Published March 23, 2009
My critics are right. I have something in common with Howard Beale:
(BEGIN 'NETWORK' VIDEO CLIP)
PETER FINCH AS HOWARD BEALE: I want you to get up now. I want you to get out of your chairs and go to the window. Right now. I want you to go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell. I want you to yell: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more!"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
I have noticed a trend now in any story about me in the press. But it's not really about me — it's about you.
People are telling you to not trust me because I'm "crazy," something to gain or am just a Republican hack in disguise. The obvious insinuation is, if you're watching, you're one of the three as well.
But what they've missed is I am not asking you to trust me. I am asking you to trust yourself.
People try to say this is all about ratings. Well, my opinions have not always been so popular. They just recently have come into fashion I guess.
Another thing my critics point out is the fact that I cry like a little girl. I am sorry if that destroys my credibility with you, but I stopped hiding or being ashamed of who I am a long time ago. If you don't like it, that's OK. I am who I am — nothing more and nothing less. Big girls don't cry, but I do.
I feel passionately about my country and the people in it. I — like you — believe in its promise and think that over the years that promise has been used distorted and tarnished. I don't believe in the promise of government. I believe in the promise of the dreamer — the one whose face drips sweat from hard work, but refuses to give up because they know they can still change the course of their lives.
Only in America can this still happen, but I think our collective gut is warning us that this is in jeopardy.
For those of you who have followed me over the years, you know that I — like you — wanted change last November. The right was frustrated, because we felt as though we were betrayed by the Republicans on things like big government, debt and border security.
We all want change.
To me at least, not enough Americans demanded answers to the question what kind of change? In the end, they all claimed change. The real emotion felt by almost all Americans was turned into a bumper sticker and the game started all over again. It's like a sad game of musical chairs with each of the players just switching positions: for earmarks when in power, against them when not. We can't afford this debt when out of power, can't spend enough when in power.
When I said I wanted change, what I meant was: No more lies, games, earmarks or politicians saying one thing and doing another. Don't do the right thing for your party or special interest group. Do the right thing for the country even at your own political peril. Honesty is what you say or do when people aren't watching. Integrity comes from doing the right thing even when it hurts.
I know everything is seen these days in this prism of the right vs. Obama. Well, this isn't about the president. I don't think it would have been any different if McCain would have won. Maybe we just need a new dividing line: political game players from honest citizens. Or, better yet, almost every current politician from their seats of power.
We have come to a very dangerous point in our country's history. America doesn't trust anyone or anything anymore. Everyone tells you that they are the one you can believe in, they are different, that they are the one that you can trust to bring about change. Yet, they never do.
So do I ask you to trust me? Nope. Instead, I ask you to do something that this whole broken system of government and media has taught you not to do: trust yourself. Empower yourself. Take charge of your own life. Don't take my or anyone else's word for anything. Read, question every angle and trust your gut.
Thomas Jefferson said, "Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."
But that's the problem. We don't have honest questioning anymore. Everyone has an agenda.
I think that's what I liked about Tim Russert: honest questioning. No matter what side of the aisle you were on, he asked the tough questions and was fair. His agenda was the truth. I had only been in TV a short while when he passed away. But, I was amazed how in journalism he was universally loved, they all said, "They don't make 'em like him anymore." Why? No one made Tim Russert. He made himself — as we all do by the way we choose to live our lives. When journalists decide that the only thing that sends a chill down their legs is integrity, we will be able to trust them again.
The line of journalism has been blurred by those who can hide in the fuzziness. I am not a journalist. I am an opinion maker — no different or better than you. I have found myself here at this incredible position at an amazing time. I don't take it lightly, but I also don't hesitate to give you my opinion. It is what they pay me to do. It was fun as always until it counts.
It counts. You should know I know that.
I realized that I am a guest in your home every night and many don't know who I am. So let me tell you:
I am an imperfect guy. In my life I have done some pretty bad things — not jail-worthy, but definitely blush-worthy. I am a recovering alcoholic and I feel like a recovering dirt-bag too. I stopped drinking in the '90s and then really sobered up as I found faith in the late '90s. I am a small businessman: radio, TV, Internet, books and I print a news and humor magazine. I built it from scratch with the help of an amazing group of people. In 1999 I couldn't afford my rent of $695 a month.
Things have changed and as of right now my business is doing well, but like you I'm concerned about tomorrow.
It is true to say, I am not the most well-educated guy on TV — one guy lately has become Andy Bernard from "The Office," just so desperate to let everyone know that he went to Cornell. I didn't. I didn't go to college until I was in my thirties. When I did go, I went as a special student: I didn't go to get a degree nor did I receive one. I went to find some answers, but due to the "broke" part of divorce, I could only afford one semester. So, instead of college, I went to the bookstore. I still go to the bookstore.
While it isn't Cornell, I'm hoping self-education can work 5 percent as well as it did for Mark Twain, Henry Ford and Benjamin Franklin. My imperfect education continues, now thankfully with the help of some dedicated researchers, historians and educators have volunteered to help me find the answers I seek. Many of them do this because they sense some of the same things I do.
The one thing I didn't do when I was drinking — thank goodness — was gamble. What I am doing right now is the biggest risk of my life and it is a game I have gone into knowing that I most likely will lose. The odds are not in my favor — because of what I have come to believe and then say, I am making no friends on either side of the aisle. Believe what you will on why I am here, but I am sitting at this table playing my cards face up in hopes that others will join me soon.
I am a father of four. On Saturday night, after I had tucked my children into bed, I checked my e-mail. An old friend had sent me a note about Bill Maher's show. Maher had assembled a lynch mob that all agreed that I am dangerous and crazy; that I make it more likely that something tragic would befall our president — my president. They also hinted that if another Timothy McVeigh would appear, it would be my fault. This from the same people saying they were being intimidated into silence just a few months ago:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL MAHER, HOST OF 'REAL TIME': I would never be the person who says you have to watch what you say, because...
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC: Yes!
MAHER: No, really. I'm not for that...
OLBERMANN: No, no.
MAHER: That's an argument that's given a lot: You can't say this because a borderline person might take it and then do this. I'm sorry, that's the price of living in a free-speech country. And I do want to live in one because I make my living in it.
OK, but you know, I must say, Tim McVeigh in 1995, if you recall, this was the same kind of talking that made him blow up that building.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Let me be clear: If someone tries to harm another person in the name of the Constitution or the "truth" behind 9/11 or anything else, they are just as dangerous and crazy as those we don't seem to recognize anymore, who kill in the name of Allah.
There are enemies both foreign and domestic. Call it fear-mongering or call it the truth. Either way, remember: You are the key. While you search for the truth, they will try to demean you.
If we can put principles over parties and do the right thing — not the easy thing — we will heal this nation and restore her as the beacon of freedom for all those not just yearning to breathe free, but for those who respect the hard work and sacrifice that makes it possible.
(BEGIN 'NETWORK' VIDEO CLIP)
PETER FINCH AS HOWARD BEALE: Listen to me! Television is not the truth! If you want truth, go to God, go to your guru, go to yourself, because that's the only place you'll ever find any real truth! But, man, you're never going to get any truth from us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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