It's easily twenty years - thirty, more like - since I saw the late Dr. Albert Sabin burst into tears on television and beg for forgiveness. When I tell his story to friends of mine in medicine, they go silent, and some have experienced profound changes of perspective.
Let's help Sean Hannity turn into Dr. Albert Sabin, if only for a moment.
Dr. Sabin was leading the research on the "live" version of polio vaccine, and stood bitterly and condescendingly against Dr. Jonas Salk's less-tested, more-risky "killed" version. When the manufacture of some of Salk's vaccine was butchered by a pharmaceutical company, Sabin helped get its use stopped, for months. Unknown numbers of kids became victims of polio, in part because Sabin insisted the production mistakes meant the Salk vaccine itself wasn't safe.
Years later, Sabin awoke with body-wide, sometimes paralyzing, intense pain. There was no diagnosis and no relief. Only years later, as Sabin recounted through tears, did the searing pain abate. He had totally misunderstood his job, he said. He had wasted his gifts. He had forgotten that the first task of the doctor is relief of pain. Cure, restoration, research - each was vital. But only when his own pain became the only thing in his life, did he understand what it meant to be a patient, and how wrong he had been during the most dramatic medical events of his life.
I'm not kidding myself here. Hannity doesn't have the material to work with, to manage a full-scale epiphany. To use an unkind phrase we use to bat back and forth at ESPN: No pain, no gain; no brain, no pain.
But his offer the other night to Chuck Grodin to 'prove' that waterboardng isn't torture by allowing it to be done to him, is too important to pass up, because of the image it will certainly produce. No matter what he says afterwards or how he tries to laugh it off, Hannity's certitude will be smashed by Hannity's natural, human panic.
He doesn't have to become Dr. Sabin for more than ten seconds. And many, maybe most, of his viewers, will join him in the collective post-waterboarding lie that he never feared for his life. Regardless, the impact will be sufficient. If it changes the minds of one percent of his supporters, it will have been worth it. And think about the vast numbers of people who have no idea who he is, or who I am, or what this site is, who will know only that a boastful man literally had reality forced upon him.
Thus last night I made my offer to Hannity. He told Chuck he'd do it for families of the troops, and he'd let Chuck do it (Grodin demurred). Those were his only conditions. I'll add a few:
Hannity may be waterboarded live on his show. All I require is that a trustworthy outside observer be present to make sure the waterboarding is a legitimate recreation of what we did to detainees. Chuck Grodin is perfectly acceptable, or Hannity may nominate an alternate, but I must approve the identity of the observer.
Hannity may instead be waterboarded on tape if he prefers. In that event, I require that at least one non-Fox camera crew be permitted access to record all events, along with a trustworthy outside observer. Again, Grodin will be fine.
Hannity must identify the charity or charities, organization or organizations, to which he wants the donation made, so I can verify in advance that the money will indeed get to the families of American troops. The organization cannot be sponsored by, nor affiliated with, Hannity or his employers.
I will donate $1,000 (one thousand dollars) for every second of water-boarding Hannity endures. We will start the clock the moment the first water is poured on him. The clock will stop when Hannity confesses or begins to shout or scream on a prolonged basis, or the medical supervisor determines he is danger of organ failure.
If Hannity admits afterwards he was afraid for his life and that waterboarding is indeed torture, I will double my total contribution.
And I will repeat this offer each night on Countdown until he agrees or declines.
UPDATE, 12:54 PM EDT: I think we're going to have to have a simulated interrogator there. And yes, he's going to have to admit to something instead of just saying "stop."
A simulated interrogator will have to be present and vocal, insisting Hannity confesses.
Unlike those we waterboarded, Hannity need only admit to something factual to get the waterboarding to stop. He may choose among: "Obama is not a socialist," "Waterboarding is torture," or something else mutually agreeable between us.
This was posted at DailyKos