Demagoguery 101

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When the political commentator cannot persuade through argument, he often descends into "argument by assertion." When that fails, he at last resorts to name-calling. In that spirit, one Michael Medved has recently won the epithet marathon, and placed a strong runner-up in fatuous assertions.

Medved is, or was at one time, I believe, a movie reviewer. I don’t always agree with him. Candidly, I don’t often read him. But his writing is usually within the realm of the coherent — especially when he is commenting on the culture. But his latest broadside wins the Outrageous Allegation Oscar hands-down.

"Shame on Demagogues Exploiting u2018North American Union’," reads Medved’s title, in full. And then he proceeds to glory in — what else? Demagoguery! In taking aim from the wrong end of his blunderbuss, he sheds a powerful (and unintended) spotlight on his own naïve, and evidently abysmal, ignorance. Frankly, it will be interesting to see if he ever recovers.

Many demagogues are also cowards, and Medved’s barrage qualifies for nomination in both categories. While he bravely exhausts the glossary in the "Insults For Dummies" lexicon, he doesn’t even have the courage to name any of his targets. Nor does he discuss a single particular of the array of issues he is supposedly addressing. Doing so might have raised the eyebrows the many true conservatives whose sense of history derives from other sources than Hollywood film libraries.

The topic of Medved’s tendentious broadside is the widespread concern (and not only among conservatives) of the ongoing negotiations among Canada, Mexico, and the United States regarding various steps toward an impending consolidation of the three countries into an ever-closer relationship, or "union," using NAFTA as a springboard.

On the face of it, this issue deserves serious discussion. After all, it addresses virtually every aspect of American life, not the least of which concerns American sovereignty and the rule of law. One need only recall (as I’m sure Mr. Medved has) the Kohl-und-Stahl-Union, which grew out of conversations between French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman and West Germany’s Chancellor Konrad Adenauer after World War II. The treaty, signed in 1952, provided the impetus for what we all know today as the European Union.

So the conversations surrounding the North American Corridor are indeed worthy of discussion (and can be further investigated here).

However, as my Spanish teacher in Mexico used to say, that substantive discussion is "flour of another sack." Today, our task is to plumb that looming abyss that informs demagoguery, namely, ignorance. And Medved wallows in it. Major league. Big time.

In Medved’s hothouse of epithets, we read that those who dare to discuss this issue seriously merit the following sobriquets (take a deep breath): "twisted, ignorant mounting public hysteria"; "paranoid and groundless frenzy"; "shameless collection of lunatics and losers"; "crooks, cranks, demagogues and opportunists"; "ludicrous, childish, ill-informed, manipulative, brain dead fantasies"; "exploiters and charlatans who’ve been lying to you about this nonsense"; "paralyzing, puerile paranoia"; "miserable cretins"; "conspiracists and Birchers"; "fever swamps of sickness and delusion and dementia"; "hysterics and fringies" who "attempt to paralyze the unsuspecting public with paranoia";

Well, by now he’s reduced to repeating himself — but, in case you weren’t paying attention, here’s a respectable finale: "bastards and creeps and jug-heads and drunks and reprobates (yes, they are all of the above)."

Thus far, The Best of Medved 2006.

Now, what is Medved’s remedy for this concoction of kooks? He has two recommendations. First, verbatim and in the original capital letters:

"TREAT THEM WITH THE DERISION AND CONTEMPT AND DISREGARD THEY SO RICHLY DESERVE."

There you go. On this one, Medved’s two out of three: he can’t disregard them, but he certainly attains new heights (read: depths) in the categories of derision and contempt.

But wait, there’s more. To counter the disinformation coming from this mélange of maniacs, here is rule number two:

TRUST THE GOVERNMENT. REALLY.

I am not making this up. Here it is, in Medved’s own words: "The then[-]Presidents of the three countries (Bush, Fox and Martin) met in 2005 to pledge to work together on such issues and to initiate open working groups to facilitate cooperation — BUT THERE WAS NO AGREEMENT OR TREATY OR COVENANT [sic] of any kind, secret or otherwise. To find more information about this unthreatening and appropriate project, try going to the website whitehouse.gov, or otherwise checking out government sources (especially the Department of Commerce)."

Medved capitalizes (well, it IS important!) his assertion that "there was no treaty or covenant." And, in so doing, he murders his "argument" with a classical, capital crime against common sense and its boon companion, elementary logic.

Simply put: if it was secret, how would he know?

Would the White House post it on www.whitehouse.gov?

Unlikely.

What other secret covenants do we not really have with Mexico, Mr. Medved? Are you aware of the constitutional status of “Executive Compacts”? Even the SECRET ones? Do you know whether or not they qualify as “treaties” under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause? Quick, tell me about Missouri v. Holland (hint: 252 U.S. 416 [1920]). And what about that nefarious Bricker Amendment?

Perhaps Medved has a lawyer listener who is an avid moviegoer and looks to Mr. Medved for a good "thumbs up" now and then. If so, Medved might well have had the foresight to ask the chap to return the favor— off the clock, of course, and off the record — and ask him to fill him in on all those nasty tarbabies imbedded in American Constitutional Law.

In his screed, Medved reports that he has been a conservative for 26 years. Good. Well, 26 years ago Phyllis Schlafly had already (in the 1960s) played an indispensable role in the rise of conservatism, spearheaded the candidacy of Barry Goldwater, and written A Choice Not An Echo, a million-seller. Ten years later (in the 1970s), as the mother of six, she went to law school and graduated second in her class, all while single-handedly leading the successful fight against the nefarious Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

In brief, while Phyllis Schlafly was changing history, little Mikey Medved was still watching Captain Kangaroo.

Why bring that up? Well, it happens that it is Mrs. Schlafly — the undisputed First Lady of America’s original conservative movement — who is today leading the educational campaign regarding the North American Union.

A fact which Medved undoubtedly well knows, of course. But, in cowardly and demagogic fashion, he pulls that personal punch because it would pop his whole balloon of epithets and leave him sitting by the side of the road.

Because no sane person — even a leftist convert to conservatism — would dare use Medved’s litany of epithets to address Mrs. Schlafly, whether he disagreed with her or not.

Thus far the cowardice. Now, back to ignorance.

How does Medved know there was no secret covenant? Perhaps a little history might enlighten this benighted broadcaster of bombast.

The Cuban Missile Crisis took place in October 1962. It was averted, so the historians tell us, when President John Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev concluded a series of secret agreements known as the Kennedy-Krushchev Accords. After the crisis subsided, the contents of those agreements were always classified at the highest levels of secrecy, and the State Department policy was consistent: the Kennedy-Krushchev Accords were off-limits for discussion.

After President Reagan took office, State continued to drag its feet. Finally, in 1983 — twenty-one years after the Cuban Missile Crisis — State dropped its stonewall routine, but with a caveat: Secretary George Shultz insisted that any briefing on the Accords be classified “Top Secret Codeword” — the highest security classification, shared on the Hill only by Senators and a few designated senior staff members. State also demanded that the briefing be held in the Capitol’s “Bubble Room” — the legislative branch’s super-leakproof counterpart to the White House Situation Room.

I served as Staff Director of the Senate Foreign Committee’s Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs at that time. In that capacity, I arranged the briefing that finally took place in October 1983. As the other attendees were signing in (and swearing themselves to lifelong top-secrecy), just before the briefing commenced, I left.

Secretary of State George Shultz, who had been dragged kicking and screaming into the briefing by the persistent Senator Jesse Helms (R- NC), the subcommittee chairman, did little to hide his scorn and dismay (we were not close friends).

"Where are you going," asked Shultz, as I turned to leave.

"I want to talk publicly about this issue, Mr. Secretary," I replied. "And if I stay, I will never be able to."

Now, I do know some people who did stay through the hearing, and some senators present did later discuss with me one or two particulars that had arisen at the time — which is, of course, their prerogative. But none of them called the major media. And I’m quite certain that none of them thought to call any movie reviewers on the West Coast to tell them about what had transpired.

The same had undoubtedly been true in 1962. When the very delicate discussions between Kennedy and Krushchev were concluded, no one announced to the world what was in them. Kennedy did not even submit them to the Senate for public debate, advice, and consent. And no one passed the contents on to the American Guild of Variety Entertainers, the Screen Actors Guild, or Life magazine.

In fact, today, 44 years later, there are still parts of that still-very-secret agreement that have never been revealed.

Of course, Medved might insist, Bush is a much less secretive president than Kennedy. He would tell us everything …. Right? And right away?

Which brings us back to the original question: all bombast aside, can we believe Medved when he tells us, and I quote, that "THERE WAS NO AGREEMENT OR TREATY OR COVENANT of any kind, secret or otherwise" regarding the North American Union?

Draw your own conclusions.

Medved is reportedly a movie critic. That is a noble profession. My friend and classmate, the late Gene Siskel, actually excelled at it. But Gene wisely stuck to the movies, and generally avoided sticky issues of foreign policy and Constitutional Law. Apparently lacking that wisdom, when Medved leaves his home turf, he embraces a precipitous, rather than gradual, plunge into ignorance and demagoguery.

That Medved doesn’t seem to notice is even more telling. And smelling. Like a fish on the beach.

Speaking of which, I wonder what he thinks of Jaws II?

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