Thursday, December 01, 2005

Reasons to Be Thankful, A Few Days Late

Latest newspaper column:

It’s Thanksgiving weekend, and as I look around me, I’m finding plenty to be thankful for.

On the personal level, I’ve got my family, my health (except for a slight chest cold), I’ve got a roof over my head, plenty to eat (believe me, you can tell), and plenty of good friends around. I’ve got one book on the market (coming out in paperback in January, by the way), another coming out in March, and the writing on the third one is coming along well.

But hey, it’s not all about me.

No, I’m thankful for a lot of the things I see happening in my country. This may seem a mite strange to some readers of this column, since it would appear that I spend a lot of words blasting and/or lampooning the things I see going wrong. But in this season of love and happiness, I think it behooves us to concentrate on the good things that are going on.

Such as:

* Jose Padilla got indicted. The so-called “dirty bomb” suspect, who’s been held without trial or even being charged for three years, finally will see the inside of a courtroom. A federal grand jury in Miami returned an 11-count indictment against Padilla and four other suspects, saying that they, among other things, “operated and participated in a North American support cell that sent money, physical assets and mujahideen recruits to overseas conflicts for the purposes of fighting a violent jihad.”

Good. About time. If he’s guilty (and this seems likely), convict his sorry butt and put him under the jail, for all I care, and his accomplices with him.

See, despite the hysterical chest-pounding of the drooling ya-hoos that call themselves “Patriots” or “conservatives,” no American wants to see terrorists just let go. If they truly are terrorists, we want them caught, tried, convicted and put away. We’re just not ready to trust the government’s bald assertion that someone is a terrorist just because Alberto Gonzales or some other appointed or elected official says so.

Why? Because we are Americans. We know governmental officials can be incompetent. They can lie. They can just be flat wrong about something. I mean, really, really wrong.

For example, Dick Cheney and other administration officials said there was “no doubt” that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Assuming for the sake of argument that they weren’t being dishonest but were simply mistaken, do you want to give people who made an error of this magnitude to have carte blanche to lock people up? So the fact that someone finally recognizes that there’s some check on that power is a very good thing for America.

* I’m also thankful for Crazy Jean Schmidt, the Republican representative from Ohio’s Second District. After Congressman John Murtha, the ranking Republican on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, suggested a plan for getting out of Iraq that involved an “over the horizon redeployment” of American troops and the creation of a “quick reaction” force to deal with threats to the Iraqi government, Crazy Jean went ballistic.

She decked herself out in an American flag dress and blasted Murtha, a decorated former Marine with more than 37 years of service to his country. She claimed she had just had a conversation with Ohio State Rep. Danny Bubp, a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve. Bubp, Schmidt claimed, “asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: That cowards cut and run, Marines never do.”

Why am I thankful for this, may you ask? Because, first, Schmidt was immediately forced to withdraw her remarks. The rules of the House prohibit such personal attacks and specifically state that a member can be censured for such remarks.

But it gets better. Turns out Bubp never said any such thing. Bubp told The Cincinnati Enquirer that he never mentioned Murtha when talking with Schmidt, and he would never call a fellow Marine a coward. So, basically Schmidt got caught not only violating the rules of the House, she got caught lying while doing it. Any time lying extremist Republicans are exposed and embarrassed, it’s a good day for America. And there’ve been a lot of good days like that recently.

n Finally, I’m thankful that, in the face of George Dubbya Bush’s bullheaded insistence that there will be no timetables for withdrawal from Iraq, a call for just such a timetable has come from … the Iraqis themselves.

A “reconciliation conference” attended by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Iraqi Shiite and Kurdish lawmakers as well as leading Sunni politicians issued a resolution “calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation.”

Well, that’s it, then. After all, Dubbya said that when the Iraqis want us to leave, we’ll leave. And Dubbya, as we know, is a man of his word, right? So I just bet we’ll be seeing some timetable real soon for turning things over to the Iraqis and coming home, right? That’s something to be thankful for, right?