On PBS, 'Conservative' Bruce Fein Tries To Rough Bush Up In The Alley of History
Bruce Fein was a member of the Reagan Administration, but during the Dubya years, Fein sounds a lot like your typical "Bush hater," comparing the president to a long list of historical villains, which makes him a more acceptable guest for Bill Moyers or NPR’s Diane Rehm show. Here are the actual places in the Friday Bill Moyers Journal interview where squeaky-voiced Fein took Bush to the historical dark alley and tried to rough him up:
– Today’s Japanese Internment Camps?
FEIN: Take World War II. We locked up 120,000 Japanese Americans, said they were all disloyal. Well, we got 120,000 mistakes. They lost their property. They lost their liberty for years and years because we made a huge mistake. And that can be true after 9/11 as well.
-- Just Like Hitler, Worse Than Nixon:
FEIN: Let me underscore one of the things that you remember, Bill, 'cause I was there at the time of Watergate. And this relates to one political-- official in the White House, Sara Taylor's testimony. And claiming that George Bush could tell her to be silent.
BILL MOYERS: That was a great moment when Sara Taylor said, "I took an oath to uphold the president." Did you see that?
BRUCE FEIN: Yes. And that was like the military in Germany saying, "My oath is to the Fuhrer, not to the country." She took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. I did, too, when I was in the government. There's no oath that says, "I'm loyal to a president even if he defiles the Constitution."
JOHN NICHOLS: Ever.
BILL MOYERS: Just this week Harriet Miers, the president's former counsel, did not show up to testify before the congressional hearing. What do you make of that in regard to this issue of power?
BRUCE FEIN: Well, it shows how far we've come from even the mon-- monarchical days of Richard Nixon where he didn't have the audacity to tell John Dean, "No, you can't testify before the Watergate committee about conversations you had with me about obstructing justice or otherwise."
Fein later added another worse-than-Nixon moment:
"The power of the purse. That is an absolute power. And yet Congress shies from it. It was utilized during the Vietnam War, you may recall, in 1973. Congress said there's no money to go and extend the war into Laos and Cambodia. And even President Nixon said okay. This was a president who at one time said, "If I do it, it's legal."
-- Worse Than King George III. Fein really broke out the Big Brother talk when he caricatured the administration’s positions on terrorist surveillance and created an Orwellian nightmare:
FEIN: Take, for instance, the assertion that he's made that when he is out to collect foreign intelligence, no other branch can tell him what to do. That means he can intercept your e-mails, your phone calls, open your regular mail, he can break and enter your home. He can even kidnap you, claiming I am seeking foreign intelligence and there's no other branch Congress can't say it's illegal--judges can't say this is illegal. I can do anything I want. That is overreaching. When he says that all of the world, all of the United States is a military battlefield because Osama bin Laden says he wants to kill us there, and I can then use the military to go into your homes and kill anyone there who I think is al-Qaeda or drop a rocket, that is overreaching. That is a claim even King George III didn't make at the time of the Revolution.
But we're talking about assertions of power that affect the individual liberties of every American citizen. Opening your mail, your e-mails, your phone calls. Breaking and entering your homes. Creating a pall of fear and intimidation if you say anything against the president you may find retaliation very quickly. We're claiming he's setting precedents that will lie around like loaded weapons anytime there's another 9/11.
Does Fein believe the American government did not respond to Abu Ghraib? Or allegations about soldiers murdering civilians at Haditha? Does he honestly believe that President Bush stands in the briefing room in the White House and boasts he can kill any American he wants in their homes if he thinks they might be al-Qaeda?
-- Worse Than Putin’s Pack of Poisoners.
FEIN: We have now indictments in both Italy and Germany against CIA operatives because they abducted and threw into dungeons and tortured people abroad. We need their cooperation if we're going to defeat al-Qaeda.
BILL MOYERS: You mean the cooperation of those governments.
BRUCE FEIN: Of those governments. And now they're saying, "The heck with it. You know, you can't come on our soil and kidnap people outside the law and throw them into dungeons."
BILL MOYERS: That's what Putin does. Putin is doing that--
BRUCE FEIN: Polonium 210, you know? You-- can we borrow some from you? And moreover, think, Bill, of the precedent it sets. It is basically saying, "Mr. Putin, you can kidnap an American outside the Louvre in Paris, throw him in a dungeon in Belarus and say, "Hey, he said sympathetic things about the Chechens." And therefore, you can operate outside the law because the Chechens are people you oppose. That's the precedent the president is saying is legal. But the other element with regard to the abuses to point out are Abu Ghraib. That's-- those pictures are all on al-Jazeera television. And they get shown every single day, 24 hours a day, to the Muslim youth that's seeking some meaning in their life. And that's what increases the recruitment attractiveness of al-Qaeda.
– The Gulag? I mentioned this one in the last blog, comparing the current Bush regime to the Soviets that dissident Aleksander Solzenitzyn portrayed in his classic work The Gulag Archipelago. He said of Congress: they don't have anybody who can, as a chairman or even asking a question like John or me say, ‘Mr. Attorney General, you answer that question. This is the United States of America. Transparency is the rule here. We don't have secret government. That's what Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote about in the Gulag. That's not the United States of America..’"
How "conservative" are the conservatives that PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers interviews? Sadly, when Moyers puts you on his show, every conservative in America should suspect you’re either (a) no longer conservative or (b) your conservatism/libertarianism at least somehow landed you in strange-bedfellows agreement with Moyers. In this case, if anything, Fein was not only fiercer in his denunciation of Bush-Cheney than Bill Moyers, he was harsher than the guy from The Nation magazine. Calling Fein a conservative is a little like trying to call Zell Miller a liberal. Would Democrats accept that?
Moyers almost never debates conservative guests on his show. I do remember him having mild-mannered Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal on his "Now" show a while back, and it was quite effective that when Moyers said the economy looked to be headed over a cliff, Gigot smiled and gently said something like "Over a cliff, Bill? Come on." (Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute was also good in his sort of Milton Friedmanesque happy-warrior way.)
But Moyers isn’t interested in having anyone come on and let loose a rant like Fein’s -- directed at him instead of conservatives. "This is the United States of America, Moyers, Transparency is the rule here. You can’t claim public television is fair to conservatives, and then declare to viewers that it only lives up to its mandate to the voiceless when it demands the impeachment of Republican presidents. You and this system are taking conservative money and still keeping conservatives voiceless. You can’t make millions of dollars off public television and not tell anyone about your financials because you’re a 'private business.'" That would be a neat show to watch.