Time magazine’s Joe Klein doesn’t devote much time to admiring conservatives, so it’s especially significant when he nails someone on the Left. His latest column is ostensibly about Jeremiah Wright, but its most interesting passages fillet Bill Moyers, “who seems to be spending the rest of his life over-atoning for his service as Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam spokesman . . .”
Klein sees the Jeremiah Wright controversy as “this year’s edition of a problem that has hurt the Democratic Party since the Vietnam era” – the Left’s fluency when talking about America’s deficiencies combined with its aphasia about America’s virtues. Moyers, for example, found Wright too complacently patriotic in their PBS interview. When the preacher noted that Americans have the freedom to make the kind of controversial political statements he favors, Moyers corrected him: “Well, you can be almost crucified for saying what you’ve said . . . in this country.” This, Klein says, is the “sort of thinking that helped make the Republicans the dominant party of the past 40 years.”
Moyers has spent four decades since leaving the Johnson administration fearlessly speaking truth to power. He single-handedly saved the nation from a junta, for example, when he warned America from the PBS studios on Election Night 2004 that “if Kerry were to win this in a — in a tight race, I think there’d be an effort to mount a coup, quite frankly. . . . I mean that the right wing is not going to accept it.”
For confronting the powerful and insidious right-wing conspiracy, Moyers has found himself all but crucified. His enemies have hounded him relentlessly, preventing him from exposing the ugly truth about their sinister plans by making him publisher of Newsday, and then a commentator on CBS and NBC television. His internal exile has also included a taxpayer supported platform on public television, and the presidency of a foundation, the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy. In the latter capacity he helped steer – from a family fortune built on the depredations of General Motors and IBM – nearly $11 million in 2006 to truth-telling allies. These included The American Prospect and Texas Observer magazines, and “Democracy Now,” which is the radio equivalent of “Bill Moyers Journal,” except that Amy Goodman doesn’t have Moyers’ madcap sense of humor. While he was at it, he helped steer $232,993 to himself that year to cover salary, benefits and expenses.
Perhaps one of the investigative journalists subsidized by the Schumann Center will untangle how the right-wing conspiracy can be powerful enough to stage a coup but too ineffectual to pull the plug on Moyers’ pontifications. The appalling truth could turn out to be that the better-acquainted Americans become with Moyerism, the more favorably disposed they become to the conservative alternative.