100 People Who Are Screwing Up America

Is Al Franken screwing up the United States?
Author-journalist Bernard Golberg believes so along with 99 other 'America Bashers.' Here's an excerpt of ‘100 People Who Are Screwing Up America’

Today show
Updated: 6:40 p.m. ET Aug. 10, 2005
Bernard Goldberg is the author of the number one New York Times bestseller “Bias” as well as the national bestseller “Arrogance,” has won eight Emmy Awards and is currently reporting for HBO's acclaimed “Real Sports.” Goldberg was invited on the "Today" show to discuss his latest book, “100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken Is #37),” where he claims certain people in the United States are harming American culture. Read an excerpt below:

Why do so many Americans who ought to know better find the United States such a terrible place?

Maybe "terrible" isn't exactly the right word, but it's pretty close. So are "corrupt" and "immoral" and "dishonorable" and a whole bunch of other words just like those. America never quite seems to get it right, as far as these people are concerned. If something bad happens someplace in the world, it's got to be our fault. And not just because our plans went bad, but because our motives were all wrong. Day in and day out, in their eyes, America comes up short. This country, as far as they're concerned, is a never-ending source of embarrassment. They just don't trust America to do the right thing — because, to them, this is a land of bottomless stupidity and eternal sin.

Whom exactly are we talking about? Unfortunately, not just drugged-out revolutionaries on the fringe, the kind of people we could simply write off as crackpots. And not mainly college kids, either, which would at least be a kind of excuse. No, the America Bashers these days are in the mainstream, in the top ranks of the nation's intelligentsia and cultural elite — professors at some of our top schools, journalists at some of our most important news organizations, celebrities in Hollywood, and, of course, Michael Moore, the reigning king of America Bashers, who deserves a category all his own.

Moore once told a British newspaper that the United States is a country that "is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe." And just hours after the attacks of September 11, he posted this lovely message on his Web site: "Many families have been devastated tonight," he wrote. "This just is not right. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, DC, and the planes' destination of California — these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!"

Can you imagine if Rush Limbaugh had said something like this? Not even the lunatic fringe would have embraced him. But Michael Moore says something this dumb and it doesn't even register with the cultural elite as over the line, let alone flat-out disgusting. To the contrary — or au contraire, as they say in France where Michael Moore is even bigger than Jerry Lewis — liberals continue to celebrate him as a national treasure, as a courageous voice of sanity. When his documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, premiered in Washington, he invited to the gala some of the city's most elite Democrats, who applauded enthusiastically throughout the movie, then, when it was over, gave him a standing ovation. Make no mistake: Michael Moore isn't the court jester. He's not a Yippie like Abbie Hoffman in 1968. Millions of mainstream liberals who once looked up to JFK are now idolizing this guy!

And the fact that so many America Bashers are middle-aged, like Michael Moore, helps explain where they're coming from, to use that old phrase. They are of a generation — or, more precisely, they are of a part of a generation — that long ago defined itself by its skepticism about everything America is and everything America does. Most of these people came of age during Vietnam, and in some important ways, they've never moved beyond one of the core beliefs of those days: that America is a bully, that it is an oppressor, and that standing up and saying so automatically defines you as a decent and moral person — no matter how you behave in the rest of your life.

With that in mind, consider the reaction of such people to the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Decent Americans, of course, were offended by the revelations of what went on there. But was it a horror comparable to the 1968 My Lai Massacre in Vietnam, where hundreds of unarmed men, women, children, and old people were taken out and slaughtered in cold blood by American troops?

The very question is obscene.

But not to the America Bashers, including many in the mainstream press. To them, what happened at Abu Ghraib was less a tragedy than an opportunity — one more chance to reveal America as depraved and dishonorable.

Take Frank Rich and Paul Krugman, two of the most popular liberal pundits at the New York Times.

If you read Rich on Abu Ghraib, you sense his thrill at the chance to relive glory days gone by, when he and his pals were running around the Harvard campus playing at revolution. "It was in November 1969," he wrote in his May 9, 2004, column, "that a little-known reporter, Seymour Hersh, broke the story of the 1968 massacre at My Lai, the horrific scoop that has now found its match 35 years later in Mr. Hersh's New Yorker revelation of a 53- page Army report detailing 'numerous instances of sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuse' at Abu Ghraib."

If Frank Rich were as stupid as he seems to think most Americans are, such an absurd exaggeration might be understandable, if not excusable. But, much as he may lack common sense, he is not stupid. What he is (aside from snide and vicious) is deeply committed to a false vision of America and its people. It's exactly the way alienated rich kids (like Frank Rich) used to write for their college papers back in the 60s. The difference is, now they do it in the pages of the New York Times.

Or take Paul Krugman, the most ideologically left-wing columnist on the Times' op-ed page, which is no small feat. On May 11, two days after the Frank Rich column, Krugman hopped on the My Lai express with this brilliant observation: "Seymour Hersh is exposing My Lai all over again." For Paul Krugman, and for many of his devoted readers who eagerly embrace his warped view of America and its military, this blatant absurdity had become a simple fact. It was, after all, in the New York Times. What more does anybody need?

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