Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
-- First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Love it, loathe it or tune it out, AM talk radio has developed an impact as weighty as the once-ample frame of its biggest star. Rush Limbaugh, the self-described "doctor of democracy," has built an audience of 20 million, spooked liberal foes and, quite possibly, changed the shape of politics by framing, as vividly as anyone, the questions we all must face if we are to keep refining our identity as Americans. So it mattered last month when Limbaugh, holding forth on anti-war rallies around the world, raised the stakes in midsentence. "I want to say something about these anti-war demonstrators," he said. "No, let's not mince words. Let's call them what they are: anti-American demonstrators." With that, he had questioned the motives -- and patriotism -- of hundreds of thousands who had taken to the streets to exercise their right to question their government.
The "anti-American" charge is not new -- nor, historically, is it fruitless. It has sparked debate as far back as the Revolutionary War, self-examination as useful today as it was in the earliest days of the Republic. What are the duties of a good American at a moment of national crisis? Is it more patriotic to question a looming war or to line up behind it? Who makes that decision, and when?
Norman Thomas, a longtime Socialist activist who opposed the war in Vietnam, said his fellow protesters should have washed the Stars and Stripes, not set it afire. Yet in a country so resilient it protects even flag-burning as free speech, is any dissent unpatriotic?
America may be no better than the conversations its citizens hold. As U.S. forces gathered around Iraq this past week, seven people who make free speech their living discussed these and other issues with The Sun -- celebrating our liberties by hashing out, as Limbaugh would have it, what it really means to be an American.
What follows are excerpts of those conversations.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of The Jewish Exponent magazine in Philadelphia. In a recent article, he argues that "if powerful forces in the Arab/Islamic world are at war with America and all it represents, they can't hide behind sovereignty anymore."
No matter how odious the cause might be, the right to dissent is sacred. Period. When protesters openly side with armed combatants opposing American forces in the field, such dissenters forfeit the sympathy of most Americans. But anything short of actually materially aiding our nation's enemies (the Constitutional definition of treason) is protected speech.
That said, I think those who make excuses for Saddam Hussein and oppose the spread of democracy are out of tune with American values. I wouldn't label them "anti-American." But I do think they are dead wrong.
In the cases of both Vietnam War protesters and today's protesters, those who oppose war do so for diverse reasons. Most Americans who opposed the Vietnam War did so because they saw it as a war that America didn't need to fight and wasn't fighting to win. At the same time, a small leftist cadre went further and openly rooted for the North Vietnamese. I'm referring to Students for a Democratic Society and all the vile, old-left, new-left Maoist bunch that has been discredited since then. ANSWER is a vestige of that crew. One might guess that the leadership of the current protesters also takes the side of America's opponents, while many who attend the demonstrations do so with more mainstream motives.
The point the Vietnam and Iraq protest movements have in common is their unwillingness to face the consequences of not fighting a cruel and tyrannical enemy. Many Vietnam protesters still haven't come to terms with the fact that, however flawed South Vietnam might have been - and the fact that 50,000 American lives should not have been sacrificed without reason - America's failure in Vietnam allowed that country to sink into the grip of a Stalinist dictatorship which took the lives of countless thousands in "re-education" camps. Today's protesters are similarly blind about Saddam Hussein.
It would be unwise to overlook the fact that the leadership of today's organized anti-war movement is extremist in nature - for instance, the way that leadership is allied with, and in many cases part of, a mindset that views terrorism against Israelis and Jews as defensible. The anti-Zionist tone of their comments is, in many cases, indistinguishable from anti-Semitism and is rooted in the same sources. The far left in this country, like the extreme right, has adopted anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic rhetoric and beliefs.
Partisan thinking can be unpleasant, inappropriate and downright unfair and mean, but it is an essential part of our democratic system. Thus, we must take the cartoon version of George W. Bush that many Democrats offer up with a ton or two of salt. The Clintons and [Senate Minority Leader Tom] Daschle are prone to highly partisan rhetoric. Jesse Jackson always identifies with Third World dictators. That isn't so much unpatriotic as it is opposed to American values and democracy. That is bad enough. Danny Glover and George Clooney? I don't question their [love of country]. I do question their ability to make reasoned judgments about public policy.
In general, I don't care for the "anti-American" label. It has a lot of baggage from a previous era, and I don't see it a useful term. ANSWER and its allies do clearly see America as the world's biggest problem. [That] motivates them to oppose anything that is seen as good for America - and to support anyone, no matter how loathsome, who opposes America.
As such, one could say they're anti-American. They aren't patriotic in any meaningful sense. But I'd rather call them friends of our foes and opposed to what I would consider democratic ideals.
Ron Smith is one of Baltimore's most listened-to talk-radio hosts. An ex-Marine who anchored the local news on WBAL-TV from 1973 to 1980, he has been at the mike at 50,000-watt WBAL radio for 18 years, the last 10 in his current 3-6 p.m. time slot. His staunchly anti-war position has riled and baffled his conservative fan base.
Who is Rush Limbaugh to decide who's American and who isn't? If you're asking whether it's anti-American to question this war, the resounding answer is: "of course not." Of course not! You could say it would be anti-American to oppose the war if we had been attacked. Then it's a matter of self-defense, of self-preservation. This is a war of choice. That's a different thing. So it's not legitimate to examine the rationale for choosing such a huge kind of gamble?
Look, the media, by and large, are engaged in mass indoctrination. That's what they do. And they've been pathetically lapdog on this issue. Even The Washington Post is now totally pro-war. Amazing, isn't it? The pro-war cabal in the Bush administration has used the media very effectively.
That's a constant in human governance. Leaders decide to go to war, and then the machinery is put in motion to convince people that they are threatened by this putative enemy. It's not difficult to do at all. It's even easier in this instance, now that we're all living in a sort of semi-panic in the wake of 9/11. It's also easier to indoctrinate the masses on things they can't see. A war far away, being conducted for grand geopolitical reasons - this is beyond the ken of most people. Therefore, they're going to believe the authority figures who are constantly iterating the pro-war stand.
AM talk radio exists as a sort of sounding-board for middle America, sort of a samizdat against the elite opinion. I'm my listeners' editor. I'm at work all the time finding stuff, interpreting it, and explaining it to the busy ordinary person who doesn't have the time to do what I do. I unearth stories or points of view that don't resonate in the mainstream press.
The rulers always try to stifle dissent, obviously. It's not in their best interest to have dissent bubbling about. And in times of war, it's more viciously punished. Everyone falls into line. It's the whole purpose of beating the war drums. And you'll see that, once this whole thing starts, the opposition to it will diminish tremendously. But dissent is always punished fiercely. In World War I, leading anti-war voices were put in prison. [Five-time Socialist presidential candidate] Eugene Debs went to prison [for violating the Sedition Act of 1918]. The "frankfurter" was renamed the "hot dog." Sauerkraut became "victory cabbage." We rounded up the Japanese-American population in World War II.
I won't go to jail, but there is a price. Patriotic Americans want to believe the propaganda out there: "Trust your leader; we don't know as much as he does." But I happen to question the wisdom of this particular war. I view it as the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time, with an unacceptable level of risk. I question whether Saddam presents a clear and present danger to our interests. So I have wandered off the reservation, so to speak.
I've been called everything from "the weakest link," a limp-wristed pantywaist, a Martin Sheen wannabe and a disgrace to the Marine Corps to anti-American, unpatriotic and a Bush-hater. My God, man; I find myself agreeing with [liberal columnist] Molly Ivins! Do you have any idea how humiliating that is? Dissent breeds strange bedfellows.
Juan Williams is senior correspondent for National Public Radio's Morning Edition and a regular panelist for TV's Fox News. He authored the critically acclaimed books Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965, and Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary. As host of NPR's Talk of the Nation from 2000 to 2001, he emceed town-hall discussions across America.
I have an interesting twist, as a black person in this country, on what I would consider to be classic anti-American speech. I would consider it speech that in any way denies people full citizenship rights, specifically the right to vote, the right to exercise their franchise by serving on a jury or holding elected office, civil rights - in terms of everything from your right to eat in a restaurant to your right to ride on a bus. That strikes me as anti-American, contrary to the principles that undergird our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.
Or think of someone like Joe McCarthy, who would scream out that you're a communist for associating with people who might be critical of administration policy. Or [think] of Charles Lindbergh, who was critical of Roosevelt for getting involved with World War II on the basis that - well, he was anti-Semitic - but that America should not get involved in foreign entanglements. To me, that's un-American language, to say you have no concern about oppression and tyranny.
That's true even [for] foreign countries. We are a country born of opposition to tyranny. I think when we advertise ourselves to the world, we should stand up and say we're a beacon of democracy. Yes, we have had struggles here at home, in terms of [disenfranchising] people of color and women, but we have a real concern for trying to advance democratic ideals and principles. That's the essence of what it means to me to be American.
Once President Bush determined that Saddam Hussein was a threat to our national interest - and I loathe any regime that rules by cruelty, intimidation and torture - I can support his plan of bringing democratic ideals to that region. It's important to ensure that another tyrant doesn't come along and replace him, to make sure old tribal feuds don't erupt, that we don't end up with a situation where the guy with the most guns always wins. That's who we are. That's an American aspiration.
That said, I was very much taken by the demonstrations. For people to take the step of breaking away from the ordinary routines of their lives, especially on a very cold day, as that day was, and to make a concerted effort to join fellow Americans in large numbers - to me, that's the best of America. It almost brings me to tears to think people have such a high regard for their country and their leadership that they believe that if they make an appearance, in numbers, their leadership will listen and respond. It's like that Norman Rockwell picture of the guy standing up at a town-hall meeting - I always imagine it being somewhere in New England - of a singular American standing tall, who has something to say to his neighbors, who wants them to hear it. That, to me, is the essence of what it means to be an American. So I have the highest regard for that.
I think one thing has been lost, though, and I notice it on the left and the right. This is so interesting. From the beginning, the generals here in Washington, at dinner parties, off the record, have been absolutely critical of this administration for wanting to push the war effort rather than go the diplomatic route. Some went on the record saying this, such as [Gen.] Wesley Clark and [Gen.] Norman Schwartzkopf. Colin Powell was part of that class, too, of seasoned warriors who have fought as Americans. They were highly critical - they saw too much banging of the war drums, too much bellicose language. They wanted to slow it down. There was a lot of questioning of [Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz and [Vice President Dick] Cheney.
The language people on the left picked up was that the gung-ho element in the administration were "chicken hawks" - pro-war types who had never been there themselves. Boy, that got under the skin of the right and the administration. That and the fact you could say that this president had not served in the military.
The contrary language, from people on the right, like Rush Limbaugh, is that it's "unpatriotic," it's "un-American," to [oppose the war]. In this way, I think both sides are trying to intimidate. It's semantic aggression. If I can call you a chicken hawk, or if I can call you unpatriotic or un-American, I can shut you up. I can defeat whatever it is you have to say. It inhibits a genuine, town-hall sense of a spirited discussion. It's too scary and too alarming that we might actually have a discussion about the real issues and [decide], "Guess what, I might be wrong!" But you know what? Part of the greatness of this country is the notion of reform. When you think about the willingness to reform everything, from child labor, to slavery, to abuse of women in this country - it's part of the great spirit of America. We're reformers. And part of being a reformer is being able to say, "You know what? My eyes are opened. I see a way we can do this better." I think that's very American. And so, to call people in the administration "chicken hawks," or to call people on the left "unpatriotic" - that, to my mind, is all about shutting people up, intimidating people.
That's the tactic of a dictator. That's undemocratic.
It may be true that Saddam takes comfort from the demonstrations. But if the cost of deposing Saddam is that we become undemocratic, or unable to have a vigorous debate about our policies, then, as the saying goes, he wins. If we stop going to the ballgame, or hanging out, or going downtown for dinner, the terrorists win. If we stop having vigorous discussions in this country in which people can try to persuade each other, on the basis of fact and information and love of country, then Saddam Hussein wins.
Ben Fritz is co-editor of Spinsanity.com, an online publication that calls itself a "watchdog of manipulative political rhetoric." His recent review of talk-show giant Michael Savage's best seller, The Savage Nation, attacked the book as "an ignorant, error-filled screech of hatred" by a man who "makes Rush Limbaugh look reasonable." In a review picked up by Salon.com, Fritz calls liberal filmmaker Michael Moore's best-selling Stupid White Men shoddily researched. "We're staying balanced," says Fritz, a journalist who started Spinsanity with two colleagues in 2000.
Look, we're on the brink of war. If it happens, people will die. Is this a right thing for America to do, or isn't it? For America to make its best decision, for or against, it's important that all legitimate points of view be heard. The nature of the debate is very, very important. We need a strong debate, but a rational one.
Unfortunately, as with a lot of issues, people have become so partisan and so intense that there's not much talking to, but a lot of talking at, going on. People aren't engaging each others' arguments. You end up just coming down to the question of, "Well, who do you believe?" You close your eyes and take a guess. That doesn't promote America's best decisions.
Both sides are using a common, very cheap, lazy rhetorical technique. Instead of presenting arguments based on facts, each side is choosing to impugn the other's motives. For example, people on the left keep saying, "This war is just about oil." Or: "This war is just about imperialism." Or, "Don't listen to what they say; that's not what they really mean."
There are many problems with that approach. First, they rarely offer evidence for those comments. Second, it's impossible for the other side to prove a negative - "No, this isn't about oil, because blah-blah-blah" - so there's no good response. It makes the other side distrust you. A lot of us who support the protesters' right to speak wish they'd stop the oil thing. You're free to speak; make a real argument.
The equivalent on the right is people who say, "You protesters are just appeasers," or "you're just Saddam supporters." Not everyone does that, but some do. That's problematic. Many liberals oppose a preemptive war by the U.S., but they still dislike Saddam and want to find other ways to get rid of him.
What are their other ways? That's a worthy point of debate. Maybe liberals do have a strategy short of war. But if you dismiss them by saying they're just Saddam defenders, you never find out what it is.
Another favorite tactic is to look at the other side, pick out a handful of extreme people, and suggest that those people typify the movement. The pro-war side has been doing this. When Hollywood celebrities say insupportable or uninformed things, they play into that strategy. "They're all just lefty wackos. They're not serious." The ANSWER connection is another issue. Very, very few people who oppose the war support what ANSWER stands for. How many of them are Stalinists? I don't know any. Maybe some of the organizers are. I doubt if many of the marchers even know what ANSWER is. It's just the group that had the time and resources to organize a rally.
The pro-war side has put together a much more rational, well-reasoned argument. There may be some on the left who have good arguments, but the movement hasn't adopted or articulated them well. What they've done well is use the process to get their side out, get people to call Congress.
But a war is about to happen, and we haven't really debated the most basic points. How do you deal with weapons of mass destruction? What's the best way to get rid of Saddam? Is a preemptive war proper? Inept, mistrustful dialogue keeps those questions away, and you can't call that pro-American.
As media coordinator for the Rutherford Institute in Charlottesville, Va., Nisha Mohammed oversees publications and legal services for the civil-liberties foundation. Rutherford has offered legal support in constitutional-rights cases involving free speech, gay rights, religious freedom and sexual harassment. Mohammed, a Christian, was raised in New York by a Christian mother and Muslim father.
It's a mistake to equate "anti-war" with "anti-American." Read the words of the Founding Fathers. They certainly didn't equate war with patriotism. They equated it with devastation, with loss of life, with the impact it would have on families, on communities.
Benjamin Franklin said, "Never has there been a good war or a bad peace." Thomas Jefferson called war "as much a punishment to the punisher as it is to the sufferer." A little later, Daniel Webster questioned the government's constitutional right to take parents' sons and send them off to war. Later, Lyndon Johnson said, "The guns and the bombs, the rockets and the warships, are all symbols of human failure."
It's doing an injustice to Americans to equate patriotism with war. That's not what being an American is about. Being an American is about standing for justice, for freedom, for constitutional beliefs that have made this country great. At the institute, our goal is to remind Americans that the Constitution is not a dead relic but still the essence of our lives as citizens. We'll furnish pocket-sized copies for anyone who's interested.
I think the anti-war rallies show that our system works. Had they happened in other countries, there would have been a different outcome: violent repression, a tamping-down. Here, people can voice their disagreement with the government. They can say, "I don't like what you're doing, and I don't like the way you're doing it." And we hope that the leaders in Washington listen.
War makes [the issue of free speech] more difficult. The courts have been criticized time and time again for restricting freedoms during wartime. But if you can't exercise all the freedoms afforded by the Constitution during war, what will they count for in times of peace? We come down on the side that says you protect your freedoms no matter what. There's never a good reason to justify restricting those freedoms.
Some rallies have been organized by communist or Stalinist groups, but there are communists and Stalinists in the United States who consider themselves Americans. This is a mixing-bowl of a country. Sure, some parts of the country are more homogeneous than others, but we pull together people from all walks of life, from all over the world. To be called an American, you don't have to look or talk a certain way or have a certain set of beliefs.
Then there's the tradition that says you don't criticize the commander in chief in wartime. It's horrible for those putting their lives on the line to feel unappreciated. That's an echo of Vietnam. But you don't restrict free speech just because some people don't exercise it with discernment. If you start letting government tell us what we can and can't say or think, that's dangerous. The government could broaden that to justify any kind of repression.
And shouldn't soldiers respect protest speech? It's people exercising the very freedoms they're fighting for.
Some dissenters compare George Bush to Hitler. I personally feel any president deserves more respect than that, whatever his policies. But you have to allow it. And if I see a "Bush-is-Hitler" T-shirt, I can exercise my own First Amendment rights and argue. If you don't like what somebody has to say, speak out! Create a dialogue.
It was [German Rev. Martin] Niemoeller, writing in World War II, who said: "They came for the gypsies; I was silent because I wasn't a gypsy. They came for the Poles; I was silent because I wasn't a Pole. They came for the Jews; I was silent because I wasn't a Jew. They came for me, and there was no one to speak for me."
When people speak out, the dangerous points of view don't triumph. That's the beauty of our system.
Alexander Cockburn has established a reputation as one of the foremost reporters and commentators of the left. He is co-editor of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch ( www.counterpunch.org) and writes a bi-weekly column for The Nation. He also writes a syndicated newspaper column, which is distributed nationally by Creators Syndicate.
Is it anti-American to be anti-war? Who's doing the labeling? The talk-radio mad dogs? The laptop bombardiers? It's pretty standard-issue in wartime, and not just in America. Remember the White Feather Brigade in Britain during World War I? Britain was sending 16-year-old schoolboys off to be shot. The life expectancy on the Western Front was two weeks.
People protesting this were given white feathers in the streets of London - starting, of course, with Bertrand Russell, the greatest philosopher of England in the 20th century, who was jailed for being a conscientious objector. It marked them as "cowards." There's always an effort in these pre-war or war situations to stigmatize those who attack the idea of war as traitors.
For these conservative people like Limbaugh, and these Rupert Murdoch hirelings - the Murdoch-Fox crowd, which is seeping across the whole press - for them, it's a sort of game: How rightwing can you be? [Liberal TV host Phil] Donahue is fired [by MSNBC]; [conservative Michael] Savage is hired. There's a lot of money in being pro-war, just as there was for [newspaper mogul] William Randolph Hearst in 1898, when he was in a circulation war with Joe Pulitzer. You'll recall that he sent people to Cuba to try to foment war between America and Spain. He told them, "Find a war." It was a circulation strategy.
War is still good for circulation, for people like Fox. That's just commercial greed; that's not particularly American.
The people who marched peacefully in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. - exercising their right of free speech and petition - were acting in the finest of American traditions. And since America is committed to international treaties and covenants, such as the U.N., which requires certain processes prior to a war, then it is pro-American to argue that America is stepping beyond the stipulations of international law. To advocate war at any price, against any international law, on any condition, as long as national self-interest is judged to be at stake - that's anti-American.
The progressive side too often allows the term "American" to be confiscated by the right. They concede ownership of the word, just as they do the flag, which embodies profound values. For some guy like Limbaugh to wag the flag around, or [conservative talk-radio host Sean] Hannity or some cretin like that, is outrageous.
Some of the finest patriots I know oppose this war. My neighbor here in northern California fought in Vietnam. He was a grunt. He surrendered years of his life to pain and grief. He's passionately against this war. Is he anti-American?
What about conscientious objectors? They were viciously persecuted during World War II, before their status had legal protection. I just got an e-mail from a friend, Dave Dellinger, one of the elder veterans of the peace movement. He was jailed in World War II as a C.O. against the "good war," as defined by [The Greatest Generation author] Tom Brokaw and others. He did time in Leavenworth. By the time he became one of the Chicago Seven in '68-'69, he was already a senior resistor. He's in his 80s now. His note was lucid; he's profoundly against this war. Is Dave a coward? He's one of the most courageous men I know.
Mark Twain has inspired me lately. Some of his most glorious writings decry American involvement in wars, such as our involvement in the Philippines [during the Spanish-American War]. No one is writing so ferociously today. Does anyone question Mark Twain's patriotism?
In recent [congressional] votes, who could be more American than Ron Paul, the libertarian Republican from Texas? He's one of a very few who will consistently attack the idea of war. He acts from the highest principles of patriotism. He and Pete DiFazio of Oregon - another terrific guy - tried to repeal the approval for war that Congress passed last fall. One Democrat, one Republican. Would people call them anti-American?
And what about the other side? This "chicken-hawk" term has been used a lot; there's validity to it. Some of the most fervent advocates of this war are people who, for one reason or another, failed to muster for duty in the Vietnam period or later - like Cheney, who said it wasn't part of his career plans. Or like Mr. Bush, who actually, technically, in my view, is a deserter. You may not want to put that in your newspaper, but if you look at the stipulations of what a National Guardsman must do, he's a deserter. Certainly he didn't fight. For those people to start [brandishing] the white feather is ridiculous.
Do protesters address Iraqi brutality? The oppression of a Saddam is serious and grave. Does that mean that the United States, without the sanction of the U.N., has the right to kick out anybody they think is a bad guy? Not unless you're going to tear up every treaty and covenant since 1945.
A senior scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Walter Berns researches political philosophy, constitutional law and legal issues. He wrote Making Patriots, which examines patriotism and its role in 21st century America. "This nation was born in a war," Berns writes, "and Abraham Lincoln referred to those who fought it as "the patriots of '76." M-' What those foes did to rally patriotism in 1776, the terrorists did on Sept. 11."
In judging the quality of dissent, one has to look at the reasons they give and the extent to which they know what they're talking about. The Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., for example, is a fool. I walked out of church the other day when he was talking about the war. I don't know whether he's anti-American, but he's a fool.
Here's what he said. First, he said Saddam Hussein is an evil man. Saddam Hussein has to go. So how does he propose to get rid of him? He wants Saddam to go into exile. The first problem, of course, is, what country would take him? But more important, how do you get him to go into exile? He's not going to agree to go. A clerical deputation of the sort that went to visit Tony Blair in London won't convince him. So the question is, how do you do it? The answer to that has to be: force. Well, the bishop doesn't want to use force.
What does he propose to do? Nothing. All this money that will be spent on war should be spent on children's teeth or something like that. Now, that's a fool speaking. Is he anti-American? I don't suppose so. He wouldn't say so. But that's a fool.
A lot of these people in the streets are anti-American. The protest organizers are. I'm talking about groups like ANSWER. The fact that these rallies have taken place simultaneously across the country suggests organization. That takes money.
Who does the organizing? Not the people who want, on the spur of the moment, to express themselves on the war. Those people are naifs who really don't understand how things in the world work. They're many of the same people who protested against [America's] installing the Pershing missiles in Western Europe in 1982 - which, as we now know, helped us win the Cold War.
They're not anti-American. They're just foolish.
Which side is patriotic? All you can do is listen carefully and determine whether there's any substance to the arguments. Two French friends whom I respect greatly are opposed to America on this issue. I would suppose, knowing the quality of their minds, that they have good reasons. I just don't happen to know what their reasons are. I have not heard a good anti-war argument yet from anyone.
Teddy Kennedy, for example. On Sunday, at our church, someone said, "What can we do [to prevent war]?" The bishop said, "There's a proposed bill sponsored by Teddy Kennedy and Senator [Robert] Byrd of West Virginia." He hadn't seen what was in it, but he knew it was a good bill; Kennedy is proposing it. That's is a man who, on a good Friday night, takes his nephew [William Kennedy Smith, who was tried on a rape charge but was acquitted in 1991] out to a nightclub to pick up women. Real moral giant. I suppose Kennedy and Byrd were proposing more time [for U.N. inspections], but what's that going to accomplish? The U.N. doesn't want the inspectors to find munitions. They just don't want anything to happen! That's schoolboy thinking.
Trusting American interests to the U.N. is just as foolish. I've served in the U.N. twice, once in Geneva on the Human Rights Commission. I would be happy if the damn thing collapsed altogether. It's a farce. It doesn't do any good! They talk, talk, talk; it's a lot of people who get together and get paid to talk. They eat in the U.N. restaurant, where the prices haven't been changed since 1952. It's a farce!
Abraham Lincoln had to sign, I believe, 267 death warrants. He talked once about how agonizing it was to know that with a stroke of a pen, he could save or not save the life of other human beings. I wish I'd been able to speak to the president about this before his [nationally televised press conference on March 7]. I know he has been agonizing about the decision he has to make. He doesn't need moral sermons from the bishop of Washington. No one in this country has agonized over the prospect of this war the way he has.
I'm glad it's not my decision. I wonder whether I could maintain my resolve in the face of these demonstrations. Judging from what he said, he has been agonizing, but he is resolved. That is American.