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Keith Olbermann Blasts Rumsfeld American Legion Speech (Video)

Unlike most on the right side of the blogosphere, I took Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld to task for suggesting that those who disagreed with administration policies in the war against Islamist terrorists are akin to those who appeased Fascism in the 1930s.

Last night, Keith Obermann got into the act, with a 6:41 monologue suggesting that Rumsfeld in particular and the administration in general are the modern equivalent to the McCarthyites. As is his wont, even when he’s on the right side of an issue, he goes so far over the top as to make his target look good by comparison.

The video:

Some highlights:

For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence — indeed, the loyalty — of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants — our employees — with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

While I disagreed with the tone and implications of Rumsfeld’s remarks, Olbermann’s precis is a gross distortion of them. Read the transcript. Nowhere does he impugn the morality, intelligence, or loyalty of those who dissent. Nowhere does he claim omniscience.

Instead, he argues that threats are often underestimated by those who wish to avoid war. He argues that the press and critics of the administration hype the actions of “occasional bad actors” and virtually ignore the heroism and good done by our soldiers. He contends that it’s outrageous to compare Guantanimo to the Soviet Gulag.

Mostly, though, he’s exhorting his audience, a highly respected and powerful group of veterans, to speak out. Noting that victory against terrorism requires, ultimately, winning the war of ideas, he wants those who know something about war to persuade people that this war is winnable and that we must not lose faith.

In a long passage, Olbermann says that Rumsfeld got it backwards: That it is he and the administration that are the equivalent of Neville Chamberlain and the war’s critics that are our modern day Winston Churchills. How so? Because Chamberlain was certain that he was right and marginalized his critics. That’s more than a bit strained; it’s nonsensical.

Obermann then completes the moonbat full monty* by saying that Rumsfeld, Bush, and company–not the terrorists–are the new Fascists.

The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought.

And about Mr. Rumsfeld’s other main assertion, that this country faces a “new type of fascism.”

As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that — though probably not in the way he thought he meant it.

This country faces a new type of fascism – indeed.

The suggestion that the level of freedom enjoyed by Americans in 2006 similar to that people endured under fascist regimes is beyond silly, it’s insulting. Indeed, Americans are much more free now than they were during WWII, when all manner of government inposed restrictions were cheerfully borne to help win the war. (And that’s leaving aside the internment camps.)

On the other hand, the much-linked critique of Olbermann’s monologue by “Johnny Dollar” at Olbermann watch is rather bizarre. He seems incensed that Olbermann repeatedly refers to the president as “Mr. Bush,” despite that being a time honored tradition. (Indeed, no less an authority than Archie Bunker included that option among the proper ways to refer to his hero, Richard Nixon.) And the idea that Rumsfeld was not referring to critics of the Iraq war is simply specious, as noted in my original post on the matter.

Others commenting: AllahPundit, Steve Clemons, Jamie Holly

The full transcript of Olbermann’s monologue is below the fold, courtesy Olbermann’s MSNBC blog.

________

*With apologies to Matt Yglesias.


The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.

Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday demands the deep analysis—and the sober contemplation—of every American.

For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence — indeed, the loyalty — of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants — our employees — with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom; and not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as “his” troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.

It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile it is right and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.

In a small irony, however, Mr. Rumsfeld’s speechwriter was adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis. For in their time, there was another government faced with true peril—with a growing evil—powerful and remorseless.

That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld’s, had a monopoly on all the facts. It, too, had the “secret information.” It alone had the true picture of the threat. It too dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeld’s — questioning their intellect and their morality.

That government was England’s, in the 1930’s.

It knew Hitler posed no true threat to Europe, let alone England.

It knew Germany was not re-arming, in violation of all treaties and accords.

It knew that the hard evidence it received, which contradicted its own policies, its own conclusions — its own omniscience — needed to be dismissed.

The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew the truth.

Most relevant of all — it “knew” that its staunchest critics needed to be marginalized and isolated. In fact, it portrayed the foremost of them as a blood-thirsty war-monger who was, if not truly senile, at best morally or intellectually confused.

That critic’s name was Winston Churchill.

Sadly, we have no Winston Churchills evident among us this evening. We have only Donald Rumsfelds, demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill.

History — and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over England — have taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty — and his own confusion. A confusion that suggested that the office can not only make the man, but that the office can also make the facts.

Thus, did Mr. Rumsfeld make an apt historical analogy.

Excepting the fact, that he has the battery plugged in backwards.

His government, absolute — and exclusive — in its knowledge, is not the modern version of the one which stood up to the Nazis.

It is the modern version of the government of Neville Chamberlain.

But back to today’s Omniscient ones.

That, about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this: This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely.

And, as such, all voices count — not just his.

Had he or his president perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience — about Osama Bin Laden’s plans five years ago, about Saddam Hussein’s weapons four years ago, about Hurricane Katrina’s impact one year ago — we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their “omniscience” as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego.

But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris.

Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to the entire “Fog of Fear” which continues to envelop this nation, he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies have — inadvertently or intentionally — profited and benefited, both personally, and politically.

And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer’s New Clothes?

In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused the United States of America?

The confusion we — as its citizens— must now address, is stark and forbidding.

But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note — with hope in your heart — that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light, and we can, too.

The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought.

And about Mr. Rumsfeld’s other main assertion, that this country faces a “new type of fascism.”

As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that — though probably not in the way he thought he meant it.

This country faces a new type of fascism – indeed.

Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in feeble tribute, I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary journalist Edward R. Murrow.

But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing could I come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other politicians thought they (and they alone) knew everything, and branded those who disagreed: “confused” or “immoral.”

Thus, forgive me, for reading Murrow, in full:

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty,” he said, in 1954. “We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular.”

And so good night, and good luck.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Keith Olbermann gave the best speech on the current administration and Donald Rumsfeld, in particular, that I have heard in ages. It was thoughtful, concise and dissected the guys in charge with the scalpel of a surgeon. (See Link) I, respectfully, run it in its entirety: The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack. Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.

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  2. Chuquet says:

    (1 day ago)Outside The Beltway: “Keith Olbermann Blasts Rumsfeld American Legion Speech (Video)” (1 day ago)

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  3. stepped into Edward R. Murrow’s shoes for a night with a devastating critique of Rummy and the Bush Administration. Why We Worry: Olbermann’s great speech I hope the internet coverage of this speech gives him a well deserved spike in the ratings. Outside the Beltway: Keith Olbermann Blasts Rumsfeld American Legion Speech even when he’s on the right side of an issue, he goes so far over the top as to make his target look good by comparison. Transafixion: Olbermann on Today’s Fascism he doesn’t hold back TruthDig: Olbermann Puts Rumsfeld to Shame

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  4. [IMG working] [IMG Outside The Beltway | OTB] America’s Number 1 Source For National Security Secrets Keith Olbermann Blasts Rumsfeld American Legion Speech (Video) Frist Fined for Untruthful Medical License Renewal Forms Bainbridge on Attorney Bill Padding Caption Contest California and Global Warming UPDATE: Hate Groups Infiltrating U.S. Military? Inflation and Interest Rates

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  5. Steven Plunk says:

    It seems as though opponents of administration policies will not allow a vigorous defense of those policies.

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  6. biwah says:

    I was with Olbermann on Rumsfeld’s impugning of dissenters’ loyalty, morality, and intelligence. Rumsfeld has amply shown that his smug defenses of his own bungling depend on his accompanying attacks on the credibility of anyone who would dare criticize the executive branch – with all the conflation of issues that drain his statements of any specific, tangible meaning. Olbermann was also right to point out that Rumsfeld lame attacks are actually on a position taken by a majority (and if not a majority, a significant and mainstream contingent) of Americans.

    His conflation of Rumsfeld with Chamberlain was weak, especially considering that Chamberlain favored appeasement of Hitler. He was begging to get trounced for that point. From there, his slinging of the “fascist” label was as predictable as it was awkward.

    The Murrow quote was timely though. He should have stayed closer to that message: focusing on the value of dissent, and the fundamental American suspicion of any government that relies on belittling it to defend their position.

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  7. madmatt says:

    Well seeing as fascism is a system of government, the current direction of US policy is certainly much closer to fascism than any terrorist organization thus islamofascism could be applied to the taliban or the house of saud but not al queada.

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  8. Old War Dogs says:

    Bill’s 2006.08.31 Short Shorts (Updated throughout the day)…

    Today’s mini-posts, newest items at the top:…

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  9. Dems Bash Rumsfeld’s Nazi Comments…

    Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sparked ire from Democrats by saying the world faces “a new type o…

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  10. DL says:

    Rumsfeld “bungled” is monday morning quarterbacking. I am convinced that General Patton would have “bungled” this war since perfection is the criterion. The real problem is fighting a “clean” war (to please our liberal friends) while building a peace and democracy with no certinty of who to shoot at. Even St Michael would have a hard time winning this one.

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  11. Ken says:

    When President Bush proclaimed that we were at war with “Islamic fascists,” he made it sound as if fascism was a Bad Thing. (“Fascism” was the term Benito Mussolini coined to describe Italy’s political/economic system prior to World War II. He said it could also be called “corporatism,” describing the merger of corporate and government power.)

    In fascist regimes, corporate interests are exalted over individual ones (the bankruptcy bill; the Medicare prescription drug plan), and labor unions become ineffectual. Corporate cronyism — raised to an art form by Suharto of Indonesia — is rampant (Halliburton; Jack Abramoff), and the concentration of economic power is encouraged (what antitrust law?). Disdain is shown for human rights (Guantanamo; the PATRIOT Act). The news media is obsequious and servile, dominated by corporate interests (FAUX News). The military is lionized and patriotism is emphasized (9/11), as regimes adopt a belligerent foreign policy (invasion of Iraq). Public officials are above the law (‘signing statements’; governmental immunity). Elections are less-than-transparent, if not total shams (Diebold) — and courts serve primarily to protect the regime (judges writing ad hoc law in unpublished opinions). Starting to sound familiar?

    We don’t face a new brand of fascism — it looks more like the vintage one.

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  12. Joseph Sy says:

    When rummy said:

    And that is important in any long struggle or long war, where any kind of moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is
    right or wrong, can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere.

    I stop out of my tracks because it is just outrageous. Rummy plainy said for everyone who is against him to shut the f**k up. Free speech is the life and blood of “free societes,” what a moron.
    Especially in complex times like, “any long struggle or long war,” free speech is needed. All craps and lies like Rummy’s speech will be ignored and thrown to garbage, and the thruth and solutions will come out of any willing and brave people to use their freedom of speech.

    How dare he ask the question, “is [America] the source of the world’s troubles?” America put Saddam Hussein in power to fight Iran and that made Iraq be “brutalized by a cruel and dangerous dictatorship.” Wasn’t rummy Hussein’s VIP guest at his palace?
    There are so much more to say, and thanks to Keith Olbermann eloquent speech that should not be taken lightly because this sample of a free speech should show that the bush/rummy and their policies are just wrong.

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  13. Joseph Sy says:

    Sorry guys the Olbermann monologue is just a copy of Jon Stewart’s show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3m6lHbXhkck

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  14. Alan says:

    “Sit Down and Shut Up!”

    I was wondering what topic to write about this week until I was unfortunately listening to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld addressing the American Legion Conference. His comments so incensed me that it made up my mind very quickly as to this week’s editorial. It is an editorial opinion about intimidation tactics designed to stifle free speech and opposition.

    The Secretary of Defense, for those lucky enough to have missed his speech, told the audience that those opposing the Iraq War were “morally and intellectually confused” as to the best interests of America. He compared the current “war on terrorism” to the world war with Nazi Germany. The Secretary essentially implied that true Americans understood the Iraq War and fully supported the efforts there to fight terrorism. However, there are those Americans who like in WW II desire to appease the new Hitler (also known as the “terrorists”) and put this country’s safety and security at risk. As in WW II, America would have never defeated the Nazi Facists if we had listened to the war critics. Such Americans were then and are now “morally and intellectually confused”.

    Secretary Rumsfeld brought back the memory of an infamous U.S. Senator in the 1950s known as Joseph McCarthy. Senator McCarthy, in his paranoia to find and rid this country of communists, branded all dissent against his efforts as anti-American and anti-patriotic actions. His tactics were so successful that he scared all citizens of being accused of being a communist, including politicians, businessmen and ordinary citizens. Even the press became afraid to criticize Senator McCarthy. McCarthy was right and anyone who disagreed was wrong. Friend turned against friend. Those in the wrong suffered the consequences. It was a bad, very bad chapter in the history of this country. McCarthy continued his ruthless campaign against communism until one reporter, Edward R. Murrow of CBS News, had the courage to take him to task.

    Edward R. Murrow put it this way: “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes which for the moment were unpopular.”

    I think it may do us all good to remember that phrase “we must not confuse dissent with disloyalty”. For it was not the Americans but the Nazis who stifled dissent and demanded blind obedience and unquestioned loyalty to those in power. It was the Nazis who branded all those in dissent or opposition to their policies as “morally and intellectually confused”. It was a dangerous practice then and certainly not a practice to be adopted in America. For the strength of America lies in its ability to question those in power. It is the strength of America through dissent to require accountability from its leaders. Dissent requires leaders to question their actions and policies. Blind loyalty and unquestioned actions are a recipe for disaster.

    Secretary Rumsfeld’s comments were an insult to every American citizen, whether Republican, Democrat or Independent. His comments were intended to stifle criticism under the guise of patriotism. His comments implied that any dissent was anti-American. His comments were dangerous to the fabric of what makes America strong.

    This is not a question about the Iraq War or the “war on terrorism”. It is a statement of the danger of leaders who try to preclude criticism and dissent by portraying all opponents as not being patriotic and not being true Americans.

    I think it is obvious that the Secretary needs to review his history books again. I don’t think there are any Americans against the “war on terror”. I don’t think there are any Americans who are not concerned with being safe and secure for themselves and their families. And, most importantly, I don’t think there are any Americans who need to be told to sit down and shut up! Americans, regardless of their opinions and differences, are not “morally and intellectually confused” over the “war on terrorism”. However, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld may be? Let’s hope not!

    Lets wakeup America and at least think about it!

    The American Centurians
    http://www.theamericancenturians.com
    theamericancenturians@yahoo.com

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