Patty Murray's Admission of
[December 30, 2002]
By S. M. Oliva
In the wake of the Trent Lott debacle, a new furor
has erupted around Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, who made the
following remarks recently at a school:
Osama bin Laden has been very, very effective being we've got to ask,
why is this man so popular around the world?
Why are people so supportive of him in many countries? He has been in
many countries that are riddled with poverty.
People don't have phones, no sewers, no roads, no schools, no health
care, no facilities just to make sure their daily lives are OK.
He's been out in these countries for decades building roads, building
schools, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building
health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. It made
their lives better.
We have not done that. We haven't been out in many of these countries
helping them build infrastructure.
How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with
some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in
Iraq and go to Afghanistan?
The argument back is that is going to cost a lot of money. Absolutely
And the second argument is that we have schools here and health care
facilities here that are really hurting. Should our tax dollars go to pay
for facilities in third world countries?
No easy answers, but expensive both ways. But war is expensive, too.
Right now we've decided that war is the way we are going to go, and
your generation ought to be thinking about whether or not you believe that
perhaps we should be better neighbors out in other countries so that they
have a different vision of us.
It's going to cost money. You'll have to think about whether you want
to do that or not, about whether we have the money to do that here. But it
is a debate I think we ought to have.
Many commentators have equated Murray’s remarks with
support for terrorism. That’s probably not what the senator intended, but
that’s largely irrelevant. Actually, I find Murray’s comments useful, to
the extent that it exposes the conceptual ignorance at the center of most
contemporary politics. Murray’s words did not convey ideas, but
rather a series of concretes unconnected to any larger theme or purpose.
This is why Americans should be outraged.
Murray suggests that America would be better liked if
it spent more money on foreign development. But who would like us
more, and why does that matter on principle? The United States and
its citizens already spend billions on the so-called third world, yet
anti-Americanism still reigns even in countries claiming to be our closest
allies. Even private citizens who spend millions on charity—such as
Microsoft’s Bill Gates—are routinely denounced as greedy, immoral
capitalists. There’s just no way to win over certain people, and frankly,
there exists no benefit in doing so. Ultimately, many of the people who
admire Osama Bin Laden do so because they’re unwilling to accept
individualism, reason, and capitalism as the founding concepts of society.
It’s simply easier to support a bloodthirsty murderer than put one’s mind
to actual work in the pursuit of building a better society. This is why
dictators remain in power throughout the non-industrial world; the fault
lies not with a lack of American spending, but with the citizens of those
countries who are unwilling to assert their right to live and prosper.
Senator Murray champions this ignorance. Her remarks
betray a lack of intellectual depth and conceptual understanding of
American principles. This does not surprise me. My most recent first-hand
experience with Murray came last October at a hearing she presided over
regarding the future of Amtrak. The hearing presented a stark picture:
Amtrak was losing billions annually, showed no sign of growth, and was
destined to crumble over its unattainable federal mandate. What was
Chairwoman Murray’s solution? Pour <i>more</i> money into Amtrak while
attacking even the suggestion of privatizing or abolishing the railroad.
To Murray, no option to continued federal subsidies existed, even when she
was presented with clear evidence of that policy’s irrationality.
When it came to Amtrak, Murray only saw a string of
unrelated facts; the conceptual understanding of the situation was
non-existent in her mind. The same is true of her Bin Laden remarks: she
sees the daycare centers and roads without understanding the concepts that
made the underdeveloped world what it is today.
I’d call for Murray’s resignation, but that would do
little good. The vast majority of her colleagues exist in the same
anti-conceptual fog that she does. Most senators, such as Trent Lott,
can’t see a world beyond the next appropriations bill. Those that can
conceptualize often subscribe to ideologies foreign to America’s founding
principles. There has yet to emerge in the modern Senate a fully-realized
champion of individual rights and capitalism. Some contenders exist,
notably incoming majority whip Mitch McConnell, but they still have a long
way to go.
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