The Eagle story included this gem from David Halberstam’s commencement address.

And in light of recent events, he said it is important to live joyously. “Do not live fearfully, whether from the threat of terrorists from abroad or from the edicts of those powerful fellow citizens who think that they alone can determine what true patriotism is, and how you should behave as a citizen,” he said, to a round of applause.

Great. Perhaps it isn’t classic moral equivalence to imply that today’s Ephs have about as much to fear from cold-blooded killers as they do from, say, John Ashcroft, but it sure seems stupid. It wasn’t their “powerful fellow citizens” who killed 5 innocent Ephs and thousands of others on September 11.

Recall the debates from 20 years ago:

There is no more misleading concept abroad today than this concept of superpower rivalry and the concept of superpower equivalence. The concept of superpower rivalry is the first premise in a syllogism in which moral equivalence is the conclusion. Once you view the United States and the Soviet Union as contending for the world, you have already suggested a symmetry between their goals: to dominate the world.

Halberstam is, thankfully, not claiming that George Bush and Osama Bin Laden are morally equivalent. But to even suggest that members of the class of 2004 should worry about people with views about how American citizens “should behave” to the same extent that they worry about future terrorist activity is ludicrous.

What makes this especially rich is that Halberstam is precisely a “powerful” citizen — or at least a rich and famous one — with strong views on how the Ephs “should behave.” In fact, his entire speech has been devoted to telling the graduates what they should do!

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