In a speech in Iowa on November 9, Sarah Palin said that the consequences of our national debt are probably going to be "like slavery." Last Friday on MSNBC, Martin Bashir tried to make the point that the full horror of slavery was far worse than our debt by quoting passages from the diary of an American slaveholder named Thomas Thistlewood describing brutal punishments slaves actually endured:
"In 1756, he records that a slave named Darby 'catched eating kanes had him well flogged and pickled, then made Hector, another slave, s-h-i-t in his mouth.'"Bashir then went on to conjure up the image of Palin undergoing these punishments:
"This became known as 'Darby’s Dose,' a punishment invented by Thistlewood that spoke only of inhumanity. And he mentions a similar incident in 1756, his time in relation to a man he refers to as Punch. 'Flogged punch well, and then washed and rubbed salt pickle, lime juice and bird pepper, made Negro Joe piss in his eyes and mouth,'" Bashir recited.
"When Mrs. Palin invokes slavery, she doesn't just prove her rank ignorance," he said. "She confirms if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, she would be the outstanding candidate."Today he's apologized -- for the wrong thing:
... In the battle of ideas, America leads the world in whole-hearted discussions and disagreements and these arguments can be heard on a daily basis. But what I did on Friday had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with that great tradition and I am deeply sorry.No, Martin -- the problem with what you said isn't that it was "vitriol," or that you weren't "considerate" or "compassionate." The problem wasn't that you went failed to be a person who "looks for the good." It's perfectly OK to go negative. It's fine if Palin's words lead you to express anger and disgust.
Upon reflection, I so wish that I had been more thoughtful, more considerate, more compassionate, but I was not and what I said is now a matter of public record. But if I could add something to the public record, it would be this: that I deeply regret what I said, and that I have learned a sober lesson in these last few days. That the politics of vitriol and destruction is a miserable place to be, and a miserable person to become. And I promise that I will take the opportunity to learn from this experience.
My hope is that it will renew in me a spirit of humility and humanity, that looks for the good and that builds upon the great things that this country has to offer to all of us, regardless of our political persuasion. This will be my guiding light and compass in the days ahead....
The problem is that your response to Palin turned into a fantasy in which she was personally brutalized. Angry political talk is fine, but it ought to be limited in scope to what people argue and advocate. Palin is an idiot who said an idiotic thing. You could have said so and been as vitriolic as you wanted to be. That would have been fine. Where your remarks stopped being fine was not the point at which you became angry, but the point at which you became a sadist pornographer.
I agree with Wonkette's Doktor Zoom: if you'd read from the diary and left it at that, you "could have stopped and asked exactly how any aspect of national debt resembles these realities of slavery," and the point would have been made. But no -- you had to give us a word picture of this women being physically degraded.
Now you've issued an apology that plays into all the self-righteous narratives of pious centrists -- that what's wrong with our political discourse is anger.
Anger is a perfectly appropriate emotion to express at a right wing that won't accept the legitimacy of Democratic and liberal politicians and that describes liberals and Democrats as inhuman monsters bent on America's destruction.
But it needs to be political anger. That's not what this was. It was perverse and personal. The anger line is not the line it went over.