Sitting at the bar in Paolo's Restaurant at 92nd Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan Saturday afternoon, December 10th, I was shocked by the tone the conversation with my old ABC News colleague Lowell Bergman had taken. He was heading to London and had urgently requested that we get together before his afternoon flight from JFK.
Lowell as a brave, competent, but hugely self-righteous old school
investigative reporter, who famously produced the Mike Wallace expose of
the major tobacco companies for '60 Minutes.' Al Pacino played him in
the movie version of the saga, 'The Insider.'
Although I hadn't seen the now 60-year old veteran reporter since he parted ways with ABC back in 1982, I recognized him immediately. Like most out-of-town, old-timers, who persistently request an unscheduled meeting to "talk about some projects I'm working on," I assumed Lowell had fallen on hard times and wanted a job.
I was stunned, therefore, when after some small talk about our children (five each) and now dead fellow colleagues, his eyes narrowed, his smile turned into a grimace, and he began interrogating me about News Corporation's hacking scandal.
A perfect example of Republican tone-deafness is the cancellation of the Univision debate that was originally scheduled for January 29th.
For someone who considers himself a patriot, as I do, it is extremely difficult not to rally behind a president when he beats the drums of war. So it has always been. We can disagree about domestic policy, but when the nation’s leader says we are threatened from abroad, the majority of Americans suspends misgivings or even gnawing disbelief and gives the man in the Oval Office the benefit of the doubt.
Our war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was the classic example. It was funky from the get-go, and I should have known better. Instead, I concentrated on chronicling the heroic efforts of our stressed Armed Forces as they followed goals that vacillated from attempted conquest to force protection to nation-building and finding a respectable way out.
We didn’t go for the oil, (which, in retrospect would have been a fine objective). We didn’t go to establish a strong base in a dangerous, strategically important part of the world. We went as an act of national self defense.
It is doubtful that Newt Gingrich has ever spent quality time in a 'really poor', inner-city public housing project. He probably has more first-hand knowledge of the hallowed ground under Pickett's doomed Charge at Gettysburg in 1863 than he does about low-life in high-rise poverty in New York or Chicago in 2011. If he knew about the culture of poverty that Oscar Lewis called La Vida, Gingrich never would have proposed suspending child labor laws and putting ghetto public school students to work as junior janitors in Fifth or Sixth Grade. Like his earlier calls to bring back orphanages and to deny support to unmarried woman who have children while on welfare, this Gingrich proposal is crass and creepy.
Still, I had to vent.
"I felt like jumping through the TV screen when I watched you yesterday on "The Five," I told my Fox News friend and colleague.
"Why?" his expression asked.
"Deport them all?" I continued incredulous, referring to his harsh suggestion that we should simply arrest and evict the 11 million plus undocumented immigrants. "What about the babies?" I asked. "The grandmothers? You're starting to sound like what's her name…Michelle Malkin who wants everyone to snitch out their illegal alien neighbors!"