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Thursday, January 23, 2003

"It was opening us up to a broader knowledge of the situation"

During Campaign 2000, the press incorrectly reported Al Gore's comments about the Love Canal to such an extent that the high school kids who were there felt compelled to issue a press release entitled "Top ten reasons why many Concord High students feel betrayed by some of the media coverage of Al Gore's visit to their school."

Now, the campaign against Patty Murray's supposedly treasonous comments about Osama bin Laden to a senior honors class in Vancouver, Washington has been similarly exposed for the cynical manipulation it was. The students feel so strongly that the story was misrepresented that they also went to the media with a correction.

This seems to be a pattern.

Luckily for the future of the Republic, high school students have a far greater grasp of rational argument than right wing bloggers and Republicans do. It also appears that they are better able to understand the nuances of foreign policy than is the President of the United States. (But then, they are in a high school honors class so it's probably unfair to make a comparison to the cheerleader legacy frat boy...)

Class defends Murray remark

By Eric Stevick
Herald Writer

EVERETT -- For several days, seniors in an honors American government class at Cascade High School followed the public fury over comments Sen. Patty Murray made about Osama bin Laden to high school students in Vancouver.

Murray was criticized over the airwaves and in reader letters on editorial pages. Some called for a reprimand or censure.

All of which was a little hard for the Cascade students to comprehend.

Murray talked to their classroom in December just about the same time she made similar comments to students at Columbia River High School, according to a transcript. They didn't see how her comments could be construed to be sympathetic or supportive of the al-Qaida terrorist leader and the main suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.

The students considered writing their own letter to the editor but decided, instead, to take up their teacher's offer to give their perspective in person.

To them, Democrat Murray was merely explaining how bin Laden could gain support in the Middle East.

"She didn't make him up as some kind of humanitarian," Ann Topham said.

"A lot of people thought she was forgiving 9/11," Katie Kelley said. "She wasn't defending it at all."

"She was in no way glorifying him," Becca Reynolds said. "She was just showing us the side we didn't really see. ... It was opening us up to a broader knowledge of the situation."

That perspective was the fact that bin Laden strategically contributed to causes that helped gain public support in the Middle East, they said. Critics point to Murray's lack of proof of any bin Laden humanitarian activities.

"He sees how to use his money to tender favor ... so he could do what he wanted," Will Shepherd said.

Students in Mike Therrell's class were required to work a minimum of 25 hours last fall on political campaigns. Most worked on legislative campaigns, a few on congressional campaigns. Some worked for Republicans, others Democrats, a few for third-party candidates. Murray was not up for election when she visited the class.

"Patty Murray made it very clear that Osama bin Laden was a villain, and the things he was doing to ingratiate himself to the people he was not doing as an act of kindness," said Therrell, who has been teaching for 35 years. "His ulterior motive was very evil."

Perhaps I shouldn't complain too vigorously about this since these politically interested kids will all be able to vote in the next election. They still have some ideals, you see. They still naively believe that silly concepts like intellectual honesty matter.

After seeing the party of honor and integrity up-close and personal, it's quite likely they will vote Democratic.