September 5, 2004 - August 29, 2004
Friday, September 03, 2004
THE UNKINDEST CUTS
After a Republican Convention in which no one attacked John Kerry's
service record or mentioned the Swift Boat Veterans, the Democrats are
boiling mad at the opposition for daring to mention Kerry's voting
record in the senate. Any kind of criticism of the Democratic nominee
is immediately construed as an attack on his patriotism. That's why
Kerry and John-Boy felt obliged to commit the extraordinary rudeness of
staging what amounted to a nomination-speech rebuttal moments after
President Bush left the dais. Did the Prickly Pair respond point by
point to the programs and policies laid out in the President's speech?
No. There was no sign that they had even read it. Rather, they wanted
to demonstrate their superiority to the Republican smear machine by
smearing George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. In a midnight rally
so hysterically vicious in tone that it seemed to lack only a burning
cross to complete the scene, Kerry railed:
"For the past week, they attacked my
patriotism and my fitness to serve as commander-in-chief," he said.
"Well, here's my answer. I'm not going to
have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who
refused to serve when they could have and by those who have misled the
nation into Iraq," he said. "The vice president even called me unfit
for office last night. I'm guess I'll leave it up to the voters whether
five deferments makes someone more qualified to defend this nation than
two tours of combat duty."
Of course, nobody attacked his patriotism, despite unethical
statements to that effect by the mainstream media. The two speeches
most directly critical of Kerry -- Zell Miller's and Dick Cheney's --
expressly praised his military service and acknowledged his patriotism.
That they challenged his fitness to serve as commander-in-chief is
clearly not a personal attack, but a legitimate political argument
grounded in the senate voting record no one is supposed to speak of.
With mounting rage, Kerry continued his rant.
"Let me tell you what I think makes
someone unfit for duty," he said. "Misleading our nation into war in
Iraq makes you unfit to lead this nation. Doing nothing while this
nation loses millions of jobs makes you unfit to lead this nation.
"Letting 45 million Americans go without
health care makes you unfit to lead this nation. Letting the Saudi
royal family control our energy costs makes you unfit. Handing out
billions of government contracts to Halliburton while you're still on
their payroll makes you unfit. That's the record of George Bush and
"It's been an amazing thing to watch the
Republican Convention for the last week. I've come to the conclusion
they'll say just about anything, won't they?"
Now isn't that an amazing statement to pop from the mouth of someone
who had just uttered more unsubstantiated slander than all the speakers
at the Republican Convention put together? "Say anything" is going to
be the unifying strategy of
the Kerry campaign and its mainstream media whores from here to the
The first shots of the new strategy were already being fired in this
morning's edition of the New York Times. Senior Op-ED Whore Frank Rich
opened his column with the following:
Only in an election year ruled by fiction
could a sissy who used Daddy's connections to escape Vietnam turn an
actual war hero into a girlie-man.
Oh really, Frank? A fighter pilot is a sissy? If weren't so obvious
that you don't care about facts,
it would be wise for you to check them. However, the strategy is "say
anything" and he proceeds to do just that:
Though pundits said that Republicans
pushed moderates center stage this week to placate suburban swing
voters, the real point was less to soften the president's Draconian
image on abortion than to harden his manly bona fides. Hence Bush was
fronted by a testosterone-heavy lineup led by a former mayor who did
not dally to read a children's book on 9/11, a senator who served in
the Hanoi Hilton rather than the "champagne unit" of the Texas Air
National Guard and a governor who can play the role of a warrior on
screen more convincingly than can a former Andover cheerleader
gallivanting on an aircraft carrier.
Sounds like fighting words to me. Anyone else wondering what sort of
credentials give Frank Rich the right to bray about "sissies" and
"Andover cheerleaders"? Here's a clue:
In October 1998, Random House published
Rich's latest book, "Hot Seat: Theater Criticism for The New York
Times, 1980-1993." In 1987, Rich co-wrote "The Theatre Art of Boris
Aronson" with Lisa Aronson.
Previously, Rich was a film and
television critic for Time magazine. He was also a film critic for the
New York Post and film critic and senior editor of New Times magazine.
Rich was a founding editor of the Richmond (Va.) Mercury weekly
newspaper. In addition, Rich has written about culture and politics for
publications including The New Republic, Esquire and The Washington
Rich graduated magna cum laude from
Harvard University in 1971 with a B.A. in American History and
Literature. While in school, Rich was editorial chairman of The Harvard
Crimson, an honorary Harvard College scholar, and the recipient of a
Henry Russell Shaw Traveling Fellowship. He is a Phi Beta Kappa.
So he's a theater critic. There's a notoriously courageous group of
men. Did any of you discover any mention of military service in these
paragraphs? No, I didn't either. Even if he had a student deferment
(odds anyone?), he would still have had time to enlist after graduating
from Harvard. But that didn't happen. He was editorial chair of the
Harvard Crimson, a newspaper that in those days was slightly to the
left of the Hanoi Daily News. Perhaps Mr. Rich fancies his
apprenticeship writing bucketloads of anti-war propaganda as a tour of
duty in "The Revolution." Otherwise, we'd have to posit that a person
who has not served in the military has no right to call someone who did
a "sissy." If it weren't so unfair, I'd make a remark about the picture
in his bio, but I won't -- just because someone looks like a sissy theater critic
doesn't mean he is one. I'll give him a pass on that.
But it's "say anything" season, and all the Bush faithful out there
better hadn't get too complacent about short term good news like the
Magazine Poll. Even before there was any certain proof that Bush
was acquiring a meaningful lead, the Democrat Gorgon Susan
Estrich had actually documented the "say anything" strategy. She is
careful to establish the superior Democrat morality before she gets
down to brass tacks:
The trouble with Democrats,
traditionally, is that we're not mean enough. Dukakis wasn't. I wasn't.
I don't particularly like destroying people.
Not mean enough? Who has spent the past year calling the President a
1) deserter, 2) a liar, 3) a betrayer of his country, and 4) a possible
traitor who might have known about 9/11 in advance. Try 1) Terry
McAuliffe, 2) every Democrat but Joe Libermann and Zell Miller, 3) Al
Gore, and 5) Howard Dean.
Except that I haven't gotten to Susan's real point yet. She should have
italicized the "enough." You see, she's prepared to go all the way this time:
I'm not promising pretty.
What will it be?
Will it be the three, or is it four or five, drunken driving arrests
that Bush and Cheney, the two most powerful men in the world, managed
to rack up? (Bush's Texas record has been sealed. Now why would that
be? Who seals a perfect driving record?)
After Vietnam, nothing is ancient history, and Cheney is still
drinking. What their records suggest is not only a serious problem with
alcoholism, which Bush but not Cheney has acknowledged, but also an
even more serious problem of judgment. Could Dick Cheney get a license
to drive a school bus with his record of drunken driving? (I can see
the ad now.) A job at a nuclear power plant? Is any alcoholic ever
really cured? So why put him in the most stressful job in the world,
with a war going south, a thousand Americans already dead and control
of weapons capable of destroying the world at his fingertips.
It has been said that in the worst of times, Kissinger gave orders to
the military not to obey Nixon if he ordered a first strike. What if
Bush were to fall off the wagon? Then what? Has America really faced
the fact that we have an alcoholic as our president?
Or how about Dead Texans for Truth, highlighting those who served in
Vietnam instead of the privileged draft-dodging president, and ended up
as names on the wall instead of members of the Air National Guard. I'm
sure there are some mothers out there who are still mourning their
sons, and never made that connection. It wouldn't be so hard to find
Or maybe it will be Texas National Guardsmen for Truth, who can explain
exactly what George W. Bush was doing while John Kerry was putting his
life on the line. So far, all W. can do is come up with dental records
to prove that he met his obligations. Perhaps with money on the table,
or investigators on their trail, we will learn just what kind of wild
and crazy things the president was doing while Kerry was saving a man's
life, facing enemy fire and serving his country.
Or could it be George Bush's Former Female Friends for Truth. A
forthcoming book by Kitty Kelly raises questions about whether the
president has practiced what he preaches on the issue of abortion. As
Larry Flynt discovered, a million dollars loosens lips. Are there
others to be loosened?
But all this is acceptable because George Bush 41 played hardball
with Dukakis 16 years ago and short-circuited Susan's White House
career. A kind eye might see her as simply wanting to win. A sterner
eye might see her as a frustrated bitch consumed by a personal -- and
not terribly liberal -- desire for revenge. Here are her closing words.
What do you think?
The arrogant little Republican boys who
have been strutting around New York this week, claiming that they have
this one won, would do well to take a step back. It could be a long and
ugly road to November.
To me it sounds like Frank Rich isn't the only Democrat with a
At any rate, be prepared, all you Bush supporters. It's
going to get unspeakably vile out there. Stiffen your backbones and
brace for the onslaught to come.
Yesterday, InstaPunk sent an email to Andrew Sullivan suggesting he
end his personal torture by declaring his support for John Kerry. It
seems he took the advice. After a reasonably even-handed review of the
President's speech, he closed his daily blog this way:
I will add one thing more. And that is
the personal sadness I feel that this president who praises freedom
wishes to take it away from a whole group of Americans who might
otherwise support many parts of his agenda. To see the second family
tableau with one family member missing because of her sexual
orientation pains me to the core. And the president made it clear that
discriminating against gay people, keeping them from full civic dignity
and equality, is now a core value for him and his party. The opposite
is a core value for me. Some things you can trade away. Some things you
can compromise on. Some things you can give any politician a pass on.
But there are other values - of basic human dignity and equality - that
cannot be sacrificed without losing your integrity itself. That's why,
despite my deep admiration for some of what this president has done to
defeat terror, and my affection for him as a human being, I cannot
support his candidacy. Not only would I be abandoning the small
government conservatism I hold dear, and the hope of freedom at home as
well as abroad, I would be betraying the people I love. And that I
InstaPunk is glad to have been of service at this difficult time.
Maybe Mr. Sullivan will be able to calm down a bit now.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
of the pictures above is of a bird of prey. Guess which.
IN TIME OF WAR
seems like the Democrats and Andrew Sullivan are pretty upset about
Zell Miller's speech
last night. They're calling him hateful
I suppose if anyone's going to confuse anger with hatred, it would be
that lot. They see hatred everywhere because it's about the only
emotion they're capable of feeling anymore. Zell also seems to be
leading by example in following up his rhetorical attack with a
personal confrontation: his lambasting of Chris
is all over the net. Wondering if he would like his
supporters to do the same for him, I found myself tempted in that
direction by Sullivan's outrageous over-reaction to the speech and, for
that matter, all the doings at the Republican convention. Every speech,
every interview seems to send him farther off the deep end. You can
browse his blog here
. I was
finally deciding to shrug and leave him to his not inconsiderable
(apparently) personal demons when I came across a paragraph of his Zell
Miller review that began, "I'm not easy to offend, but this speech was gob-smackingly vile."
That was the tipping point. I wrote him an email.
Not easy to offend? Read your own blog
entries of the past few days. Everything offends you. And you appear to
be half-blind. The kind of policy discussion you want to occur within
the Republican party cannot occur because of the circumstance Zell
Miller is so "vile"-ly angry about: the Democrats have turned politics
into total war against the President of the United States. Republicans
have had to close ranks and suppress even their own internal dissent
for the sake of survival. What part about this don't you get? Your
wistful yearnings toward John Kerry have made you touchy, ham-handed
and thick-headed. Zell's rhetoric was mild compared to what the
Democratic convention speakers would have spewed forth if they hadn't
been sternly disciplined into concealing the irrational fury and hatred
that has eaten their minds and hearts in the years since November 2000.
Your constant outrage at things Republican has become a threadbare
cloak for your emotional bent: Announce for Kerry. Go ahead. All this
agonizing and rationalization is going to damage your health.
Then I signed it and sent it. Hateful? No. Angry? Maybe just a little.
Anyone else feel tempted to write a pundit?
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Sometimes men really are as stupid as women tend to think they are.
This is especially true when men try to understand things that are
principally intended for women. I've spent most of the day reviewing
blog reactions to last night's convention speakers, something I
normally don't do. What got me started was the (to me) puzzling
reaction of Brit Hume's panel to the performances of the Twins and the
First Lady. Fred Barnes, Mort Kondracke, and Mara Liason were mostly
faint in their praise of Laura Bush and from mildly to severely
critical of the girls. Only Chris Wallace -- memorable for his
immediate pan of Teresa Heinz-Kerry's speech -- continued to bolster my
respect for his acumen by praising both. I was curious to see what the
rest of the geniuses out there had to say, hence the hours of blogging.
Mostly, the bloggers and columnists agree with Fred and Mort. The Twins
were terrible, an embarrasment, "cringe-inducing," a Republican
mistake. Laura Bush was solid and likable but a letdown after Arnold
and far from a homerun. These views are represented to one degree or
another by such normally acute observers as Jonah Goldberg, Roger L.
Simon, Glenn Reynolds, and many many more bloggers and blog-responders.
Mostly men, of course. And there's the rub. They weren't the target
audience and they're not quite imaginative enough (at least today) to
understand what they witnessed. Bush's weakest major demographic is
women. All of the months of Democrat demonizing of Bush have taken
their toll with women, who may be great at trusting their own instincts
but are also prone to believing gossip, especially oft-repeated gossip.
What have they been hearing from the malicious Democrat grapevine? That
Bush lied. That he recklessly went to war and continues to seek out
opportunities to put the lives of American youngsters at risk on the
battlefield. That he's a spoiled power-elite rich kid with an
irresponsible past and a tendency to let others do the hard work for
him. That he's a whacked-out fundamentalist Christian. That the
"compassionate conservative" of the first campaign was a sham and a
disguise for the rabid right-wing ideologue underneath. That he is
somehow sinister, conspiratorial, and not to be trusted.
Last night, the Twins and Laura Bush blew all of that claptrap out of
the water for millions of American women who aren't going to be
persuaded by the logic or factual arguments of John McCain and Rudy
Giuliani. The Twins are clearly not
the spawn of some dynastic clan which sits at table with the
Illuminati. They are just like millions of other American girls their
age -- awkward, corny, goofy, a bit lascivious, intentionally
disrespectful, and full-time flirtatious. But they also evidently love
their parents, both of them, and their performance was not the one we
would have expected if they had a cold and distant father for whom they
were doing a public family duty. Who would make sex jokes at a party
convention if you had the kind of dad who was going to land on you like
a ton of bricks afterwards? The Twins were a HUGE plus for George W.
As to the First Lady, I can't even begin to understand how so much
pundit brainpower could fail to perceive the immense impact of her
speech. She was, by her mere presence, an eloquent and elegant takedown
of the pretensions of Teresa Heinz-Kerry. Mrs. Bush is mannerly,
intelligent, warm, and modest, yet confident and beautifully clear
eyed. Her smile is the kind that delights both the spouse and the
children. She is the kind of woman that women like (unlike
Heinz-Kerry), which is far less common than most men understand. Women
who look at her kno
w that she
is good and strong, and they know
that she really does love and admire her husband. Therefore, they know
that he must possess sufficient virtue to have earned that love and
admiration. Her low-key descriptions of her husband walking in the
garden, wrestling with issues of war and terror, cannot be contrived. A
false word would cloud such pure eyes and diminish the beautiful smile.
She is a completely genuine person, and by her association with George
W. Bush, she washes away from him much of the dung that has been
slopped on him. Her speech may be the single most important one of the
convention. It was a grand-slam homerun -- with her two daughters and
husband on base..
To those who think it presumptuous for a man to speak so confidently on
such matters I will say only that I have made a determined effort, over
many years, to understand the deep differences between men and women. I
have done so during an epoch when such differences have been dismissed
as politically incorrect nonsense or twisted into pro-feminist
propaganda (the only permitted sex differences are those which favor
women; e.g., the nicer, more perceptive, more cooperative spiel). I
have used my conclusions many times to make fun of feminism, female
mental processes, and women generally. Now there is a positive use for
what I've learned, and I offer it in all humility. But if you suspect
that I am wrong, search the Internet for reviews of the Twins and their
Mother by female pundits. If you read carefully past the partisan
posturing, you will discover that I am right about this. Even fanatical
Democratic women are going to have a hard time criticizing Laura Bush,
and if they seem to underrate her impact on voters, look for the fear
behind the words.
George W. Bush's wife is the most potent weapon in his arsenal.
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Showdown in the
Communists for Kerry versus
Billionaires for Bush
RETURN OF THE IDEALISTS
Sure, we could talk about important things, such as the big
speeches by John McCain (good) and Rudy Giuliani (better), but USA
Today has hired
to analyze those for us, so why engage in superfluous
chit-chat? Besides, it looks like the real action at the Republican
Convention is happening outside Madison Square Garden, where a hundred
thousand (give or take a few) mostly unwashed and unkempt young
deadbeats are acting out their hatred of George W. Bush in a kind of
mass tantrum. Absolutely nothing they do or say is important unless a
handful of anarchists succeeds in committing an act of real violence,
like the burning of a float that reportedly occurred yesterday.
Otherwise, they couldn't be any more dreary to look at -- in person or
in photos -- a near exact reproduction of the loutish hippie-radicals
of John Kerry's salad days. The attire is a throwback to the sixties,
as are the signs and slogans, many of which are frankly plagiarized
from the decades-old signage of SDS. Their demeanour is equally
derivative, hostile to clean-looking strangers, loud and laden with
obscenities. An old, tired, drab and humorless imitation of the drab
and humorless original.
But there are exceptions, which we note with pleasure. At least three
smallish groups we know of have dared to inject the exhausted protest
tradition with a sense of fun and satire. All three are present for the
festivities in New York. All three have websites. They are the
Billionaires for Bush
(BFB), Communists for Kerry
(CFK), and the
right-wing group with ties to CFK. In the
website competition, the right-wing groups appear to have less funding
but funnier art
for sale. The BFB site is
slicker, better written (spelling counts, boys, even on the righthand
side of the aisle), but its attempts at spoofing the news
with too much detail, as if the liberal mentality can't resist trying
to instruct its readers even if humor escapes in the process.
Yet if press accounts are to be trusted (I know, I know), when it comes
to live demonstrations, BFB has crafted a witty and highly entertaining
approach to conveying its ideas to the public. A writer named Emma
Chastain observed a confrontation between BFB and CFK in New York the
other day and offered a kind of review in the New
As Sunday's protest march approached
the Flatiron Building, right-wingers dressed as left-wingers screamed
at left-wingers dressed as right-wingers--while staying in
character--to the delight of the marchers passing by. As a billionaire
might say, "It was too meta, darling!"
Billionaires for Bush, a merry band of
pranksters, aims to undermine
the right wing by impersonating its cruelest and greediest members.
Communists for Kerry, which hopes to be the Billionaires' bęte
satirizes the left by advocating a ban of the GOP and Christianity.
Both groups trade in irony. But only one has been to charm school.
According to Ms. Chastain, the BFB crew stayed superbly in character,
with light-hearted and spontaneous responses to their environs:
was hot and muggy, but the
Billionaires were unfazed. Men wore
wool blazers, hats, and velveteen smoking jackets. A few members wore
head-to-toe seersucker. The women wore satin gloves and cupcake ball
gowns; some were brave enough to march in high heels....
As the Billionaires began their march down Fifth Avenue, they smiled
and chanted, "Four more wars! Four more wars!" "Reappoint Bush!" and
"Hands off Halliburton!" At posh landmarks, witty remarks were made and
picked up by the rest of the marchers. Trump Tower appeared on the
left, and someone cheered, "Trump--one of us!"... A van full of cops crawled alongside the
protest, its passengers grinning and waving. "Thank you for working
without a contract!" one billionaire said to an amused policeman. "Move
it along," said a cop, "no one's making money standing still." "We make
money standing still!" protested a Billionaire.
The CFK contingent, on the other hand, did not rise to the occasion of
encountering the BFBs.
tainted the fizzy
atmosphere of the march when the
Billionaires collided with Communists for Kerry. The Communists wore
great outfits--red shirts, clumping boots, and fake beards--but their
satire lacked punch. The wittiest they could manage: "Foreign Policy?
Ask France First." The Communists, unlike the Billionaires, haven't
figured out that people will willingly listen to any message, even one
they disagree with, as long as it is delivered through smiling lips.
Unlike the effervescent Billionaires, they tried to get laughs by
shouting angrily and insulting their audience, a tactic the most
amateur comedian at Caroline's knows to avoid. "Bush-haters of the
world, unite!" bellowed the Commies, and "Viva la revolución!"
Still, Ms. Chastain acknowledged that the CFKs had the tougher role to
majority of Sunday's crowd...
was less interested in
observing faux Fidel Castros than in chuckling at a passing Billionaire
who remarked, "It's all about trickle down. I overtipped my sommelier
last night." By the time the Billionaires broke into choruses of, "Let
them bow, let them scrape / Let them peel us all a grape / The election
is paid for by us," the Communists for Kerry had clearly been bested.
Their unequivocal defeat suggests that a decades-old piece of
conventional wisdom about American politics--that the left takes itself
too seriously and that the right is better at projecting sunny good
humor--holds even when left and right are being played by each other.
Another problem for the CFKs is that their true mission is to serve as
an unsettling mirror for more traditional leftist protesters. In
future, the organization might benefit from carrying a few signs and
wisecracks aimed directly at the billionaires. "Greetings from the
politburo to our generous comrade Ms. Heinz-Kerry." "Please convey our
socialist good wishes to our ally George Soros." "Where is our great
partner in revolution Marc Rich?" And even neo-communists should be
able to remember that icons like Fidel love to rub shoulders with rich
and famous Americans who come to bow and scrape before him. Fidel
should be delighted to see a whole troupe of leftist billionaires. Good
manners need never be dispensed with. The Kremlin in the glory days of
Soviet communism was fully capable of high hospitality and politesse
when entertaining American politicians, diplomats, and, yes,
billionaires (See the career of Armand
Practice makes perfect. No doubt the CFKs will do better in their next
encounter. Revolutions aren't won overnight, you know.
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