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September 8, 2003

Same planet, different world.

Our noon vigils on the Quad had been somewhat quiet of late. Not today. Maybe it was because of the sock puppet’s speech last night. His supporters seem to be getting uncomfortable.

I was standing alone at on the Quad. One person walking by in the distance with another individual shouted, “Get a job, schmuck.” I looked at him and called out, “How erudite.” He answered, “What?” I repeated, “How erudite.” After a second he replied, “Thank you.” and then continued on. His companion peeled off and approached me. When he noticed what she had done he turned, but hovered in the distance. Was he afraid to talk to me? She wasn’t. She asked me, “What’s this about.” I was holding my “The Constitution is not ‘optional'” sign.” I talked about Article VI in the Constitution [Why is it no one reads the Constitution anymore?], the United Nations Charter, the Geneva Conventions, The U.S.A. Patriot Act. We conversed. She stated, “That’s a lot to think about.” I answered, “It doesn’t matter what your view is or what standard you hold someone in public office to, after all we’re all entitled to an opinion, but you must be consistent.”

A short while later another individual walked up and said, “I didn’t know liberals believed in that.” I replied, “That’s a rather broad statement, how do you know if I’m liberal.” “I’ve seen your other signs.” So I spoke about Article VI, treaties, the United Nations Charter, and stare decisis [a legal doctrine – “let the decision stand”] and Ex parte Milligan [a post civil war case which in essence asserts that “the Constitution applies to all people at all times”]. You can see their eyes glaze over. They don’t really know the Constitution and in this case he’s probably never read it. I even offered to read Article VI to him since I keep the entire text with me in my Palm Pilot.

“Well, liberals view the Constitution with more flexibility in interpretation.” I reiterated my “but, you must be consistent” argument. I then added, “In every 14th Amendment case but one Antonin Scalia has asked, ‘who has standing?’ Do you know the one case in which he didn’t? December 12, 2000, Bush v. Gore. Why didn’t he ask the question then? Bush didn’t have standing, only a voter in Florida would have been able to show standing. Scalia was being inconsistent.” “But what about the millions of voters in Florida?” “Then one of them should have filed suit.” They short circuit when you apply the consistency argument.

“Clinton and Gore did nothing. Al Gore wouldn’t have been able to handle September 11th.” I replied, “Look at what the Gore Commission report says about airline security. You can look it up. The airline industry and its republican friends in Congress blocked any action because the industry was saying, ‘It’ll cost too much.'”

We brought up the weapons of mass destruction.  Where are they? Ah, the weapons of mass destruction, that seems to irritate them a bit. I spoke in some detail about the impossibility of hiding the operating gas centrifuges engaged in manufacturing fissile material. The infrastructure is massive. I pointed out that I had bigger worries about the security of weapons grade material in the old Soviet Union, which by the way, the administration cut the security and acquisition budget for before September 11th. The administration wasn’t paying attention.

“Well, what about what happened on September 11th. Shouldn’t Iraq be held responsible? They supported the terrorists.” My colleague replied, “Where did you hear that?” “There are plenty of sources.” “Could you name one?” “They supported terrorism.” “Give me examples.” After some silence, “Just give me one example. We’re here every weekday at noon, just come back and give us an example.”

I asked, “Uh, how many of the September 11th terrorists were from Iraq?” “I don’t know, why don’t you tell me?” “You can look it up. How many were from Saudi Arabia?”

So, grasping at straws he says, “Why weren’t you out here when Bill Clinton used force without the UN?” A-ha. It always comes to Bill Clinton with them. He missed the point. They always miss the point.

My colleague pointed out that Clinton’s National Security Adviser told Condoleeza Rice that Al Qaeda was “the one thing you will spend the most time on.”

“When we elect moral leaders we can trust them to make the decisions. We don’t need to know everything. Why weren’t out here criticizing Clinton when he went and used force?” I didn’t bother pointing out that we didn’t elect the current administration in the 2000 election. My colleague replied, “In the Sudan? They had just bombed the Cole. And in Afghanistan they clearly made the connection with an attack on the United States.” “You weren’t out here criticizing Clinton…” He conveniently ignores my earliest point about the United Nations Charter. The use of Force is only allowable if a nation is attacked or if the UN says force is necessary.

They think we’ve been standing out there for months not knowing why we do so. That the brilliance of their am talk radio addled thought processes will overwhelm us and show us the error of our ways.

I’m invariably soft spoken when we have these exchanges. My colleague shows them no mercy. They walk into a buzz saw.

Its ten minutes to the hour. I have to teach. Our inquisitor can’t disengage from my colleague. They walk down the path and I hear, “Why weren’t you out here criticizing Clinton?”

Did I mention? He appeared to be carrying a Bible. God help us all.