On Wednesday, in a column published in the Chicago Tribune, writer Garrison Keillor wrote: "Last week, we suspended human rights in America." -- He denounced the 65 senators who voted for the Military Commissions Act, listed all their patronyms, and paraphrasing Walter Scott proclaimed that "these wretched figures shall go down to the vile dust from whence they sprung, unwept, unhonored, and unsung." -- If the Supreme Court doesn't throw the act out, Keillor wrote, "then our country has taken a step toward totalitarianism." -- A concluding comment about his experience in a Dallas church the week before, in which he suggested that parishioners there surpport torture, evoked an angry riposte from a Dallas News columnist that all but called Keillor a liar, but in avoiding in her heated defense of Dallas Methodists any mention of the Senate vote that occasioned the column by the founder of "A Prairie Home Companion," she unwittingly justified Keillor's concerns. ...
CONGRESS'S SHAMEFUL RETREAT FROM AMERICAN VALUES
By Garrison Keillor
October 4, 2006
I would not send my college kid off for a semester abroad if I were you. Last week, we suspended human rights in America, and what goes around comes around. Ixnay habeas corpus.
The U.S. Senate, in all its splendor and majesty, decided that an "enemy combatant" is any non-citizen whom the president says is an enemy combatant, including your Korean greengrocer or your Swedish grandmother or your Czech au pair, and can be arrested and held for as long as authorities wish without any right of appeal to a court of law to examine the matter. If your college kid were to be arrested in Bangkok or Cairo, suspected of "crimes against the state" and held in prison, you'd assume that an American foreign service officer would be able to speak to your kid and arrange for a lawyer, but this may not be true anymore. Be forewarned.
The Senate also decided it's up to the president to decide whether it's OK to make these enemies stand naked in cold rooms for a couple of days in blinding light and be beaten by interrogators. This is now purely a bureaucratic matter: The plenipotentiary stamps the file "enemy combatants" and throws the poor schnooks into prison and at his leisure he tries them by any sort of kangaroo court he wishes to assemble and they have no right to see the evidence against them, and there is no appeal. This was passed by 65 senators and will now be signed by President Bush, put into effect, and in due course be thrown out by the courts.
It's good that Barry Goldwater is dead because this would have killed him. Go back to the Senate of 1964 -- Goldwater, Dirksen, Russell, McCarthy, Javits, Morse, Fulbright -- and you won't find more than 10 votes for it.
None of the men and women who voted for this bill has any right to speak in public about the rule of law anymore, or to take a high moral view of the Third Reich, or to wax poetic about the American Ideal. Mark their names. Any institution of higher learning that grants honorary degrees to these people forfeits its honor. Alexander, Allard, Allen, Bennett, Bond, Brownback, Bunning, Burns, Burr, Carper, Chambliss, Coburn, Cochran, Coleman, Collins, Cornyn, Craig, Crapo, DeMint, DeWine, Dole, Domenici, Ensign, Enzi, Frist, Graham, Grassley, Gregg, Hagel, Hatch, Hutchison, Inhofe, Isakson, Johnson, Kyl, Landrieu, Lautenberg, Lieberman, Lott, Lugar, Martinez, McCain, McConnell, Menendez, Murkowski, Nelson of Florida, Nelson of Nebraska, Pryor, Roberts, Rockefeller, Salazar, Santorum, Sessions, Shelby, Smith, Specter, Stabenow, Stevens, Sununu, Talent, Thomas, Thune, Vitter, Voinovich, Warner.
To paraphrase Sir Walter Scott: Mark their names and mark them well. For them, no minstrel raptures swell. High though their titles, proud their name, boundless their wealth as wish can claim, these wretched figures shall go down to the vile dust from whence they sprung, unwept, unhonored and unsung.
Three Republican senators made a show of opposing the bill and after they'd collected all the praise they could get, they quickly folded. Why be a hero when you can be fairly sure that the court will dispose of this piece of garbage.
If, however, the court does not, then our country has taken a step toward totalitarianism. If the government can round up someone and never be required to explain why, then it's no longer the United States as you and I always understood it. Our enemies have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They have made us become like them.
I got some insight last week into who supports torture when I went down to Dallas to speak at Highland Park Methodist Church. It was spooky. I walked in, was met by two burly security men with walkie-talkies, and within 10 minutes was told by three people that this was the Bushes' church and that it would be better if I didn't talk about politics. I was there on a book tour for Homegrown Democrat, but they thought it better if I didn't mention it. So I tried to make light of it: I told the audience, "I don't need to talk politics. I have no need even to be interested in politics -- I'm a citizen, I have plenty of money and my grandsons are at least 12 years away from being eligible for military service." And the audience applauded! Those were their sentiments exactly. We've got ours, and who cares?
The Methodists of Dallas can be fairly sure that none of them will be snatched off the streets, flown to Guantanamo Bay, stripped naked, forced to stand for 48 hours in a freezing room with deafening noise. So why should they worry? It's only the Jews who are in danger, and the homosexuals and gypsies. The Christians are doing fine. If you can't trust a Methodist with absolute power to arrest people and not have to say why, then whom can you trust?
--Garrison Keillor is a syndicated columnist and host of "A Prairie Home Companion."
KEILLOR'S DALLAS JABS READ LIKE FICTIONAL TALE
By Jacquielynn Floyd
October 4, 2006
Garrison Keillor must have come to Dallas itching for a fight.
He must have come here expecting -- even intending -- to have his worst expectations confirmed.
There's no other explanation for the deeply insulting remarks he directs in a syndicated opinion column at the fans who went to Highland Park United Methodist Church last week to hear him speak. An adoring crowd could not have been rewarded with more contempt if they had gone to see the Sex Pistols.
Mr. Keillor -- beloved author, humorist, and creating genius of public radio's venerable "Prairie Home Companion" -- visited Dallas a week ago Wednesday to promote his latest book, Homegrown Democrat.
Before an audience of about 1,000 people -- of whom several hundred were Keillor fans who do not attend the church -- he delivered a lecture that was long on his trademark gentle humor and short on the biting liberal political observations that characterize his more recent work.
People who were present said the event went swimmingly. Mr. Keillor charmed the audience, they said, then answered questions and signed copies of his book.
"He was very well-received," said one Keillor fan who was present. "The crowd adored him, laughing and applauding throughout the hour."
So how to explain his blistering tirade against that same crowd a few days later in a syndicated column published Wednesday in the Chicago Tribune?
"I got some insight last week into who supports torture when I went down to Dallas to speak at Highland Park Methodist Church. It was spooky.
"I walked in, was met by two burly security men . . . and within 10 minutes was told by three people that this was the Bushes' church and that it would be better if I didn't talk about politics."
He suggests the crowd was either too stupid or too callous to recognize the irony of his remark that he was refraining from political discussion because "I have plenty of money and my grandsons are 12 years away from being eligible for military service."
In his wrap-up, Mr. Keiller makes a direct correlation between the Methodists of Dallas (supporters, he says, of the torture employed against Guantánamo detainees) and Nazi sympathizers who looked blithely away while Hitler's storm troopers dragged their neighbors to their deaths.
". . . why should they worry? It's only the Jews who are in danger, and the homosexuals and the gypsies."
Good God, where to begin? Perhaps with the Rev. Paul Rasmussen, the minister who organizes the lecture series. He was bewildered by Mr. Keillor's published remarks and says there was no hint of their sentiment while the author was here.
"It's unsettling," he said. "We felt like we had a very successful event. You read this article [Mr. Keillor's column] and think, 'Hey, what happened?' "
Mr. Rasmussen is adamant that no one in an official capacity asked Mr. Keillor to censor his remarks. That, he said, would have run counter to the series' intent to present a variety of authors, subjects, and viewpoints.
"I can tell you with absolute confidence that at no time was he asked not to talk on any topic," Mr. Rasmussen said.
He also said the two "burly security men" were a Highland Park policeman and the church's own security supervisor, both present because the agreement with Mr. Keillor's publisher specified that the venue provide security.
When I contacted Mr. Keillor by e-mail about all this, he replied that he can't speak for the publisher, but that he has not had security guards present at other stops on his book tour.
A spokesperson for the publisher, who asked not to be named, said security is always used at the Highland Park church series because the venue is so large and the crowds so much bigger than at an average bookstore signing.
I also asked Mr. Keillor about the "three people" who warned him off of talking politics at the Bushes' home church.
"One was a woman from the church, the other two were friendly old men who told me that people would walk out if I did," he told me in his e-mail.
Again, Mr. Rasmussen says he's bewildered. Mr. Keillor arrived at the church, declined an introduction and took the stage without an opportunity to mingle with the audience, he said. So he doesn't know when these warnings might have been dispensed.
The publicist concurred, saying that Mr. Keillor did not have contact with any church members or people in the audience before he spoke.
In his brief response to me, Mr. Keillor mentioned that the guards -- "their walkie-talkies squawking" -- ". . . fit my idea of Dallas perfectly."
And therein, perhaps, lie the seeds of an explanation for remarks that sponsors and attendees at Mr. Keillor's lecture find genuinely bizarre. Simply put, he doesn't like Dallas, or Texas, or what he views as the pervasive political climate here.
Fair enough. But why come here in the first place? Why accept a standing ovation from people he contemptuously believes "support torture"? Why sign books for readers he believes are in collusion with fascists?
And if Mr. Keillor believes that righteous ideology takes precedence over everyday civility, why shy away from sharing his political views? Even if every Joe Dallas on the street, starting with the airport skycap, warns him to put a sock in it?
Why wait 'til he got back home to spit on his hosts?
I have no idea. I can only suppose that Mr. Keillor came to Dallas and found what he was looking for - even if no one else could see it.