Martin Bashir’s Troubles: My Interpretation of Events

I’ve been wanting to write the following for a few weeks now, but have hesitated each time because of the great possibility of being misunderstood. But to hell with that.

Former MSNBC political pundit Martin Bashir recently resigned his position because of off-color, inappropriate comments he had made about Sarah Palin. She had compared to slavery, both for us today and for our descendants, our ongoing and rising debt to China. Finding such a comparison outrageous, he made an outrageous statement of his own: that, in addition to calling her an idiot, she should suffer the same indignities that slaves had had to suffer. After making a complete apology to Palin a few days after his unfortunate comments, an apology that Palin has accepted, he resigned from MSNBC a few weeks later.

It should go without saying that my political views and Bashir’s are opposites. My views are limited-government, capitalism; his are big-government, socialism. In addition, I find his on-camera presentation techniques annoying. Furthermore, I am a natural supporter of Sarah Palin. Other than when she’s spouting religious bromides, I generally agree with her matter-of-fact, down-home economic conservatism and strong military views. I consider her a welcome addition to the sometimes drab American political landscape.

No one would say that Bashir was nice to Sarah Palin. In fact, he was pretty nasty. But did he deserve ultimately to lose his job? I say no.

Palin’s comments (totally appropriate, in my opinion) comparing debt to slavery set Bashir off. In Bashir’s mind, the contrast between owing money to China and actual human slavery as suffered by African-Americans is beyond any possible comparison–even metaphorically in the manner Palin had made hers. He had found her comparison fully insensitive, very much in the same fashion that Jewish groups find Holocaust comparisons insensitive. On reflection, and considering his mindset, I can understand Bashir’s anger at Palin’s comparison, even while not agreeing his anger is justified.

So to make his point Bashir picked an actual extreme example from history, describing how American slaves were routinely dehumanized and punished by defecating and urinating into their mouths, as just one example of the kinds of capricious, inhumane treatments inflicted upon them. And he obviously couldn’t resist driving his point home by stating that Palin herself should be forced to suffer such a treatment. Maybe then, he argued, she would no longer make such outrageous comparisons if she finally knew–firsthand–what slavery was truly like.

I do not agree with how personal his attacks were, and he should not have made them in the way he did. Still I do not believe he meant anything more than strong, vivid political hyperbole. He certainly meant no personal harm to Ms. Palin. But in our highly polarized society, where more and more of our speech is controlled and sanitized, what he said surely left himself wide open for well-deserved attacks by his political opponents, who have used his error in judgement to gain political points for themselves.

Although conservatives “won” this one, Bashir is gone, we would all be much better if we tried more to understand our political opponents instead of routinely driving stakes into them when they leave themselves vulnerable in the way Mr. Bashir did.  But we live in such a “got-cha” culture now, where one’s slightest indiscreet words are wrapped around one’s neck forever, that such political graciousness today is nearly impossible. The attack dogs are always ready for their next meal.


2 thoughts on “Martin Bashir’s Troubles: My Interpretation of Events

  1. Rob,

    Thanks for the new article. It triggered a thought I’ve had for quite some time about the USA’s debt – especially to China. So let me bore you with is to see if you might see the economic repercussions better than I do.

    The idea is this: whenever a treasury note comes due, as they do regularly every three months, that instead of allowing the note just to “roll over” , simply print the dollars involved, pay off the note – and therefore that part of our debt. We already have backed ourselves into that economic corner, so why not just retire the debt directly. The harm to us has already been done, so it seems this can’t hurt us any more than it has already.

    Of course this implies that we should’t issue any NEW debt, which requires some fiscal discipline. But you get the idea for a meaningful change in the way the country conducts itself relative to the rest of the world.

    Back to your article. I’m glad to see that your thoughts about Sarah Palin match my own. I’ve always wondered why so many less-than-heavy thinkers were so negative about her, since her work in Alaska was exactly what is needed throughout the rest of the once worthy United States of America. Thanks again for wading through this.


    • Bill,

      Thanks for your comments about my article. As usual, you bring up excellent points to think about.

      I thought a bit about what you wrote about retiring debt (instead of rolling out debt) through printing money.

      When rolling over debt, you are, in effect, buying back your old debt while at the same time selling new debt. If the new debt has a lower interest rate than the old debt (that is, relative to the rate when discounted to the present), then the roll saves you money (ignoring the continued loss of liquidity).

      But if we were to instead roll the printing presses and retire our debt that way, all we’re doing is reducing our purchasing power (because of the subsequent inflation–more money, same number of goods and services). So if we thought interest rates were going to rise a lot, your idea would sort of work since we would be out of the higher-interest rate market. However, the subsequent inflation and the bad will generated to debt holders (China, for example), would probably come back to bite us. These fresh-off-the-press dollars would have reduced purchasing power and holders of them would be upset. And it would reduce world confidence in U.S bonds, bills, and notes.

      The real answer, of course, with which I’m sure you agree, is for the government to cut spending in a very significant way. And to restore incentives to get people to want to work again. Today there are just too many people living off the government. Until we go down the cut-spending route–we’re currently steaming ahead in the opposite direction–our debt and/or inflation rate will continue to rise. Unfortunately, there seems to be no political will in our leaders to really deal with any of this in a way that matters.

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