I watched the most Reverend Al Sharpton last night on MSNBC, ranting and railing, moaning and wailing, about the utterly unforgivable awfulness of Ron Paul and his racist newsletters. And, yes, those newsletters are pretty disturbing and yes, I'd agree that Dr. Paul hasn't been as forthcoming about them as he should be. And, according to Sharpton, Paul has never repudiated those opinions. Put it in the Reverend Al's absolutist terms ("once a racist, always a racist") and we'd have to believe that Paul should be cast into darkness for all time. Write him off! Done! Right?
But, hold on. If that's the tack we're going to take, why are we listening to Sharpton? Does anyone remember a little incident involving Tawana Brawley?
This happened back in 1987. Tawana was 15. She claimed she'd been abducted by several white men, one wearing a badge, and taken to the woods where she was held for several days, being repeatedly sexually assaulted. She was found covered in feces with demeaning names written on her body in charcoal.
An investigation was duly done. A rape kit found no evidence of rape. Tawanna couldn't describe any of her abductors. She was not suffering the symptoms of exposure that would have been expected after spending several nights in a cold woods. She had no cuts, bruises, scratches or scrapes to indicate assault.
In a commonsense world, this would have been the end of the story. Case closed.
But enter our heroes - Attorney Alton H. Maddox, Attorney C Vernon Mason and ah, yes, the Right Reverend Sharpton himself. The civil rights trio all screamed "cover up". They accused Governor Mario Cuomo, the cops and the prosecutors of failing to do their duty because Tawana was black and her abductors were white. They held indignant press conferences and incendiary rallies. They needed real people to make their case so they accused a part-time police officer, Harry Crist, Jr., and Dutchess County District Attorney, Steven A Pagones, of being two of Tawana's abductors. Crist committed suicide; Pagones was able to prove his innocence.
Seven months, 100 witnesses and untold heartbreak and taxpayer dollars later, a grand jury found no credible evidence that Tawana had ever been abducted or assaulted.
Hoisting Al Sharpton by his own petard, the one he now claims for Ron Paul, should have meant that he slunk out of town, disgraced and discredited, never to return.
But is this what happened? Hell, no. In time, he worked his way back to respectability and has now been rewarded with his very own television program on MSNBC where he pontificates nightly as if he is the soul of credibility.
I have not read every word ever written about the Tawana Brawley case but, so far as I know, Sharpton has never admitted the slimy part he played in it, nor asked for forgiveness for the lives he affected so negatively.
Here's what upsets me the most: those of us who lean more toward the liberal side of things constantly criticize Fox News for its biased reporting, its twisted conclusions, its deceptive headlines. All of those things are true and worthy of condemnation.
But are we any better when we choose Al Sharpton as one of our own spokesmen? There was Bob Franken, who I usually consider an admirable journalist, debating Ron Paul's racist proclivities with Rev. Al. I don't how how he managed to keep a straight face while doing it. Wouldn't honor have demanded that he front Sharpton about his own moral failings in this regard? Evidently what is sauce for the conservative goose is not sauce for the liberal gander.
I'm a faithful reader of Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish (http://www.andrewsullivandaily dish.com/)because, politically, Andrew is one of the most straightforward of writers, not taking the side of liberal or conservative, but just trying to be fair all around. Surprisingly, I haven't seen him call out the Reverend Al either.
It is as if we've all decided to engage in a conspiracy of silence. I don't get it.
We left-leaners always self-righteously claim the moral high ground for ourselves but putting someone like Al Sharpton front and center as our representative proves we're no better than they are in the hypocrisy sweepstakes.