Our Lost Howard Beale Moments

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine

Remember Howard Beale, the deranged anchorman from Network? During one broadcast he tells the viewers to turn off their televisions, go to the window, and yell, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” In one of the iconic scenes from American movies, thousands of New Yorkers stick their heads out into the rain and scream their frustration over a corrupt political culture of lies, incompetence, and hypocrisy.

We need that moment today in America, but we’ve let too many opportunities pass by. On every front our political leaders demonstrate a shameless disregard for principle, truth, and the greater good that would have made an Athenian demagogue blush.

The preposterous Anthony Weiner, for example, a creepy, out-of-control exhibitionist, continues to run for mayor of New York, trusting in his phony apologies and mawkish meae culpae to deflect attention away from his pathetic neurosis, no doubt thinking that if it worked for Bill Clinton’s much worse sexual offenses, it should work for him. But the real outrage worthy of Howard Beale is his wife, Huma Abedin, a Muslim Brotherhood princess who as a close aid to Hillary Clinton enjoyed national security clearance. When five House conservatives sought to vet Abedin last year, Senator John McCain and House Speaker John Boehner rode to the rescue, squawking about “McCarthyism” and “smears.” Did we learn nothing from the Cold War, when communist spies and fellow travelers infiltrated the highest levels of the government, helping the Soviet Union acquire nuclear weapons? Wouldn’t that experience suggest some prudence in allowing people access to the nation’s secrets?

So we have a high-level State Department functionary with demonstrated ties to the Muslim Brotherhood — an anti-American, anti-Semitic, genocidal, terrorist-nurturing organization preaching eliminationist violence against the enemies of Islam — and Republican congressmen attack their colleagues just for seeking clarification of this relationship. There’s a Howard Beale moment.

But of course, indifference to Abedin’s unsavory connections is small beer compared to the indifference to Obama’s courtship of the Brotherhood, just one dimension of his criminally incompetent foreign policy. Let’s recap his Egyptian disaster: we collude in the overthrow of the vicious but reliable Hosni Mubarak, replace him with the Muslim Brotherhood, give them international legitimacy and taxpayer cash, then when their overreaching and bungling rouse up the people against them, we stand by dazed and confused as another military strongman takes over. Meanwhile, as Syria burns, Russia flexes its geopolitical muscles, the Libya we “liberated” provides weapons to jihadists, Iran keeps the centrifuges spinning, Lebanon and Jordan descend into chaos, Iraq explodes into sectarian violence as its leadership snuggles ever deeper into Iran’s embrace — while all this is going on, our Inspector Clouseau of a Secretary of State wastes time and American prestige getting the Palestinians to talk about holding “peace talks,” and bullying our closest ally in the region, Israel, into releasing the murderers of women and children. There’s another Howard Beale moment.

Back home, the president continues the endless campaign, touring the country to preach old ideas and political smears to preselected choirs. His only solution for an anemic economy limping along because of his failed policies is to demand more failed policies – pork-barrel spending disguised as “stimulus” and “investment,” all to be funded by soak-the-rich tax hikes that for a century have been shown to strangle economic growth. More shameless still, he dismisses the IRS’s hounding of political enemies, the DOJ’s harassment of journalists, and worst of all, the questions over the murder of 4 Americans in Benghazi as “phony scandals,” even as his administration obstructs, misdirects, and stonewalls the Congressmen trying to get at the truth.

There’s nothing “phony” about dead Americans, about the administration’s nakedly political spin of the attacks as a “spontaneous” reaction to an obscure video, about the continuing stonewalling of those seeking the truth, about the perpetrators, whose names we know, walking around Libya with impunity. This fecklessness and indifference to our nation’s prestige is a genuine scandal and a stain on this country’s honor. We should have had to dig the bodies of those American heroes out of a vast mound of enemy dead. Right now we should have Navy Seals rounding up the terrorists in Libya and sending them to Allah on the Paradise Express. And don’t tell me the most powerful and lethal military in the history of the planet somehow “can’t.” They can, it’s our politicians who sacrifice this country’s honor to political expediency and comfort. There’s a great big Howard Beale moment.

And how about those Republicans? In the Senate, they’re wasting time over a “comprehensive” immigration bill, which is nothing more than amnesty for law-breakers and a cheap-worker employment agency. Apparently the unfolding disaster of “comprehensive” health-care “reform,” aka Obamacare, has taught them nothing. If they’re serious about fixing immigration, they should start by showing they have a credible plan for securing the border. But no, addled by fantasies of legions of “Hispanic” voters flocking to the Republican standard out of gratitude, they help the President craft a 2014 campaign-narrative of Republican intransigence and racist xenophobia, just because some House Republicans quaintly consider prudence and principle before signing off on bloated legislation that promises to reprise the failures of the 1986 “immigration reform.”

And now these same Republicans are tut-tutting over House Republicans who are trying to exercise their constitutional authority over the budget and defund Obamacare. Listen for a moment to James Madison, in Federalist 58: “The power over the purse, may in fact be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.” The low level of support for Obamacare, rammed into law without a single Republican vote and lubricated with outrageous pork and payoffs, is pretty much a “grievance” of the sort the Founders intended the House to address and correct. The failure of many Republican congressmen to legislate according to the principles they profess is another Howard Beale moment.

Most infuriating of all is the Republican political establishment’s abandonment of the principles and philosophy of the Constitution and its core doctrine of limited government. Too many have bought into the Progressive myth that our founding document is a relic from the past unsuited to our brave new world of high technology and mass communication. Too many act as though human nature, contrary to the beliefs of the Founders, has somehow stopped being motivated by colliding “passions and interests,” as Madison called them, and can be perfected if only the right government policies managed by technocrats can be forced upon the citizenry. For too many the fear of concentrated power and its inevitable corruption that undergirds every page of the Constitution has dissipated, and even so-called “conservatives” speak of the need for the federal government to “solve problems” — see No Child Left Behind — when it’s the responsibility of people to solve problems, not unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats and functionaries hired by perpetual incumbents greased by lupine lobbyists. In short, rather than shrinking the federal Leviathan, they just want to manage it better, so we go broke and erode our remaining freedoms in 100 years instead of 50.

That’s the biggest Howard Beale moment that should have us all screaming out our windows. Instead all we hear are crickets.

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