Three Mile Island = Hiroshima? Rhetorical Overkill

Everybody’s mad. Everybody’s seething. Everybody pictures himself a battler on the barricades of freedom. And so the rhetorical pedal gets pushed to the metal. Nobody’s just wrong or misinformed. Those against you are 1,000% wrong–no, they are evil. If you want media attention for your cause, you’ve got to go for the hyperbolic kill shot.

Example from NPR story on the 25th  anniversary of the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor incident:

Eric Epstein is the chairman of TMI Alert, a nonprofit group that monitors Three Mile Island and other nuclear plants.

“When they say [they have] the best safety record, it’s compared to what?” Epstein says. “Yeah, they didn’t melt the core. That’s like telling a survivor of Dresden, ‘Not so bad, it could have been Hiroshima.'”

 In the firebombing of Dresden, Germany in World War II, estimates of the dead range between 35,000 and 300,000.

At Hiroshima, an estimated 100,000-140,000 people died from the immediate blast and the aftereffects.

At Three Mile Island, about 135,000 people voluntarily evacuated the area. Nobody was killed or injured.

 As Ross Perot used  to say, “If facts matter. . . “


Earth Hour: Turn Out Your Lights Tonight

 Be sure to turn out lights, turn off computers, and generally try to use less electricity between 8 PM and 9 PM tonight. It’s somewhat symbolic, yes, but if it helps make us just a bit more aware of unnecessary power usage, it’s worthwhile. We can argue all day about global warming and the like, but I’ve never heard a good argument for waste.


Obama’s Wright Stuff: Flirting with Disaster

 Following up on my post yesterday about the ongoing Rev. Wright flap, which will come back like a bad check to haunt Obama in the fall, here’s more proof that Obama is wading in quicksand when he plays the  “I wasn’t there that particular Sunday” card. Here’s an excerpt from a Washington Post article:

 Wright said “some objectionable things when I wasn’t in church on those particular days, and I have condemned them outright,” Obama told the crowd, according to NBC News.

Interviewed on March 14 on Fox News, Obama also noted he had not been in church for Wright’s controversial remarks, saying “none of these statements were ones I had heard myself personally in the pews.”

But in his speech in Philadelphia about race last week, Obama described his recollections slightly differently.

“Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes,” Obama said.

 See how unsatisfactory this is, and how it misses the essential point of the Wright-bashers? As I explained yesterday, O’s most dogged critics–and keep in mind, we haven’t even heard from  the GOP attack machine on this issue–will not be satisfied if he hopscotches through his schedule and tries to claim he wasn’t there that day, or that day, or that day when The Spewings took place.

 And (I say this as an Obama supporter, at least temporarily) they shouldn’t be, because it’s simply disingenuous of Obama to act as if he was hermetically sealed off from knowledge of Wright’s mind-set and ideology except for the days he personally visited the church. It sounds squishily Clintonian, evasive. If you’ve been a member of a church for 20 years, it stretches credulity to think that you never hear gossip or “shoulda been there” tales about the church.

And that’s not even the central point, which is: As  I asked yesterday, if I belong to a social club in which the officers routinely use racial and ethic slurs, but I happen to miss a few of the more blatant attacks, does that absolve me of any guilt by association with the club? “Uh, wait, I wasn’t there the night they told all the N—- jokes.  And all the stuff about Jews? We were out of town.”

Also, Obama is setting himself up for the Gotcha Patrol on this. If some no-longer-adoring reporter bestirs himself to check further into Wright’s fulminations–assuming for the moment that they were frequent–he may find that Obama was indeed in the pews on a Spew-Day. Maybe that’s why Obama seems to be wriggling toward a memory alteration in the excerpt above.

 Rather than playing “If I Heard It,” Obama needs to repeat and deepen the themes of his fine speech on race, elevating the conversation above Gotcha politics. As it is, he’s handing the GOP some excellent ammo for the fall.

Rev. Wright’s Wrongs: Four Nagging Questions

Just asking a few questions about the continuing blowback from the Rev. Wright affair:

 1. Can any news organization laden with vast resources (Hello Fox, NY Times, WaPo) please give us some idea as to how representative were Wright’s Damned-in-the USA  comments?

 Is it possible that a Chicago paper or TV station might have a file on this? Obama defenders, of whom I’m sometimes one, say that the nation-cussin’ was an anomaly, a fluke, utterly out of context in decades of pastoral care devoted to explaining God’s message.  It would be nice if some news org would show us something of that context. Maybe somebody could go and ask long-time church members–you know,  “interview” them, as newshounds say–and just see how prevalent was such feisty  chat.

Why, it’s even possible that during Obama’s years in the church,  certain Chicagoans, some perhaps prominent,  decided to leave Wright’s church for one reason or another, and they might be persuaded to tell the world whether the Sunday morning mix was 80% Love vs. 20% Hate, a 50-50 split, or whatever. If our reporters feel kinda shy and awkward asking these questions directly, consider this: Many big churches these days actually keep copies of sermons….why, some even sell cassettes or CDs of the preacher’s ruminations. You never know what you might find. (I don’t know how I think up these clever strategies…they just come to me.)  Let’s stop arguing about “context” and establish just what the context was. My guess is that the most extreme “GDUSA” comments were pretty rare, but let’s get some facts, please.

2. Another anti-Obama tack right now is a spinoff from the above, and goes something like this: “Why, it’s one thing if Barry O and Mrs. O, being after all adults, want to marinate in such pulpit poison, but WHAT ABOUT THEIR KIDS??? How could they subject THE KIDS to such spewings?

And the question: Were the Obama kids actually frequent sippers from this foul chalice?  Don’t the kids at that church go to Sunday School? Don’t they go sit in little desks or in circles on the floor and eat goldfish and  draw pictures of the lilies of the field and make little crosses out of popsicle sticks and skittles? Are you telling me that 4- and 5- year old kids actually stay in Big Church for two hours? Awake? Newshounds, check it out.

3. Much of the Wright or Wrong brouhaha has focused on Obama’s Precise Location during The Spewings.  O himself says he was not physically present during at least some of The Spewings in question. And the question is. . .

So what? If the question is to what extent Obama bought into Wright’s rants, and by extension how much influence if any Wright has/had on Obama, why would we settle the matter with a Sunday Morning Scorecard showing that O missed this one, attended that one, missed this one, and so on? If I belong to an Elks Lodge at which the Exalted Stag or whatever the leader’s called  stands up on Thursday nights and talks about the good ol’ days of white supremacy, am I excused because I happened to miss the more inflammatory talks? Is it plausible that I would be utterly ignorant of the Stag’s rants? No fellow Elk ever mentioned them to me?

Assume for discussion that Obama missed half the sermons, or two-thirds if you like. Does  anyone believe that Obama never got a report, a fragment, a “shoulda heard the Rev on Sunday” from any of his pewmates? That’s silly. Especially as he became a public figure in the state Senate and U. S. Senate, he’d want to be aware of such things even if he wasn’t there in person.

 4. To set up this last question, let’s issue a King’s X to Rev. Wright on the Uncle Sam-bashing. Let’s assume for a moment that because of slavery and discrimination,  the U. S.  deserves Jehovah’s wrath just as the Rev. says we do. Guilty as charged.

 That still leaves his far-out statements that the government A) sold drugs in minority neighborhoods and B) concocted the AIDS virus in order to decimate the black population. This stuff is skimmed from the cess-pool of paranoia. How frequent were such charges by Wright? What was the general reaction of the congregation to such lunacy? Does anyone recall Obama’s reaction to this idiocy?

As I noted a few days ago, I think Obama performed a great service with his gutsy speech on race. I think he did what he could to contain the damage right now. But if he should get the nomination, all these questions and more are  coming back like Jason in Friday the 13th XVIII.  I wonder if Obama is ready.  

Disgruntled Dems Say They’ll Back McCain

In 2004, I remember telling several friends that if the Democrats didn’t win the presidency that year, they might not win again–ever. All the stars had lined up for them. The Iraq War was going to hell. Bush was reviled as a clueless dolt. And yet, somehow, the clueless dolt pulled it off.

And now? A large majority is sick of the war. The shame of “Brownie” and the inept response to Katrina embarrassed millions of Americans. Now, the housing crisis hits and the consumer economy starts to crumble. And the other day I heard myself say to a friend, “You know, if the Democrats don’t win this time they may not win again–ever.”

But you know what? With McCain’s approval ratings up and this survey  here showing that a sizeable chunk of Dems would back him if their candidate doesn’t get the nomination, they really may not win again–ever.

Hope Sinks: Is Obama Finished?

That really depends on which of the following  Rev. Wright-Debacle responses is taken by the majority of voters in the remaining Dem primaries, and/or a majority of the superdelegates.

The Obama’s Done side is represented by this letter from a recent Dallas Morning News:

“Why, after almost a year, are we just now being told about Obama’s close association with a hate-America preacher? I now realize why Michelle Obama was never proud of her country–she’s been listening for years to how bad America is. . . I want the leader of my country to be the type of person who would walk out the minute that preacher started one of his anti-American tirades.”

If that’s the settled take of the majority,  O stands over Over. But here’s another interpretation of l’affaire Wright, a comment posted on this blog today:

Why is it regularly reported that Obama sat through 20 years of racist, anti-American diatribes by Reverend Wright, completely discounting his assertion that he never personally heard such words when he was at the church? Some GOP or Clinton operative went through 20 years of Wright’s sermons to find those few instances, and with those they cast the entire life’s work of the reverend and Obama’s association with him in horrible terms. And I, for one, do not see what’s wrong with damning America if our works deserve it. For the unjustified war in Iraq and other impeachable crimes commited by many in the current U.S. Administration, I condemn America every day — I believe that makes me a patriot, not un-American.