TO READ Bill Moyers's latest rant about the 2002 election results, one might conclude that the biggest threat America faces is the Republican party. To wit:
"And for the first time in the memory of anyone alive, the entire federal government--the Congress, the Executive, the Judiciary--is united behind a right-wing agenda for which George W. Bush now believes he has a mandate. That mandate includes the power of the state to force pregnant women to give up control over their own lives. It includes using the taxing power to transfer wealth from working people to the rich. It includes giving corporations a free hand to eviscerate the environment and control the regulatory agencies meant to hold them accountable. And it includes secrecy on a scale you cannot imagine. Above all, it means judges with a political agenda appointed for life. If you liked the Supreme Court that put George W. Bush in the White House, you will swoon over what's coming. And if you like God in government, get ready for the Rapture . . ."
And on it goes. For those of you unfamiliar with Bill Moyers's ongoing, taxpayer-financed self-immolation, such vituperative rhetoric might seem excessive. Alas, this post-election commentary is doused with restraint compared to his outbursts shortly after the September 11 attacks. In one speech at the University of Texas, an enraged Moyers sounded alarms about the dual threats to American democracy: religious "true believers" like Osama bin Laden, and the "true believers in the God of the market." (see PBS's Televangelist)
Yes, for Bill Moyers, the September 11 attacks were cause for reflection, not only on the "tragedy" that day but on American democracy. And while President Bush set out to rid the world of al Qaeda and other terrorists, Moyers waged a battle of his own--broadcast on public television, financed in part by U.S. taxpayers--against money in politics, against offshore tax havens, and, naturally, against the Bush administration.
Think I'm exaggerating? Go to Moyers's website. Read the entire commentary from last Friday's episode of "NOW with Bill Moyers." Then click on his "past commentaries." Then click around on his site for awhile.
It should be clear that what Moyers broadcasts each week should not be paid for by taxpayers. Yes, of course, he's free to say whatever he wants, and yes, of course, he shouldn't be censored, and yes, of course, we need a wide range of public views. Of course. But there is no reason Aunt Gert in Ohio should pay for Bill Moyers in Manhattan so that Crystal in Berkeley can get her left-wing fix for free. It's "sinful and tyrannical," Jefferson argued, "to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves."
So what's the answer? Pressure public television big-wigs to give Moyers the ax? Six months ago that would have been my recommendation.
But, in a rare victory of the practical over the principled, I now say keep him. Pay for him. Give him a raise and a daily show. The tragedy of Bill Moyers is that very few people watch him these days. And nothing would be more helpful to the "right-wingers" Moyers so despises than to give him a bigger platform.
For lost in Moyers's tirade is this simple fact: some 53 percent of Americans voted for the Republicans that worry him so. In races throughout the country last week, Americans voted against Democrats far more reasonable than Bill Moyers will ever be. And in even higher percentages, Americans approve of President Bush. So let Moyers attack the judgment of the voters who help pay his salary.
God bless 'em, I say.
Stephen F. Hayes is staff writer at The Weekly Standard.