By Rheta Grimsley Johnson
The day the retired pope gave his last tweet, I was captive in the car for seven hours. I heard a lot of radio news, or what passes.
First I listened to my usual National Public Radio allotment, and it seemed rather like a slow news day. No marauding shooters were abroad, no wars were started and nobody but the outgoing pope tweeted anything of importance.
Something perverse in me wanted to hear the Other Side. So I tuned in briefly to the Radio Right to hear what theme the neocons chose for the day. As usual, life was a box of chocolates, most of them nut-centered.
Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as secretary of defense was being decried, mostly because he prefers negotiation to shooting from the hip with drones. As columnist Donald Kaul wrote, “The chicken hawks are out in force.”
Hagel, in case you’ve been in a cave, is a former Republican senator from Nebraska, fairly conservative, but restrained when it comes to waging war. That is perhaps because — unlike so many of his critics — he has been in one. A decorated Vietnam veteran, he’s not so eager to march young men and women into war’s hellish canyon. Dwight Eisenhower was exactly the same, not to mention Georges Washington and McGovern.
Hagel’s nomination process lasted two months, long enough to get ugly. That vicious typist Ann Coulter even reprised a mindless 2002 neocon attack on Georgia Democrat Max Cleland, the former senator who lost three limbs in Vietnam but got beaten by Republican Saxby Chambliss. The Republican’s ads questioned Cleland’s patriotism.
Some of us fair-minded enough to think giving two legs and an arm for your country is enough still remember that travesty. Chambliss, like his hero Dick Cheney, didn’t go to war. He obtained draft deferments, though not as many as Cheney.
Coulter was angry because Cleland spoke well of Hagel. She assessed Cleland’s courage this way: “He saw a grenade on the ground and picked it up. He could have done that at Fort Dix.”
In actuality, Cleland was awarded a Silver Star for gallantry in action at Khe Sanh, a fierce battle that raged four days before the explosion that cost him his limbs.
On another Radio Right channel, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer was taking credit for ruining JC Penney with his group’s boycott of the chain that dared hire Ellen DeGeneres as its spokeswoman. He beat that homophobic drum awhile, then took time to agree with a caller who said Obamacare would not provide health care for anyone 70 or older.
Then on the air was Mike Huckabee, the other former governor from Hope, Ark., who seemed uncharacteristically concerned about a reporter, of all things. Legendary Watergate reporter Bob Woodward claims he has been “threatened” by the Obama administration over his sequester reporting, and Huckabee suddenly is concerned about the Fourth Estate.
While I think it’s certainly a bad thing when politicians try to intimidate reporters, it happens every day. I figure Bob Woodward isn’t all that worried about his job or reputation.
I don’t know of a working reporter who hasn’t been “threatened” by some hollering political dog bitten by copy. There’s always someone trying to get a newspaper person fired for telling the truth. It’s part of the job description.
But how nice that Mister Huckabee is concerned.
Syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson lives near Iuka. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852. To find out more about Rheta Grimsley Johnson and her books, visit www.rhetagrimsleyjohnsonbooks.com.