On Friday, while the Attorney General of the United States was preparing to announce the indictments of seven alleged terrorists in Miami, where was Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff? Of course, you say, he was engaged on the issue of terrorism and busy working hard for the American people. Well, not really. On the day the United States accused seven men of attempting to carry out the biggest terrorist act against the homeland since 9/11, Secretary Chertoff found it appropriate to attend a panel at the Heritage Foundation entitled "’24’ and America’s Image in Fighting Terrorism: Fact, Fiction, or Does It Matter?" Secretary Chertoff was joined on the panel by such terrorism experts as the stars, writers and producers of the television show "24", and terrorism expert and moderator Rush Limbaugh.
Secretary Chertoff has a habit of dashing off to conferences during important national security or disaster events. You will recall that the day after Katrina came ashore, the Honorable Michael Chertoff felt that it was more important to go to Atlanta for a conference than to manage the worst natural disaster the United States had experienced in decades. So, unsurprisingly, the Secretary was yet again serving the American public Friday morning by discussing the merits of the television show "24" with actors and producers. The event was deemed so important that such luminaries as Justice Clarence Thomas and Ann Coulter wannabe Laura Ingraham were in attendance.
After Secretary Chertoff finished his speech about what a great show "24" was and how DHS also had some great people who defend this country (without violating the laws!), it was time for Rush Limbaugh to take the moderator’s lectern. In recognition of the esteem that the conservative Heritage Foundation holds for Rush Limbaugh, in 2000 the Foundation awarded Limbaugh its coveted Clara Boothe Luce Award for Limbaugh’s contributions to conservative thought. Clearly, the Heritage Foundation felt that Mr. Limbaugh was well qualified to moderate a panel on terrorism policy consisting of people who make up reality on a regular basis. To emphasize Limbaugh’s stature, Heritage Foundation Executive Vice President Phil Truluck introduced Limbaugh as "a real hero of the conservative movement and a true voice of reason."
Limbaugh began by blaming the "drive-by" media for constraining American interrogation techniques. He wanted to know what "24" taught us about how to act in the ticking time bomb scenario. He was told that in real life the ticking time bomb scenario does not occur and the panelists could not think of one instance in history in which it had occurred. That was the high point of the discussion. A discussion about fiction then became more and more disconnected from reality. The actors and writers protested that "24" was only a television show and not reality, but Limbaugh seemed to find hidden meaning in the "optimistic" plotlines of the show. He found that "24" portrayed America at its best and underscored the need for harsh interrogation techniques. In "24", America always wins in the War on Terror.
According to Limbaugh, the media is largely to blame for the negative impression of America around the world. He found solace and more "reality" in "24" than in real life. That, I have to say, is typical of the reality challenged crowd at the head of this Administration. Finding reality too difficult to cope with and slightly off script, they are content with basking in the fictional successes of shows like "24" in the War against Terror.
The thought that a discussion of a television show was being taken so seriously by conservatives, and the notion that it was more important for the Secretary of Homeland Security to attend this function than work on national security issues, underscores how far astray this Administration and its backers have gone from the thin thread of reality. Ironically, Jack Bauer, the person who most embodies what characters like Limbaugh consider reality, was absent from this gathering of conservatives and fictional characters. Apparently Kiefer Sutherland had more pressing things to do than Michael Chertoff on this particular day.