Why, oh why, do we tread so lightly when it comes to Rep. Cynthia McKinney?
Jim Traficant, a corrupt Ohio congressman convicted last week, is known for inflammatory speeches with his signature line, Beam me up, Scotty! Even before being convicted of taking kickbacks, Traficant was routinely, unmercifully beaten verbally by unforgiving media both inside the Beltway and inside Ohio.
Meanwhile, Cynthia McKinney, whose history is not just of being inflammatory but of attempting to undermine the nations political and moral character - even breaking the law by intimidating poll workers - gets indulgent treatment from suddenly timid media.
Why the public pounding for Traficant, who is nothing more than a money-grubbing thug, while McKinney spouts treasonous comments and is called nothing worse than nutty?
Surely its not because shes black, is it? It cant be that people are afraid of being called racist?
No, more likely its that people are becoming numb to stupidity. We have become so blinded by the quaint notion of tolerance that we put up with an obnoxious jackass even when shes braying out in public.
Lets make it clear: Cynthia McKinney, sometimes called Baghdad Cindy because of her vote against Iraqi sanctions before the Gulf War, is as much a traitor to this country as Hanoi Jane Fonda ever was.
The difference is that if McKinney had been the one traveling to Vietnam during the height of that war, she would have asked to actually fire the anti-aircraft guns at American planes instead of just posing for pictures.
Theres no other way to see it. Cynthia McKinney is dangerous.
McKinney established her anti-American pedigree 10 years ago by supporting Iraqs aggression against its neighboring countries.
Last year, she prostituted herself to a Saudi Arabian prince after New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani rejected his $10 million donation to 9-11 relief efforts. Giuliani wisely told the prince to stick his money where the desert sun didnt shine when the prince implied some moral equivalence between terrorism and Americas foreign policy.
His highness conveniently forgot our foreign policy includes saving his countrys overprivileged butts from Saddam Hussein. And even though McKinney opposed Americas defense of Saudi Arabia, she still felt comfortable begging the prince for his money after Giuliani turned him down. Black people need it, she said.
Now, the Atlanta Democrat again is spewing nonsense - this time implying that President Bush knew the Sept. 11 attacks were coming but failed to stop them because big companies with ties to him and his father stood to make lots of money.
Dangerous and irresponsible, says Sen. Zell Miller. Our own Rep. Charlie Norwood is calling for a legislative boycott of McKinney until she retracts her statements. Even liberal Sen. Max Cleland meakly says her comments were untrue, as far as he knows.
McKinney has the right to say pretty much anything. She can rattle off all the nutjob conspiracy stuff she wants, feeding the cynicism rampant in her constituency.
But you know what? Having the right to say something doesnt mean youre insulated from getting hammered when you say it. Just the opposite: The remedy for idiotic speech, such as that of Jim Traficant or Cynthia McKinney, is more speech. Our First Amendment doesnt insulate any of us from criticism. Rather, it guarantees us the right to criticize our government and our public officials - including McKinney - and to blast stupidity when we see it.
Furthermore, nothing in the First Amendment requires me to respect a single word McKinney says.
Lawrence W. Reed, president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Mich., puts it this way: Diversity of ideas is a great thing, a pillar of a free and enlightened society. But that doesnt mean that every inane scribbling deserves the status and esteem of an argument.
The tragedy, then, is not that we are too timid in criticizing Cynthia McKinney, but that we pay any attention at all to this sad excuse for a public servant.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barrypaschal@yahoo. com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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