My grandfather, while serving as secretary (or possibly president, my history here is ambiguous) of New York Typographer’s Local 1, traveled to Washington to protest against the Taft-Hartley Act. While there, he gave a speak that called out the House Committee on Un-American Activities and one member in particular, a young Congressman on that committee named Richard Nixon. Nixon and HUAC, my grandfather proclaimed, were the really un-American ones, not the writers whose careers they were destroying.
In the Congressional cafeteria later, my grandfather was eating with other labor leaders when Richard Nixon came in. Upon seeing my grandfather, he sped over, stuck a finger in his face and demanded “How dare you call me un-American?!”
The power to challenge our leaders over their words and their actions are crucial. And the media’s coverage of such challenges is crucial to their success. Joseph McCarthy was destroyed by TV rebroadcasts of hearings into his obsessive efforts to destroy anyone who stood in the way of his redbaiting smear campaign. HUAC died off as a side-effect of McCarthy’s disgrace.
Now the media is doing it again, catching Republicans in their efforts to divide America for partisan gain. Here was Minnesota’s Rep. Michele Bachmann last week:
Just a few days ago, she told Chris Matthews, on a nationally televised cable show:
MR. MATTHEWS: So you believe that Barack Obama may have anti- American views.
REP. BACHMANN: Absolutely. I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views. ?
MR. MATTHEWS: Sarah Palin was around today talking about pro- American parts of America, and assuming there’s other non-parts of the country. What parts of America would you say are anti-American? What parts of this country?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, I would say that people who hold anti- American views. I don’t think it’s geography. I think it’s people who don’t like America, who detest America. And on college campuses, a Ward Churchill, another college campus, a Bill Ayers, you find people who hate America. And unfortunately, some of these people have positions teaching in institutions of higher learning. But you’ll find them in all walks of life all throughout America. ?
MR. MATTHEWS: How many Congress people, members of Congress, do you think are in that anti-American crowd you described? How many Congress people do you serve with? I mean, it’s 435 members of Congress.
REP. BACHMANN: Right now –
MR. MATTHEWS: How many are anti-American in the Congress right now that you serve with?
REP. BACHMANN: You’d have to ask them, Chris. I’m focusing on Barack Obama and the people that he’s been associating with. And I’m very worried about –
MR. MATTHEWS: But do you suspect that a lot of people you serve with –
REP. BACHMANN: — their anti-American nature.
MR. MATTHEWS: Well, he’s a United States senator from Illinois. He’s one of the people you suspect as being anti-American. How many people in the Congress of the United States do you think are anti- American? You’ve already suspected Barack Obama. Is he alone, or are there others? How many do you suspect of your colleagues as being anti-American?
REP. BACHMANN: What I would say — what I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think people would love to see an expose like that.
MR. MATTHEWS: Okay, thank you very much, U.S. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
Despite the way the blogs and the Democratic Party are spinning it, I never called all liberals anti-American, I never questioned Barack Obama?s patriotism, and I never asked for some House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunt into my colleagues in Congress.
Pressed specifically on whether she thought all liberals were anti-American, she refused to give a yes or no answer, dancing around the question instead. There’s no question that she called for investigations into whether her colleagues were “anti-American,” which is a fine distinction from “un-American.” And she did indeed question whether Obama was “anti-American,” which sounds like an attack on his patriotism if there ever was one.
So Bachmann is lying about her views.
Also lying, North Carolina’s Rep. Robin Hayes. According to the New York Observer, Hayes was warming up a crowd at a John McCain rally, and:
prefaced his comments by saying it was important to ?make sure we don?t say something stupid, make sure we don?t say something we don?t mean.? Republicans, he reminded the crowd, were kind people. Plus, he added, the liberal media had shown itself eager to distort such remarks. With the crowd duly chastened and put on best behavior, he accused Obama of ?inciting class warfare? and said that ?liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God.?
That account was denied by the Hayes campaign, which stated that “Hayes absolutely denies making the comments that appear in the Observer article.” A spokeswoman “noted that other national reporters were at the event and didn’t pick up on what the Observer reported.”
Except that “the national media couldn’t have picked up on the comment because they had yet to arrive at the event. ‘I wasn’t on the plane,’ said [The Observer's] Horowitz, who explained that he arrived before the national media. ‘I don?t know if they were aware the national press wasn?t there, but they were staying stuff.’” The Hayes campaign later declared that the many reporters who confirmed the Observer’s account were practicing “irresponsible journalism.”
Politico now has audio from the rally, in which you can hear Hayes saying: “Liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God.”
In other words, Hayes and his spokeswoman are lying. Just like Bachmann does, they know that what they said was wrong, but don’t want to take responsibility for it. So they hope that they can lie their way out of it.
I happen to think that the most American thing one can do is to challenge our government and expose such dishonesty. That’s what my grandfather stood up for, and I’m proud to think I’m working in that same tradition. Whether Bachmann and Hayes can say the same is a matter for their own consciences.