Sometimes it is hard to write clearly. Sometimes a topic is so offensive that a columnist has to struggle to make his points, to rein in his anger so that it does not lead to incoherence. This, for me, is one of those times.
Earlier in the week, the San Francisco Chronicle published a paid ad from an anti-war group calling for the impeachment of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft. The ad said that the four men "ordered and directed the violent overthrow of sovereign states, disappearances, kidnappings, assassinations, summary executions, murders and torture."
Where to begin?
First, perhaps, by revealing that the ad is the brainchild, however stillborn, of former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Those who know Clark are now nodding, smiling, saying of course; it’s precisely the kind of thing this man would do.
Those of you who do not know of Clark cannot be adequately brought up to speed in so limited a space as this.
Or perhaps I should begin by pointing out that the charges against Messrs. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft are more appropriately made against Saddam Hussein and his sons, Larry and Curly. The ad was right in its indictment, but wrong in its defendants.
Or perhaps I should begin by stating that, since the course of action suggested by Clark and his gang is so preposterous, what these people are doing is calling attention to themselves more than participating in a public debate, calling attention to themselves like children stamping their feet and pounding their fists and whining because the grownups will not let them have their way.
I understand opposition to the war in Iraq. I respect opposition to the war in Iraq.
But are there really people living in the United States today who believe that their government is guilty of summary executions, murders and torture? If so, do these people have any idea of what the Hussein regime is guilty? If they are truly opposed to the brutal treatment of individual human beings, why do they not cheer the American military’s attempt to put a halt to the brutal treatment of Iraqis by the savages who govern them, who squeeze their body parts in vises, who use soldering irons to sear their skin?
There is no satisfactory answer to this last question, and because there is not, many Americans suspect that the far left is anti-American more than it is anti-war.
But it is my job at the Fox News Channel to comment on media, not politics.
The San Francisco Chronicle probably charged $45,000 for the impeachment ad. Does it need the money that badly? Could it not have foreseen how its readers would react -- not just those who support the war, but those who support common sense?
One angry reader faxed a letter to the paper saying, "We consider it an outrage that you accepted the advertisement to impeach our United States President." Another said, "I find this type of advertising anti-American and in poor taste."
According to Dick Rogers, the readers’ representative for the Chronicle, "Most of the calls were from people who said it was distasteful to run the ad while our troops were dying overseas."
Rogers further admitted that "[t]here weren’t many calls in favor."
One of the reasons that people do not respect journalists these days is that they believe they are just as smart, if not smarter, than many of those who report to them, and resent journalistic presumptuousness. Cases like this only add fuel to the fires of their indignation. The readers who think that the San Francisco Chronicle should not have run the ad while our troops are dying are much smarter than the editors who made the decision to enrich the paper’s coffers by $45,000.
The First Amendment does not guarantee that any group with an opinion and a bank account may have its opinion published by a newspaper. It allows the newspaper to make decisions based on standards of decency and community interest. The San Francisco Chronicle is, in this sense, bankrupt.
Eric Burns is the host of Fox News Watch, which airs Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT and Sundays at 1:30 a.m. ET/10:30 p.m. PT, 6:30 a.m. ET/3:30 a.m. PT, and 11 p.. ET/8 p.m. PT .