About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Jon Stewart beats Don Rumsfeld

A couple of weeks ago Senator Hillary Clinton, the exceedingly moderate Democrat who is flip-flopping on a variety of issues in order to position herself for a White House run in '08, had the balls to directly take on incompetent Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (of the infamous “Rumsfeld doctrine,” the idea that the US was best served by sending just enough troops in Iraq to make sure that it couldn't stabilize the country after the initial invasion's success).

Rather pointedly, and very uncharacteristically for Mrs. Clinton, the Senator reminded Rummy that this wasn't “2003, or 2004, or even 2005” (notice how Clinton knows her calendar) – when the Secretary had appeared before the Senate to answer questions about Iraq – and that his wildly optimistic (indeed, downright misleading, she should have said) past statements simply didn't hold up to the reality on the ground today. A somewhat mystified Rumsfeld answered that the Senator would have “a Dickens of a time” actually finding a record of such optimistic statements.

Enter Jon Stewart who, despite being a comedian who runs a show of fake news, is actually more savvy than most seasoned American journalists. In typical Daily Show fashion, Stewart showed first the clip of Clinton vs. Rumsfeld, paused to remark on the “Dickens” reference, and then proceeded to mercilessly show his audience several (dated and sourced) clips of Rumsfeld declaring exactly what he had just claimed he never said. Simply beautiful.

Rumsfeld, by the way, according to an NPR story run a few days ago, is also the same bastard who publicly “praised” Sgt. Joseph Darby, the whistleblower who got the investigation in the Abu-Ghraib prison abuse scandal started. The “praise” actually identified Darby to the public, despite the fact that he had been guaranteed witness protection status (and therefore anonymity) by the US Military. As a result, Darby and his family had to move because of threats they received by their neighbors, whose sons, daughters and friends were involved in the scandal, and who apparently have a rather hazy concept of morality. And so does Rummy, whose reckless behavior endangered and dramatically affected the life of a US soldier whose only fault was to have spoken up against acts of torture committed by fellow soldiers. Then again, as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recently remarked, we don't really know whether torture is wrong because we don't have a clear definition of what torture is...


  1. The Bush administration really has shown a great deal of respect for privacy...We haven't had a President as concerned about personal privacy since Nixon.

  2. It's to bad there isn't some objective criterion for "conservative" and "liberal." My brother said that the TV networks think they have achieved balance because they have somebody they call conservative, two people they call moderate, and one they call liberal. In reality (his reality, not mine) they are one Communist, two liberals, and one moderate.

    I pointed out that his "moderate" is my flaming reactionary.

    The point is, it would really set my brother and his friends off to hear Hillary called a moderate.

    One thing that I suspect confuses the issue is emphasis on the war. Lieberman's record was claimed to be fairly liberal if you ignore his stand on the war. (I disagree, but then that's me.)

    My dad used to say he had never met a "true" liberal, sine there is always one liberal cause or another that any particular individual doesn't support. I said that just means they are thinking. No thinking person could completely tow a party line.

  3. It used to be that liberal meant in favor of free trade and free market economy. Now it seems to mean in favor of government programs. And of course in the best sense it means in favor of free speech and other human rights. Then again, according to some people, liberals "believe in" global warming [wha?]. The semantics are almost impossible to manage.

    In Canada, in the 19th century, the Liberal party was the free trade party, the Conservative party was the "nation-building" party. i would say that today each of those parties occupies the other's position.


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