The blogosphere is all abuzz with Rick Santelli again. Seems he got into one of those trademarked shouting matches on CNBC -- your source for trademarked shouting matches -- with Steve Liesman, as is his wont. And during that shouting match -- which was over whether it was right or wrong for Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis to disclose the details of BofA's acquisition of Merrill Lynch -- Santelli shouted at Liesman, "Don't open your mouth and say dumb things." This is ha-ha funny because, of course, Rick Santelli is best known to the world for opening his mouth and saying dumb things.
BUT! Here comes one of those patented contrarian views of mine, that angries up the commentariat! Sure, I think Liesman, in advancing the argument that Lewis, agreeing under pressure from Henry Paulson to not disclose the details of the acquisition was actually an instance of "saving the world" (i.e. preventing further systemic failures in the financial system), is doing little more than offering up a point of debate -- not outright advocacy -- and maybe wasn't prepared for Santelli to come at his throat the way he does. Nevertheless, I like what Santelli is saying here, ever so much:
"I think what really hit my button was the whole notion that should somebody of high authority tell you to go against something clearly borderline illegal, if not totally illegal - to go along with it because there's a crisis, I don't think that's an excuse," Santelli said. "It shouldn't be an excuse and I hope that we all learn something from 'Frost and Nixon.'"
What an extraordinary principle to hear advanced on the teevee! Crisis -- no matter how severe -- does not provide the justification to break the law, even when the looming figures of authority tell you that it's okay. Write that down! Memorize it! Sew it on a cross stitch and hang it above your kitchen table!
And the next time someone takes up the matter of, say, torture? Or telecom immunity where warrantless wiretapping is concerned? LET'S APPLY IT.