"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 (noted 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 these programs.

Were they legal?

Hell no.

Were they effective?

Who knows?

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 spot on. 

Ken at Popehat

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 nuns.

and Salon's Glenn Greenwald

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.