Saturday, June 13, 2009

Groothuis Watch Resumes

Mr. Groothuis runs a blog called The Constructive Curmudgeon, which is known--amongst other things--for its merciless, biased, factually inaccurate and most uncharitable attacks on President Obama. The attacks started when Sen. Obama earned a spot as a front runner for the Democratic Party's nomination and have never ceased.

I used to spend a lot of time sparring with Mr. Groothuis (whom I used to refer to as Dr. or Prof., but I have decided to call simply Mr. as I realized that there is nothing remotely doctoral or professorial about his reasoning about and his attacks on President Obama), just pointing out that the false assumption, biased statements and scornful proclaims that Mr. Groothuis tried to pass as fact were, most often, just his personal and uncharitable opinions of Obama.

Perhaps annoyed by my relentless watch, or possibly by the impossibility of contradicting my analysis of the fallacies he promoted, Mr. Groothuis started censoring my replies under cover of false accusations. (According to him, I was guilty of ad hominem attacks and of being disrespectful and insulting.) Fair enough, it's his blog, and he can be a censor if it suits him.

Though I have avoided sending comments to Mr. Groothuis for a few months (he censors them, remember?) one of his latest posts caught my eye and I decided to try my luck.

A couple of days ago I sent him my comments on the typically titled Flattery and Distortion: That's Obama, in which Mr. Groothuis says: "Perhaps the most egregious thing about this speech was that Obama, purportedly a Christian, failed to address the Islamic persecution of Christians around the world, and in Egypt as well. Islam is incompatible with any historic Western concept of religious freedom."

Then, responding to a couple of his readers who quite correctly pointed out to him that it made no sense for the President to point out the persecution of Christians around the world and in Egypt when the goal of his speech was to engage his Middle-Eastern audience instead of antagonizing it, as the previous administration has done for so long, in action more than in words, Mr. Groothuis went on to suggest that President Obama could have/should have done what Reagan would have done. Here is what he wrote:
O [sic] need not preach an evangelistic message (he wouldn't know how) or excoriate Islam. But what he did was dead and dangerously wrong. I am not enough of a statesman to know exactly what he should have done, but I know he botched the opportunity. My question is, "What would Reagan have done?" A few ideas:

1. Emphasize that America will not tolerate terrorism at home or abroad. It will do all it can to extirpate this plague on the world by supporting democracies and the rule of law worldwide.

2. Emphasize that American soldiers have spilled blood and had their bodies ravaged defending Muslims in Bosnia and Kuwait.

3. Emphasize that we are not at war with Islam, but with terrorists, as (2) points out.

4. Highlight that America honors the freedom of religions, as should all nations. But we will not support religious attempts to undermine the philosophical foundations of our own country.

O has neither the nerve nor the intelligence nor the vision to do anything like this. This strategy is quintessentially liberal: flatter enemies to try to make them our friends. That always fails. Lies do not promote justice or peace.

Mr. Groothuis's reply pays tribute to the imaginary Ronald Reagan that has been immortalized for posterity by a bunch of speechwriters, opinion-makers, and conservative king-makers. In other words, to the mythologized version of a president who should (and might eventually) go down in history as one of the most divisive, heartless, callous, and overrated presidents this nation has had.

Fortunately, I just finished reading Will Bunch's Tear Down This Myth, so I have a different perspective on what Ronald Reagan might have done. So I decided to break my silence and send my reply to Mr. Groothuis's post.

That was two days ago, and my reply has yet to be published. Mr. Groothuis too busy too moderate comments? Perhaps. Censored again? Possibly. In any case, enough time has passed that I feel authorized to post my reply here. It's my blog, and I can do what I want with it, right?

Dr. Groothuis, [that was before I made my mind up that Dr. may be a factually accurate title, but way too generous for the quality of the reasoning]

in your usual haste to castigate Obama, you accuse him of not saying things that he actually did say in his Cairo speech:

Concerning points 1) and 3) in your comment, the President did say:

"In Ankara, I made clear that America is not - and never will be - at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people."

He also went on to say:

"Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with."

And again: "America's commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths - more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism - it is an important part of promoting peace."

As for what Ronald Reagan might have said, we have no idea. We do know what he did say, though:

He said that killing civilians in a strike against terrorists would be "an act of terrorism itself." (See Lou Cannon, President Reagan, The Role Of A Lifetime

We also know that the Wall Street Journal (hardly a leftist publication) "called him 'Jimmy Reagan' when he did not respond to the death of navy diver Robert Stethem, whom Hezbollah terrorists dumped on the Beirut airport tarmac in the June 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847. Perpetual right-wing crank Richard Viguerie, initially a huge Reagan booster, now said 'With each new crisis, Reagan has less and less credibility with both friends and foes.'" (See Will Bunch, "Tear Down This Myth", p. 77)

We also know what President Reagan did. When a suicide bomber drove a truck bomb into the lobby of the U.S. Marine base in Beirut, killing over 200 Marines, Reagan's response was to withdraw the Marines from land to offshore ships, which is what Conservatives today would term "cutting and running."

And when six Americans were captured by kidnappers in Lebanon, Reagan's administration negotiated (read "appeased") the release of the hostages with Iran, a hostile regime, and agreed to provide arms to the Islamic regime in what became the Iran-Contra scandal.

We can waste hours conjecturing what the mythical rendition of Reagan would have done, or we can look at the historical record and imagine what he would have done, based simply on what he did do.

'nuff said.

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