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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of  October 3 - 9, 2001

  Opinion Column

The American weakness for being foolish

Commentary by Pat Murphy

A national crisis drives Americans into doing and saying foolish things.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell started early with his far-out religious explanation for terrorism in Washington and New York City. Falwell blamed the attacks on God’s wrath for gays, abortionists and the American Civil Liberties Union. Did God Himself tell Falwell this?

Then late-night comic Bill Maher inanely accused U.S. political leaders of being "cowardly" for firing cruise missiles from afar into Mideast nations during the Clinton administration. That led to an angry campaign of viewers to have ABC throw Maher off the air for insufficient patriotism. ABC wisely declined. Don’t like Maher, don’t tune in to watch his program.

Then newspaper columnists in Texas and Oregon were fired by publishers for harsh criticism—and stupidly reasoned criticism, in my judgment—of President Bush. Are these publishers suspending criticism of the president, no matter how silly, and becoming mindless boosters for the duration of the "war"?

The oracle of right wing Republicanism, Rush Limbaugh, rushed into the fray with flags flying by denouncing ABC news anchor Peter Jennings as unspeakably unpatriotic for something viewers thought he said about President Bush, but didn’t. Limbaugh swallowed hard and apologized.

A Republican state legislator in Missouri, Rep. Matt Bartle, is threatening budget revenge on the University of Missouri’s journalism department because the school’s KOMU-TV news director, Stacey Woelfel, banned on-air TV reporters from wearing American flags in their lapels. So? They also aren’t allowed to wear Democratic Party and Republican Party lapel pins.

Not to be left out was the White House: after presidential press secretary Ari Fleischer blundered during a press briefing by saying Americans need to watch what they say and what they do, his ominous and overbearing words were excised from the official White House transcript as if he’d never spoken them.

In flagrant self-serving exploitation of the crisis, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is conniving to stay on as Hizzoner for several months after his term ends Dec. 31, to continue managing the disaster recovery, which he’s done with admirable flair and commendable inspiration. "There is tremendous sentiment on the part of some people for me to stay, " he insists. No doubt. However, no politician is indispensable: America and its cities have survived for more than two centuries without abandoning laws of political succession to cater to a politician’s sentimental attachment to his power.

After President Bush used the word "crusade" to describe the war on terrorists, some Muslims stretched this to mean that Christians were launching a 21st century version of the 11th, 12th and 13th century "Crusades" against Islam. Oh, please.

And there was the e-mail from a sourpuss Arizona acquaintance who wrote he was "furious" at seeing former President Bill Clinton on TV "smiling and laughing." Presumably, he’d prefer all of us don sackcloth and dust on ashes and lapse into a humorless funereal mood of unrelenting national despair. The war on terrorism is bound to last a long time.

Unhappily, so, too, will American foolishness in the name of patriotism.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.