Bill Maher, Malcolm Nance, and Andrew Sullivan on removing monuments

Speaking of tearing down statues, here are two people, foreign policy analyst and Malcolm Nance and Andrew Sullivan, having a brief discussion about which statues should be removed today’s political climate. Nance doesn’t strictly adhere to Maher’s time limits, and digresses quite a bit, but I generally agree with both guests.


  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 15, 2020 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    My answer will be much easier to understand. Just leave them alone. Who made you or anyone else moral judge of the dead.

    • Mark
      Posted September 15, 2020 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      “Who made you or anyone else moral judge of the dead(?)”

      So you’re saying there never should be monuments to them. Agreed.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted September 15, 2020 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        Your thinking is clever but wrong. The morality police are not how monuments are made, far as I know. They are proposed and created based on the life’s work or importance of the person during their time. They name a road or a school after someone based on their accomplishment. That is even true in some cases for the southern statues of generals. The problem with those are, they were the losers in the war. Just like their flag, it lost. So that is the reason they don’t belong. Why would you go around waving the flag of the place that lost?

        • Mark
          Posted September 15, 2020 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

          Their accomplishments, such as they were, must be, in effect, “morally good,” or there wouldn’t be any monuments to them in the first place.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted September 15, 2020 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

            You are simply bringing the woke or moral police into an issue that was not there until you or they decided to put it there. Forget about the morality of any of the founders. They still get things named after them or things built for them based on their accomplishments. Has nothing to do with morality. Before Washington or Jefferson was carved into Mt. Rushmore did anyone weight the pluses and minuses. Give me a break.

            • Mark
              Posted September 15, 2020 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

              The point is that there should never have been monuments in the US to any Confederate leaders. They were on the “wrong side” of American principals, morals, or whatever you want to call them.

              You get the last word because I don’t want to violate the “da rulz.”

        • jezgrove
          Posted September 15, 2020 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

          “Just like their flag, it lost. So that is the reason they don’t belong. Why would you go around waving the flag of the place that lost” – I guess it depends on your view of the cause that lost. If the UK had been defeated by Nazi Germany in WWII, presumably sooner or later some rebels might have rallied around the (admittedly dodgy and colonialist) Union Jack?

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted September 15, 2020 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

            There is nothing like describing something that never happened and then concluding that someone might have a flag? How about you give a few examples where it makes sense in reality to fly the loser’s flag. In this civil war it makes no sense but to convince others you are a racist.

            • jezgrove
              Posted September 16, 2020 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

              “The national flag of the Republic of the Congo (French: drapeau de la république du Congo) consists of a yellow diagonal band divided diagonally from the lower hoist-side corner, with a green upper triangle and red lower triangle. Adopted in 1959 to replace the French Tricolour, it was the flag of the Republic of the Congo until 1970, when the People’s Republic of the Congo was established. The new regime changed the flag to a red field with the coat of arms of the People’s Republic in the canton. This version was utilized until the regime collapsed in 1991. The new government promptly restored the original pre-1970 flag.” []

              I guess the losers got their flag back after a 21-year interval?

        • Posted September 16, 2020 at 5:25 am | Permalink

          Actually, the problem is that they were traitors to the United States. Not only where they traitors, but they fought for a rebellion that was trying to defend slavery.

          It’s a shame because some of them were pretty good generals. In military terms, Robert E Lee was one of the greatest (perhaps the greatest) generals the USA has ever produced. Unfortunately, he used his talents to kill American soldiers.

          Losing, on the other hand, is not such a bad thing in the right context. We often celebrate losers who do so in an apparently plucky manner: the defenders of the Alamo, the Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae, John Scopes and so on.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted September 16, 2020 at 10:29 am | Permalink

            We often celebrate losers …

            The new ’62 Mets (with their 40-120 record and Casey Stengel at the helm), and all the Cubs teams between 1908 and 2016 come readily to mind. 🙂

    • Historian
      Posted September 15, 2020 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Hitler’s dead. Idi Amin is dead. Saddaam Hussein is dead. Let’s keep their statues. Who are we to judge the dead? If Trump were to die today, I would expect you to immediately cease your unending moral judgment of him since he would now be dead.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted September 15, 2020 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        My unending moral judgment? I thought I was the one person not involved in the moral judgment? Whether the statues of Hitler or anyone else is to come down or stay is not any concern of mine. I thought I had made that clear. All the rest of you are in the business of morally judging all these people to take action on the statues, not I.

        • GBJames
          Posted September 19, 2020 at 11:23 am | Permalink

          Seems to me you very much are in the business. Here you are passing judgement on all those who care whether a hypothetical statue of Hitler should stand or fall.

    • eric
      Posted September 15, 2020 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      If it’s my county’s collective space, then it’s my county’s democratic government’s decision on what goes in that space, yes? After all, it’s not like artistic and decorative decisions made by the county government of 80 years ago get precedent over the county government of today.

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 15, 2020 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Props to Malcolm Nance from the get-go for “de-fornicate.”

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 15, 2020 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      And he’s right about Confederate statuary: It’s double un-good. First, it celebrates people whose primary “accomplishment” was fighting against the “permanent union” of united states created by our federal constitution and for the primary purpose of preserving slavery — an institution that was already recognized as immoral by most civilized people, not just a few of the period’s bien pensants.

      Second, many of the confederate statutes and monuments were erected not in honor of their celebratees’ accomplishments, but in defiance of the rights of former slaves and their progeny, many of them built as late as the Civil-Rights era, and most of those placed strategically in public spaces or as silent sentries to public buildings, including courthouses and polling places, as notice to the former slaves’ descendants that they would never enjoy the full rights of US citizenship, what was said to the contrary in the Civil War amendments to the US constitution and by the federal courts be damned.

      We don’t need to tear down this particularly wretched bit of history; but let us crate it up and ship it off to the museums and cemeteries where it belongs.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 15, 2020 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        “statues” not statutes.

        • jezgrove
          Posted September 15, 2020 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

          Too much time in law school?

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted September 15, 2020 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

            Too much time writing briefs and memoranda.

            You have no idea how many times I’ve made that same mistake with typing fingers on auto-pilot.

  3. Posted September 15, 2020 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Lucky we are not Italy. What would we do with all those statues of deranged emperors like Caligula and Nero?

  4. Historian
    Posted September 15, 2020 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I find it amusing and somewhat sad that Malcolm Nance seems to think that the Founders wrote the Constitution with the anticipation that later generations would correct its flaws. Even if some or most of them did think this, I doubt that they thought it would take a horrendous civil war to partially fix its biggest deficiency – the recognition of slavery.

    Nance is a member in good standing of the cult of the Constitution worshippers. People have fallen into the trap of falling for the tales of the national mythology. They can’t acknowledge what should be obvious to even the casual observer: the document was the result of a series of compromises between thirteen very different states with the goal of trying to unite them in allegiance to one government for the purpose of the common defense and national prosperity (at least for the ruling elites). This experiment was partially successful at best. What is often forgotten is that the Bill of Rights was not part of the original constitution, but ten amendments ratified a few years after the government was created.

    Since its ratification people have debated what many provisions of the document actually means. This goes on the present day. It has so many generalities that they can be interpreted almost anyway a person feels like. This is why the composition of the Supreme Court is so important. Many Constitution defenders seem to have forgotten that it was a total failure in prevent secession and civil war. I do not view the Civil War as any tribute to the effectiveness of the document. Since then the country has limped along to the present day with its system of government once again under threat. During the past century other countries have developed sturdy democratic systems that are quite different than ours. The Constitution was not a model for them. They seem to like parliamentary systems.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 15, 2020 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      Nance isn’t a historian; he’s a retired chief petty officer in the Navy and former intelligence operative.

      Those are careers that are unlikely to engender nuanced views of the US founding (or in which, perhaps, fostering such views is particularly helpful).

      • Filippo
        Posted September 16, 2020 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

        Nance specifically says that he is a big fan of George Washington. IIRC, Washington paid for an ad in a newspaper seeking information about the whereabouts of a runaway female slave. Washington referred to her as being “ungrateful.”

    • savage
      Posted September 15, 2020 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

      His take on Washington is also odd, for what it’s worth. He wasn’t quite the idealist who would not tell a lie. The war he helped to fight lasted 8 years and ended with the expulsion of his political opponents. After he became president, he allowed his well-connected federalist supporters to get rich by ripping off the soldiers who had fought his wars over the national debt. He then had to violently suppress the Whiskey rebellion which was ironically about too much taxation.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted September 16, 2020 at 10:24 am | Permalink

        Say what you will about George, but he was all about uniting the country, and had a physical plan for how to bring that about, which I wasn’t aware of until reading this excellent book.

        And coincidentally, my front porch literally looks across the street to the Pennsylvania historical marker to the Whiskey Rebellion.

  5. rickflick
    Posted September 15, 2020 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    I like Sullivan’s take.

  6. Max Blancke
    Posted September 15, 2020 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    I am going to restate my strong view that once we have turned the conversation to which statues and monuments should be toppled or removed, we have already lost.

    The conversation should be about whether we are or are not the sort of people who topple monuments to those who have fallen from favor due to new trends in moral perfection.

    The exception might be if new and unambiguous information about a person is uncovered. Perhaps if during a White House renovation, the found Hoover’s secret kiddie dungeon.
    But that is not what is happening. People are actively looking for ever more tenuous reasons why this or that must be destroyed or hidden from view.
    I still have heard no convincing argument that smashing any or all of the monuments is going to improve anyone’s life.

    If we don’t find a way to stop this, they will move on from monuments to museum collections, and of course to libraries. If history is any guide, they will eventually move on to undesirable groups of people. Taken to the logical conclusion, eventually the last two leftists,in the ruins of what used to be civilization, trying to denounce each other

    • savage
      Posted September 15, 2020 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      The main reason for the removal of statues is ethnic hatred and resentment. This will not stop until there are no whites left.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 15, 2020 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

        This will not stop until there are no whites left.

        Holy shit, really? In that case I guess, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children,” huh?

        Sure hope that was your misbegotten, hyperbolic stab at satire.

        • rickflick
          Posted September 15, 2020 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

          No probably not satire. I’m thinking, pure tRump supporter. Racist, xenophobic, under educated, white supremacist, anti-abortion, misogynistic, NRA membership, good citizen. Well, maybe not all of that, but some.

          • Hempenstein
            Posted September 16, 2020 at 10:26 am | Permalink

            If savage is who I think he is, (D) is incorrect.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted September 16, 2020 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

              You think “savage” is a sock puppet for one of the site’s previous trolls?

              • Hempenstein
                Posted September 16, 2020 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

                Nope. (Fro now, I should probably leave it at that.)

    • eric
      Posted September 15, 2020 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      If we don’t find a way to stop this, they will move on from monuments to museum collections, and of course to libraries.

      I’m very skeptical about that slippery slope argument, based on real life treatments of civil war statuary. Specifically, AFAIK no one demanded they be melted down or destroyed, just moved off prominent, public spaces. IOW it’s the ‘implication of state endorsement’ that’s being challenged, not the physical existence of the statues themselves. Libraries and museums are generally not interpreted as endorsing the opinions given in their exhibits/materials, so that’s just a nonissue for them.

      Sure, that won’t stop people from complaining that book x should be banned, since they already do that. But libraries have been winning that fight for decades.

      • max blancke
        Posted September 15, 2020 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

        An optimist might believe that there is a natural stopping point, where the activists will decide that they have achieved their goals, stop their protests, and go home. I don’t think past movements or observation of the present one present any evidence of that happening. Part of that is because they don’t really care about today’s targets for destruction. They seem drawn to the process itself.

        Fram a news story a few days ago-

        “…the museum would undertake a review of room names, statues and collections that ‘could potentially cause offence’.
        The executive board of the Natural History museum is said to be ‘very engaged’ with the issue and circulated an academic paper to staff which claimed ‘science, racism, and colonial power were inherently entwined’.”

        The following was written by a Toronto librarian, but it seems to not be an uncommon sentiment-

        “I really see libraries as a space for social justice activism, as a space that is inherently not neutral. Libraries are inherently political. But I think we delude ourselves with these ideas of objectivity and neutrality that do harm to our communities.”

        I have a sister visiting later in the week who is a museum curator and conservator. I will see what she thinks about this.

  7. Posted September 16, 2020 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    Iconoclasts v image worshippers – it is an age-old argument!

  8. Posted September 16, 2020 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    This is one of those odd coincidences.

    A new bronze statue to Melania Trump has been raised in Slovenia after the previous wooden one was razed.

    Hopefully there’s an inscription because the likeness is somewhat approximate.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 16, 2020 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      I’ma hazard a wild guess Melania ain’t diggin’ that look.

      Some Slovenian she is; bet she never even cooks Klobasa for the Donald. 🙂

  9. sugould
    Posted September 17, 2020 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Presumably the artist liked Melania?
    There must have been a plaque explaining who she was and why she should be so “honored,” as it would be hard to tell who it was. (I would have guessed Jesus.)

    Betting a Melania supporter hired the hit job on that dubious statue.

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