Is it, or ought it to be, a legitimate plea in defense of rude or boorish or insulting behavior that it is what the rude or boorish or insulting person “really thinks”? Not many years since, I fancy, no one would seriously have maintained that it was. Even today, we are if anything overly sensitive about giving offense to the amour propre of people who are fat or unattractive or stupid or lacking in good taste or good manners. Yet somehow manners themselves have learned to look with indulgence upon the most appalling imputations, so long as they are or can claim to be sincerely believed, against the character, honor, or veracity of people who were once thought to be owed a certain degree of respect and even deference—the President of the United States, say.

True, there were some protests when Congressmen David Bonior and Jim McDermott, speaking from Baghdad, said on “This Week” with George...


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