Topic: Civic Duty
Robert Taft, the conservative Ohio senator who is a hero to many of today's conservatives, gave a speech at the Executive Club of Chicago in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. There are a number of paragraphs that are just grand, but here's the best one, which is worth quoting in full:
As a matter of general principle, I believe there can be no doubt that criticism in time of war is essential to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government ... too many people desire to suppress criticism simply because they think that it will give some comfort to the enemy to know that there is such criticism. If that comfort makes the enemy feel better for a few moments, they are welcome to it as far as I am concerned, because the maintenance of the right of criticism in the long run will do the country maintaining it a great deal more good than it will do the enemy, and will prevent mistakes which might otherwise occur.
Drink in those words. That's not William Fulbright two years into the Vietnam War. It's not Ted Kennedy last week. It's Mr. Republican, speaking -- when? Not mid-1943, or even March 1942. Taft delivered this speech ... on December 19, 1941!
That's right: Twelve days after the worst attack on American soil in the country's history, perhaps with bodies still floating in the harbor, the leader of the congressional opposition said to the president, we will question, we will probe, we will debate.
By Michael Tomasky
The AMERICAN Prospect online