Critic Works "Extreme" Patriot Act Criticism Into Review of Oppenheimer Doc

On Monday, Times television critic Mike Hale reviewed "The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer," a PBS documentary onthe enigmatic father of the hydrogen bomb that aired Monday night. But Hale read more into the story than was shown on the screen, finding a liberal parable for our times:

While the documentary never draws the parallels, it seems likely that we're meant to see connections between Oppenheimer's story and our own recent past. The hysteria that follows the Soviet Union's explosion of a hydrogen bomb in 1953 looks an awful lot like the panic after the Sept. 11 attacks. And the more extreme features of the Patriot Act may come to mind when witnessing some of the tactics used in the campaign to smear Oppenheimer and remove him - and his qualms about the H-bomb - from an active role in decisions about atomic strategy.

Hale is reticent about those "extreme features" of the Patriot Act that came to his mind, though such parallels would have strengthened his argument - that is, if such parallels actually existed outside the fevered mindset of one liberal reporter.

This isn't the first time Hale has worked in liberal politics into one of his documentary reviews. Here's what he said in April 2008 about a Frontline documentary on health care, "Sick Around the World."

This fast-moving and entertaining hour starts from the premise that the American health care system, with its high costs, multiple gatekeepers and failure to provide insurance for much of the population, is a failure. And Mr. Reid makes the case (in about 10 minutes per country) that other capitalist democracies have not just cheaper and more equally available health care, but also better care over all, with longer life expectancies and lower infant mortality rates.