Another Perspective

The Obvious

But what if the expected doesn't materialize? Welcome to our unthinkable times.

By 9.28.07

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Let's recap a recent history of some obvious decisions, value judgments, if you will.

A rickety boat filled with refugees from Communist Cuba sinks off the Florida coast. A passing fisherman helps save most of the passengers. Among those who are lost is a woman, who has brought along six-year-old son. The son survives.

The woman's son has relatives in the U.S. who gladly take him in and take care of him.

The Communist dictator of the island nation from which the boy's mother fled blusters and threatens, demanding the return of the child. What would Ronald Reagan have said and done? "We're not going to send a child back to a Communist hell-hole that this boy's mother lost her life trying to escape."

Simple. Obvious. Didn't happen that way.

A MEDICAL EMERGENCY INCAPACITATES A WOMAN. She can be maintained in a compromised state with a feeding tube. Her husband leaves her. Her parents care for her, and claim to be able to communicate in a rudimentary way with her. She gives some signs of responding to her parents' care.

After an estrangement of years, the sick woman's husband petitions a court to order the woman's feeding tube removed â€" i.e., to kill her by thirst and starvation.

The obvious, just, and moral response to that petition should have been, "No. You can't kill a person, no matter how badly crippled she is."

It didn't happen that way in this case, either.

IMPEACHMENT CHARGES ARE BROUGHT AGAINST President Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice. In essence, he tried to use the power of his office to fix a civil case brought against him by a former employee of the State of Arkansas, when Clinton was governor.

The argument over the impeachment charges rages on the then-almost-new medium of cable TV news and talk radio. The President lies blatantly and repeatedly. In addition, he employs an entire cohort of spokesmen to feed talking points to the news media.

Astonishingly, the news people largely buy â€" and largely admire â€" the President's tactics, and help him by slanting the news and commentary in his favor.

I remember thinking at the time, "Well, this'll do it, once and for all. This time the bias of the media is so blatant, so over-the-top, nobody will ever trust them again. They're done for."

But, once again, it didn't happen that way. Indeed, the media still does business at the same old stand and still maintains the same old propositions. If anything, their biases have gotten worse.

I do not, by the way, assert that it was obvious President Clinton should have been impeached. Obviously, a man of any quality in his position would have resigned.

OBVIOUSLY, I AM A VERY BAD PROGNOSTICATOR. In the 1996 Presidential run-up, my candidate was Phil Gramm. In 2000, I favored John Ashcroft. Something has happened here, and, like Bob Dylan's Mr. Jones contemplating monstrous people, I don't know what it is.

The characters in Bob Dylan's song were monsters indeed, prefiguring the monstrous types who dominate today's public stage: perverse speakers of malicious nonsense, obscene exhibitionists, proud purveyors of insane propaganda.

I don't blame Mr. Jones a bit. The pencil in his hand won't do him any good, however. He should just leave. Today's monsters can't survive without the Joneses to maintain an orderly society. You can't epater les bourgeoises if the bourgeoises don't pay you any mind. The Joneses can get along without the monsters just fine.

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About the Author

Lawrence Henry writes every week from North Andover, Massachusetts.