmy Cannon, nobody asked me, but…

SHOULDN’T BILL MOYERS BROADCAST MORE OF HIS JEREMIAH WRIGHT JR. INTERVIEW aired last week on PBS? Based on comments made by Barack Obama’s former pastor in his National Press Club appearance in Washington on Monday, some of Wright’s more controversial comments may have been edited out of the program, Bill Moyers Journal. (Transcript of the Moyers-Wright interview .)

It’s rare that a public figure will complain so repeatedly about an inteview having been edited, but Wright returned to the subject three times when answering questions following his prepared remarks.

First, Wright complained that some of his praise of Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader, had been clipped from the PBS interview:

So what I think about him, as I’ve said on Bill Moyers and it got edited out, how many other African-Americans or European-Americans do you know that can get one million people together on the mall? He is one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century. That’s what I think about him.

Then, Wright mentioned his criticism of the way “corporate media channels” handled his controversial sermons and suggested that Moyers had truncated his response:

As I said to Bill Moyers — and he also edited this one out — because of my mother’s advice to me. My mother’s advice was being seen all over the corporate media channels, and it’s a paraphrase of the Book of Proverbs, where it is better to be quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Finally, Wright complained about the editing of his explanation of his “God damn America” sermon:

And if you saw the Bill Moyers show, I was talking about — although it got edited out — you know, that’s biblical. God doesn’t bless everything. God condemns something — and d-e-m-n, “demn,” is where we get the word “damn.” God damns some practices.

Moyers took criticism from some media critics for the “softball” nature of his Bill Moyers Journal interview with Wright. Wright’s complaints raise further questions about whether Moyers sought to soften the Chicago pastor’s often divisive rhetoric by editing out controversial answers. The best way for Moyers to address any criticism, and to clear up any doubts about his journalistic practices, is to show these edited segments on Bill Moyers Journal on Friday. Let’s see more.

THE TESTIMONY OF A FORMER DEFENSE DEPARTMENT PROSECUTOR has surfaced disturbing and troubling questions about the way the military commissions system may prosecute terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay. Air Force Col. Morris Davis testified under oath that “he felt undue pressure to hurry cases along so that the Bush administration could claim before political elections that the system was working.” Further, Davis said called unethical “a decision by top military officials to allow the use of evidence obtained by coercive interrogation techniques.” The Defense Department has denied Davis’ charges in the past.

What makes Davis’ testimony so devastating is that he was former chief prosecutor for terrorism cases before he resigned last fall. Particularly troubling was Davis quoting Defense Department general counsel William J. Haynes II as saying that there shouldn’t be any acquittals of the terror suspects because “we’ve been holding these guys for years.”

The Defense Department legal establishment is presumably aware of the notion that defendants are innocent until proven guilty. If the Gitmo process isn’t founded on that legal bedrock, then the Bush Administration will prove its harshest critics correct in arguing that the military commissions—created to try terror suspects—offer nothing more than kangaroo justice.

WHAT WAS INDIANA SENATOR EVAN BAYH THINKING WHEN HE PRAISED HIS HOME STATE FOR RACIAL PROGRESS, BUT referred to it as part of the “Old Confederacy”? Bayh’s historical aside came in an interview with Tavis Smiley:

Number two, it does show that our state has made a lot of progress in this regard, and in my lifetime, matter of fact, when I was governor, we became the first state out of the old Confederacy to elect two African Americans to statewide office. Wonderful woman, Pam Carter, became our first female attorney general, and Dwayne Brown became the clerk of the courts.

Indiana remained in the Union during the Civil War, and Indiana’s governor Oliver Perry Morton battled a hostile Democratic majority in the State House to keep troops in the field. While it is claimed that Sugar Creek Township in Shelby County “seceded” from the United States, the Hoosier State played a major role in helping the Union to victory, contributing more than 200,000 troops.

SPEAKING OF HISTORICAL FANTASY, THE TELEVISION SOAP OPERA “DALLAS” DIDN’T WIN THE COLD WAR FOR THE WEST, despite a tongue-in-cheek argument for that theory by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch in the Washington Post. It was Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan— not the feuding Ewings of South Fork—who were pivotal in the fall of the Soviet Union.

FROM CRAIG FERGUSON, COMEDIAN AND NEW AMERICAN CITIZEN, COMES THIS month’s closing words of wisdom, from Ferguson’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner appearance: “Please, never, ever, ever agree with each other. Never stop arguing, never stop fighting. You cranky, magnificent bastards.”

Copyright © 2008 Jefferson Flanders
All rights reserved

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