The Truth, Mainly - 05/07/2007

Billy Moyers is back in town
by Leon Satterfield

I've got yet another confession to make. A truly serious confession, one that may well get me blackballed by the Dirty Rotten Secular Humanist Club.

It's Bill Moyers' fault. I've admired him for several decades now, in large part because he's a lot like me:

•Bill was born in 1934 and I was born in 1934, both of us Depression babies and both of us thereby having remarkable moral strength.

•His full name is Billy Don Moyers, and one of my best friends while I was sort of growing up in Southwest Kansas was Billy Don Meggenberg.

•Billy Don Moyers studied journalism and wrote for the student newspaper at the University of Texas. I studied journalism and wrote for the student newspaper at Kansas State Teachers College (KSTC forever).

•Billy Don Moyers and his wife have three children and five grandchildren. My wife and I have three children and five grandchildren.

•Billy Don Moyers worked for President Lyndon Johnson. I voted for President Lyndon Johnson.

And here's what might cost me my membership in the Dirty Rotten Secular Humanist Club:

Back in 1959 Billy Don Moyers was ordained as a Baptist minister.

I started out as a Baptist. Got totally immersed in the baptistry at the Baptist Church in my home town—but it didn't take. And by the time I left home I had developed an allergy that caused me to break out in a rash every time I got within 100 yards of our church.

So how is it that I can admire an ordained Baptist minister like Billy Don Moyers?

It's partly because of his humility. I respect humility and take great pride in my own.

When Billy Don was on President Johnson's staff, he said this: "I work for him despite his faults and he lets me work for him despite my deficiencies."

The late great Molly Ivins last July recommended that Democrats "run Bill Moyers for president" because "the poor man who is currently our president has reached such a point of befuddlement that he thinks stem cell research is the same as taking human lives, but that 40,000 dead Iraqi civilians are progress toward democracy."

The really good news is that after an extended sabbatical, Moyers is back to his weekly PBS news commentary program. It's called "Bill Moyers' Journal" and he got off to a good start on April 25 with a 90-minute exploration called "Buying the War." He interviewed, among others, Dan Rather, Tim Russert, and Bob Simon.

The focal point was the way the Bush administration tried—and largely succeeded—to suggest that Iraq, as well as Al Qaeda, was responsible for the 9/11 atrocity.

Simon, who was based in the Middle East for CBS, said he questioned that connection: "I mean we knew things or suspected things that perhaps the Washington press corps could not suspect. For example, the absurdity of putting up a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. . ..Saddam was a total control freak. To introduce a wild card like Al Qaeda in any sense was just something he would not do."

So how were we convinced Iraq had a part in 9/11?

"Just repeat it and repeat it and repeat it," Simon said. "Repeat Al Qaeda, Iraq. Al Qaeda, Iraq. Al Qaeda, Iraq. Just keep it going. . ..And it was effective because long after it was well established that there was no link between Al Qaeda and the government of Iraq and the Saddam regime, the polls showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans believed. . .that Iraq was responsible for September 11."

(And President Bush was still repeating it on page 8A of this newspaper's May 3rd issue: "The decision we face in Iraq," he said, ". . .is whether we stay in the fight against the same international terrorist network that attacked us on 9/11.")

Moyers concluded with this: "The American number of troops killed in Iraq now exceeds the number of victims on 9/11. We have been fighting there longer than it took us to defeat the Nazis in World War 2. The costs of the war are reckoned at one trillion dollars and counting. The number of Iraqis killed—over 35,000 last year alone—is hard to pin down. The country is in chaos."

I get the feeling that now that Billy Don's back in town, his program is going to be the highlight of the week's news.


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is:

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