Years ago, David Brinkley reported on the evening news, (and you'll have to correct me where I'm wrong) "Today, in Washington, John Mitchell, the Attorney General of the United States, called Senator Daniel K. Inouye, a certified American hero, a 'dirty Jap'." Delivered in his inimitable dead pan style, with enough pauses in just the right places to make his complex qualifications intelligible, it was a statement of such force it knocked me over when I heard it. The Attorney General was upset with Senator Inouye for his opposition to U.S. prosecution of the war in Viet Nam. It was one of those defining moments in media history that help solidify opposition to our continuing involvement there. More recently, the Administration's response to the statements by Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha, and in the hue and cry in the House and on the stump, we have a similar resort to name calling in order to attempt to bury legitimate criticism of a policy and a strategy that have long been short on wisdom. The impugning rhetoric coming from supporters of the war has escalated to dangerous levels. So much so, that it proved to be an embarrassment to President Bush during his visit to China, where he has been trying to focus on the suppression of freedoms. As a result, according to this piece, CNN.com - Bush asks China to expand freedoms - Nov 20, 2005, the President stated,
People should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions about Iraq.... This is not an issue of who is patriotic and who is not patriotic. It's an issue of an honest open debate about the way forward in Iraq.
I'm glad he decided to tone things down before they got out of hand. It's a pity it took the visit to China to remind him that America is a free society, and that occassionally means exercising the courtesy of listening to those who disagree with you, even on the most important matters of state.