Dennis Prager: It’s anti-American to be for change

Conservative radio host Dennis Prager is a powerful speaker. He brought that power to Minneapolis this week with an appearance at Orchestra Hall in a rally to save Norm Coleman and Michele Bachmann from political extinction. He made a long complicated argument that you can’t really be for changing America unless you think America is (and these are all words he used, I will reproduce the full strange passage below) “pernicious, awful, hated, bad and fascistic.”

He also outlined “an edifice of lies” that liberals believe, the most fundamental of which is that President Bush lied to get us into the war in Iraq. Prager produced his biggest round of applause with a catalog of what he said were the seven lies that liberals believe, featuring: “Bush. Did. Not. Lie. That must be said over and over and over and over and over. It is a lie that he lied. It is a large, grand edifice of lies that he lied.”

I was not at the rally, which filled Orchestra Hall with very little publicity other than promotion by the local AM radio station that calls itself The Patriot. I watched Prager’s talk online and you can too.

The event featured three national conservative radio hosts whose programs run on The Patriot: Prager, Hugh Hewitt and Michael Medved. Coleman and Bachmann spoke briefly. But Prager’s speech was the main event. I used to respect Prager for his logic and clarity before he went nuts over how awful it was that Keith Ellison swore his congressional oath of office on a Qur’an. I’ve never recovered my appreciation for him but I haven’t listened much recently.

I found his Orchestra Hall talk bizarre but also intriguing as a glimpse into how desperate the Bush-right is feeling at this moment, with Bush and almost everything he touched facing repudiation, when none of their old arguments is working except within their shrinking circle.

Prager defended Bachmann’s infamous “Hardball” interview, suggesting that she was caught off guard. If it had been him on the hot seat, he would have turned the tables by asking Chris Matthews whether there is any such thing as an “American value.” If Matthews agreed there are such things, Prager suggested, it would prove that “good people can have values that are un-American.” I’m no longer so high on Prager’s powers as a logician.

But the long passage (verbatim below) that fired up the crowd was Prager’s contemplation of why so many Americans have been resonating to Barack Obama’s trademark word “change.” Prager said it can’t just be a change of policies, since everyone running in every election wants to change some policies, but Prager finally figured out what it means and, he told the audience, “this should scare you.”

“The change is about changing America. That’s what they really believe. That’s why change has become such a big word for the Democratic Party under Barack Obama and under Nancy Pelosi and under Harry Reid.

“If you think someone is wonderful, do you want to change him or her? No. Would you like to improve them? Yes, of course anyone can be improved. … But you want to change that which you believe is essentially really flawed.

“And here is the point It has nothing to do with love of America, nothing to do with patriotism, that’s not my point

“The left has built up a caricature of the United States over the last six years. They have built up a grand edifice of lies about America and how pernicious it is, and how awful it is, how hated it is, how bad it is, how fascistic it is over the last six years that they really want to change the country. They believe what they’re saying.

“They believe: ‘Bush lied, people died.’

“These are all untruths. Let me tell you something. That is the lie. Bush. Did. Not. Lie. That must be said over and over and over and over and over. It is a lie that he lied. It is a large grand edifice of lies that he lied.

“John Howard of Australia didn’t lie. Tony Blair of the UK didn’t lie. All the other countries that believed and every single Western intelligence agency didn’t lie. They may have been mistaken but they didn’t lie.

“If you believe that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney went into Iraq to make Halliburton rich, which is what half of the left believes, then you will want this country to change.

“If you believe we were lied into a war against a peace-loving society, then you want this country to be changed.

“If you believe that our Constitution has been trampled on, though not a single one of you has had the slightest effect on your civil liberties in the last six years, then you will want this country to be changed.

“If you believe that racism is endemic to the American people, then you want this society changed.

“If you believe that John McCain has run a racist campaign as the New York Times said he has in its editorial on behalf of Barack Obama one week ago, then you want this society changed.

“If you think that Christians are plotting to take over this country and make it a theocracy, then you want this country changed.

“But here is the point: If you believe all of that, you believe seven lies. [Long applause.]

“It is an edifice of untruth. It is a bubble that the left has created. They believe that bubble exists. That’s the America they have painted, they believe it really exists so of course they want it changed.

“But my friends, you and I who live in reality, [laughter] I mean it, it is about living in reality, we understand something different.

“America has problems, but it is the greatest country in the world.

“There is a very big difference between having problems and being fundamentally flawed. And we don’t want America changed. And let me tell you something as a student of history. You only want bad societies changed. You only want bad people changed.

“I don’t want change. I want improvement.”

I trust that is enough of Prager’s theme, in context, that you get what he’s driving at. I’ll just make a few points in reply.

The idea that “improvement” is not a form of “change” is ludicrous, yet without this ludicrosity, his whole argument ceases to exist.

The Bush-did-not-lie is technically defensible in the narrowest sense. If you limit the question to did Bush honestly believe that Saddam had hidden weapons, it’s quite possible that Bush honestly believed it. He wanted to believe and disregarded contrary evidence. For a long time, as Prager argues, leaders of several other nations and several foreign intelligence agencies also believed it was likely that Saddam was hiding some illegal weapons or weapons development programs.

But the closer we got to the decision for war, the shakier the evidence for this belief. By the end, with the U.N. weapons inspectors back in Iraq, getting excellent cooperation, looking wherever they wanted with no advance notice, and finding no caches of banned weapons nor evidence of ongoing development efforts, it required a suspension of all skepticism, all diligence, all open-mindedness for Bush to continue believing in the weapons.

Maybe Bush’s mind was able to suspend all those qualities (this is nothing his admirers should be celebrating), in which case he still believed (how can we know?), in which case he wasn’t lying when he premised the decision for war on his belief in the existence of the non-existent weapons.

But if so, the lie Bush told was that he was not anxious for war, that he was doing everything possible to avoid war, and that he would launch only as a last resort.

What think?

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Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by Annalise Cudahy on 10/31/2008 - 10:53 am.

    Speaking of “Patriot”, I covered this in my blog today.

    Prager’s definition of “Patriot” is far too narrow to be useful. It does not allow comparisons or nurturing. A real Patriot knows that they have a job to do, which is nothing less than being th Founding Parent of the next generation.

    I realize that’s a bit obtuse. For the longer explanation, please see my blog by clicking on my name. Thanks.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Olson on 10/31/2008 - 12:26 pm.

    Our federal government gives billions to bail out private industry–Chrysler (maybe twice?), the Thrifts, and now banking without any democratic control or conditions. “We” purchase stock in banks but make sure we have no voting rights. Excuse me, Mr. Praeger, but there’s a whiff of something in the air–ah, smells like facism to me.

  3. Submitted by Betty Johnson on 10/31/2008 - 01:22 pm.

    Where did all the folks at the rally come from? My husband saw lots of buses lining the street outside Orchestra Hall yesterday and wondered what was going on. I hope that was the only way they could fill the hall — I’d hate to think there are that many people who think and believe like Prager! We don’t listen to Prager (or any other similar talk radio hosts) so hadn’t heard about that “event.”

  4. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 10/31/2008 - 02:04 pm.

    To enjoy a work of literature, it’s called the “willing suspension of disbelief.” To enjoy a speech by the right wingnuts it’s called, well, the “willing suspension of disbelief.” In the former example it leads to feeling as if you’re in another world. In the latter? Same thing! What world are such people living in? That would be the past, maybe like the last eight years, but whichever Good Old Days they choose, they’d like to avoid change, insisting that the rear view mirror is the best vantage point. Here’s hoping thta November 4 will be a repudiation of that point of view and a clear-sighted return to the present and the future!

  5. Submitted by Joel Jensen on 10/31/2008 - 03:36 pm.

    Prager has wound his rhetoric into such a complicated web that neither logic nor truth can find their way in or out.

    The ideals on which this Country were founded not only allow but demand that the public apply its highest expectations in judging the conduct of this nation’s business and in measuring the performance of its government.

    We want to change direction because we believe our Country has been steered recklessly away from the true and good nature of our Country and its people.

    We want to change the direction of our Country because we agree with those millions that have sought refuge and opportunity here in believeing that America is and should always remain a beacon of hope and opportunity to not only its own citizens but to the world.

    We love America even though we may hate some of the things that have been done in its name and hate how the current administration has demeaned and degraded our Country by working against its most basic principles and undermining its most fundamental structures.

    In the Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce may have captured Prager’s gambit most aptly:

    PATRIOTISM, n. Combustible rubbish read to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. In Dr. Johnson’s famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.

  6. Submitted by Rich Crose on 10/31/2008 - 03:56 pm.

    Classic case of cognitive dissonance.

    Holding two contraditory ideas at the same time makes the sphincter pucker tighter than a fist. The ensuing overflow comes spewing out in the form of evil invective with the hope that it will make the conflicting idea will go away.

    It doesn’t work. They will eventually learn to ignore the conflict ideas and set their sites on 2012.

  7. Submitted by Dave Jones on 11/01/2008 - 11:55 am.

    Sadly, I missed Mr. Prager’s stirring speech, but it’s a piece of the cracked shell the right has become. On a related note, Liz Dole played the Hitler card in NC. I know the context full well, but only a desperate person would run such an ad.

    While I’m not sad to see some of these clowns discredited and I don’t buy the right-wing caricature of liberals, no side should be without the counterweight of rational opposition. Yeah, yeah: “Liar, liar, edifice on fire.” Really, is that it? Where’s the rational right?

  8. Submitted by Brian franklin on 11/01/2008 - 06:55 pm.

    Prager mentioned this blog on his show last week and that Mr. Black had the courtesy to use his words in context. As usual, Prager has enough confidence in his arguments that he points his listeners to people who write negatively of him.

    As you probably know, Prager is not afraid to talk with prominent and legendary figures on the left. I love it when they come on his show and their liberal arguments get very politely shredded to pieces. He’s so nice most of the time that he doesn’t even go in for the final kill even though he has just riddled their ideas. He just usually leaves them twisting in tatters as the pompous wind of their liberal nonsense flutters away.

    For a great example, listen how liberal icon Naomi Wolf gets destroyed on the October 2 show.

    He commented that he might invite Mr. Black on. I’m going to enjoy that immensely.

  9. Submitted by Vince Pacella on 11/02/2008 - 10:58 am.

    “The idea that “improvement” is not a form of “change” is ludicrous, yet without this ludicrosity, his whole argument ceases to exist.”

    Hi. I don’t think you heard Prager if you equate improvement with change.

    Prager preceded his main argument with making the distinction between improvement and change. And he continiously stated within his argument by what he means about change.

    He’s talking about transforming something so that its nature is completely different. That is not improvement, it goes far beyond improvement.

    And this is what Obama says he wants. He says it over and over and over. Obama is for substantial transformation of America.

    Prager wasn’t speaking in code. He wasn’t trying to hide what his saying. He wanted his point to be made clearly and explicitly, so why do ignore him when he said his use of the word change was not improvement?

    So what is ludicrous is your analysis.

  10. Submitted by Brian franklin on 11/02/2008 - 07:51 pm.

    By the way, when I referred to “prominent and legendary figures on the left” I wasn’t implying that Mr. Black was either of the two.

    Mr. Black shouldn’t take that as too much of an insult since most “prominent and legendary ” leftists are usually devoid of logic.

  11. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 11/03/2008 - 11:22 am.

    I think Dennis’ point is the same that you are making about President Bush.

    Because of our own beliefs and biases, we want to believe something so badly that we convince ourselves of its truth, and make profound errors in judgment.

    Bush, that he had to invade Iraq.

    The Left, in that the war had to have been a consciously evil right-wing fraud perpetrated on the world.

    Neither was true.

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