“If we dismiss criticism of government misbehavior because of partisan motivations, we’ll never entertain significant criticism of the government”
A small corner of the Internet is exploding with rage over a
breathtakingly stupid CNN column by sportswriter L.Z. Granderson
earlier this week by Reason’s own Brian Doherty). In that
column, titled “Don’t
be nosy about Fast and Furious,” Granderson writes
[S]ometimes the federal government deems it necessary to get its
hands a little dirty in the hopes of achieving something we
generally accept as good for the country.
Much in the same way, Project Wide Receiver and Project Road
Runner — the earlier versions of Fast and Furious under President
Bush — were executed with the hope that they will do more good
than harm. Hardly anyone in the public knows the finer points of
Were they legal?
Were they effective?
Were they done as a way to keep America safe?
And maybe it’s better for us not to be so nosy, not to know
everything because, to paraphrase the famous line from the movie “A
Few Good Men,” many of us won’t be able to handle the truth.
While Brian did a great job taking Granderson to task, some
other voices have weighed in since then, and they are all equally
Right now scandals over both Fast and Furious and the government
response to it are being spun in many places as a cynical partisan
obsession. I have not the shadow of the doubt that many of the
loudest critics of the government have partisan motives. But if we
dismiss criticism of government misbehavior because of partisan
motivations, we’ll never entertain significant criticism of the
government. We’ll always have partisanship. We can’t let it be an
excuse to abandon our obligations as citizens to monitor and
criticize the government.
Gawker’s Mobutu Sese Seko (a pseudonym, obvs):
Granderson tells us that, “We still don’t have access to all of
the messy facts surrounding the Iran-Contra scandal that erupted
during the Reagan administration.” This is somehow an argument
for less disclosure instead of a cry of disgust
that president George H.W. Bush was able to kill further
investigations by pardoning men who were probably his
co-conspirators. Worse, his argument segues into generation-old
fawning over Oliver North.
See, Eric Holder is a lot like Oliver North, and
Oliver North “was a fall guy. Not for president Reagan but for all
of us.” It’s a persuasive reading of the Iran-Contra affair, so
long as you are totally unaware of anything else about it. North
admitted to lying to congress and destroying evidence, and talking
heads rewarded him with discussions about whether he was the soul
of honor and an embodiment of the loyal nobility of America. Ollie
just saluted so crisply, and he had a code—like Omar,
from The Wire, except white. Also, if Omar robbed
drug dealers and gave the money to central Americans who rape
This is the glaring paradox at the heart of the establishment
media class. They parade around as adversarial watchdogs whose
prime role is to foster transparency and shine a light on what is
done in secret. But there is literally no group more slavishly
devoted to the virtues of government secrecy than they. LZ
Granderson’s demand that we keep our nosy noses out of what the
Government does (like Richard Cohen’s similar demand that we keep
the lights off) is notable only because it’s a more explicit and
honest expression of this ethos than they usually admit to.