And He Sounds Like Such a Nice Boy on the Radio...

Garrison Keillor discovered some folks in Dallas don't want them damned foreigners to have any rights. Took him an hour to figure that out. Not bad.

Garrison Keillor, the man with the pleasant voice and sharp temper, writes in his Tribune Media Services-syndicated column about how the Senate has adiosed from existence a little thing called habeas corpus in approving the Military Commissions Act of 2006--and about how some Methodists he encountered in Dallas last week got no problem with that, Bubba. Keillor, out on the road pimping his book Homegrown Democrat (in which he calls the G.O.P. "fundamentalist bullies" and "misanthropic frat boys," for starters), isn't taking an entirely unexpected position; he ain't exactly Andrew C. McCarthy writing for the National Review (which still pimps that hoary party line that if you're for basic human rights, you're against America). No, Keillor's right there with what's left of the left damning the president for doing away wth the Geneva Convention, the Magna Carta and the Constitution by insisting that an "enemy combatant" is any non-citizen whom he says is an enemy combatant. Rights? Please, those are so 1215.

In his column, which you can read here, Keillor writes that the passage of the Military Commissions Act has rendered the U.S. unrecognizable. He writes that "if the government can round up someone and never be required to explain why, then it's no longer the United States as you and I always understood it. Our enemies have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They have made us become like them." And by us, I think he means at least one very specific audience: the folks who turned out to hear Keillor speak last Wednesday at the Highland Park United Methodist Church, where he was invited as part of the church's Cornerstone Speakers Initiative. HP Methodist, of course, is where George W. Bush goes to pray to God. Or vice-versa, I forget. Anyway.

When The Dallas Morning News covered the event last week, David Flick made the event sound like a real non-event; "Garrison Keillor, folksy humorist and frequent Bush-basher, came to the president's home church in Dallas on Wednesday--and survived by playfully rubbing the belly of the beast," Flick wrote. From the sound of it, Keillor didn't come away from the event with the same impression. This is what he writes this morning about his trip to Dallas:

"I got some insight last week into who supports torture when I went down to Dallas to speak at Highland Park Methodist Church. It was spooky. I walked in, was met by two burly security men with walkie-talkies, and within 10 minutes was told by three people that this was the Bushes' church and that it would be better if I didn't talk about politics. I was there on a book tour for Homegrown Democrat, but they thought it better if I didn't mention it. So I tried to make light of it: I told the audience, 'I don't need to talk politics. I have no need even to be interested in politics--I'm a citizen, I have plenty of money and my grandsons are at least 12 years away from being eligible for military service.' And the audience applauded! Those were their sentiments exactly. We've got ours, and who cares?

The Methodists of Dallas can be fairly sure that none of them will be snatched off the streets, flown to Guantanamo Bay, stripped naked, forced to stand for 48 hours in a freezing room with deafening noise. So why should they worry? It's only the Jews who are in danger, and the homosexuals and gypsies. The Christians are doing fine. If you can't trust a Methodist with absolute power to arrest people and not have to say why, then whom can you trust?"

--Robert Wilonsky

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky