Interesting election. The Republican base is hoping like hell that George Bush means what he says, while the Democratic base is hoping like hell that John Kerry doesn’t. Deal with it.
Hitler had Jews and Communists, and Mr. Bush has Arabs and Islam, and either way it’s no great shakes to terrify the voters. Even without a $2 billion crapaganda machine, Mr. Bush wouldn’t have had any trouble forcing his opponent to accept his premises in arguing the issues. Mr. Kerry is stranded, left with nothing to advance himself except to say that he can do better than the incumbent. It’s a Grand Guignol auction in which each candidate boasts he can swat more of the buggers than the other one can. I hope our guy is lying.
Mr. Bush is running as the candidate on God’s ticket, which means that Mr. Kerry has to try to out-amen him. Mr. Bush says he’s going to stop these partial-birth abortions, and in this God-saturated atmosphere Mr. Kerry’s hand shoots up in the air as he shouts out, “Oh, yes Lord, save those baby girls and those baby boys!” As if the physicians of the United States were a night congregation of baby killers so committed to infanticide that a pregnant woman in a delivery room had best come armed with her pistol pointed at the OB-GYN, lest the doctor stab her baby with an icepick before it has even left the birth canal.
And in this God-heated election, John Kerry can’t say that the doctors of America are not a bunch of murderers, and that politico-religious fanatics should not be passing laws on how medicine must be practiced. Mr. Kerry has to go along. Deal with it.
To win, Mr. Kerry has to be God-intimidated, God-frightened into picking his way around those stem cells. In another country’s election, Mr. Kerry could look at Mr. Bush on the other side of the debate moderator and say, “Hey, it’s simple. It’s science versus superstition.” No, none of that. This one has to be finessed, too. Look grave and talk about the sanctity of the lives on the dish and in the tube. You lie when you have to, John, and we’ll deal with it.
Many a Kerry supporter is hoping against hope as he/she knocks on doors and mans phone banks that Mr. Bush is wrong, that Mr. Kerry did not make a slight swerve toward peace and a different foreign policy only because he saw Howard Dean in the rear-view mirror. But is that the lesson John Kerry took away from the crash site where Howard Dean’s charred remains were found?
The last President to give an Arab an even break was Dwight Eisenhower. He left office almost half a century ago and since then, Democrat or Republican, it has been pro-Israeli, anti-Arab and let’s go with the heavy ordnance. Howard Dean shouted “I Like Ike!” a few times and he was dead meat. Anyone running for President who is competitive stays in the race by talking about telling the truth to the American people, by talking about leveling with the American people, by talking about never lying to the American people, by talking about how he is going to take on the issues the American people care about. But if anyone does it, the Republicans will slit his throat faster than a terrorist can decapitate a truck driver. Deal with it.
George Bush signed the Patriot Act. John Kerry voted for it, and did he have a choice? Only one man in the Senate had the balls to vote against it—Russ Feingold, and now he is having the fight of his life to keep his seat. You do not vote against the Patriot Act and run for President. That’s it. Deal with it.
Regardless, the war goes on. Or the wars, plural, go on, for there are now so many Arab/Muslim organizations, each with their own (albeit overlapping) grievances, that you can’t say if we are engaged in a struggle with five entities or 50. For Mr. Bush, it’s the more, the merrier. And Mr. Kerry? He gets the pummeling, he’s the flip-flopping wuss who has to drag out medals won 35 years ago to prove he’s a man. He dare not say to Mr. Bush that 9/11 was the luckiest day in your second born-again life. He can’t hit back, and we have to deal with it.
He can’t say, “People, look at Israel and be warned—Bush is taking us down that same road.” He can’t get on the tube and tell them that Israel is soon to be a nation completely surrounded on its land side by an immense and forbidding wall replete with concertina wire, electronic sensors and gun emplacements. So there are the Israelis, having created a kind of shtetl/concentration camp for the Arabs, discovering they have built something close to the same for themselves, but with hot and cold running water and room service provided by imported blacks. When they leave the safety of the prison in which they hide, Israelis are subject to getting their throats slit—and as we have learned of late, that term is not a journalistic exaggeration.
In America, the feverish work of bricking ourselves in goes on night and day, and John Kerry has no choice but to fall back on the device of accusing George Bush of not building the wall around us high enough or stout enough. He looks across the country and sees a thousand things—pipelines, power plants, chemical factories, shipping containers, bridges—that George Bush has yet to post guards in front of. Mr. Kerry promises that if he gets in, the work of national immurement will be hastened. Deal with it.
Americans abroad, who are seen by more than a few Arabs as their chief tormentors, are open to the same risks and dangers as Israelis who venture outside their national fortress. The dangers are real. The Internet has brought us pictures of the sad and horrible deaths of American truck drivers and a Wall Street Journal reporter. New horrors are yet to come. Americans, thousands of miles from Iraq and personally unconnected to the festivities there, will be murdered, some in new and interesting ways. Not fair, not right, but just as we seem to make few distinctions between one Arab and the next, it is altogether probable that they return the favor. To stay in the race, Mr. Kerry’s response is to promise that he will press on harder, better, more effectively and more drastically than Mr. Bush. Deal with it.
Some Americans are having a hard time dealing with it—one of whom, most conspicuously, is New York Times writer Thomas Friedman. “We’re in trouble in Iraq,” he wrote. “I don’t know what is salvageable there anymore. I hope it is something decent and I am certain we have to try our best …. We have to immediately get the Democratic and Republican politics out of this policy and start honestly reassessing what is the maximum we can still achieve there and what every American is going to have to do to make it happen.”
What nearly every American is going to do is somewhere between little and nothing. Some will rally to Mr. Friedman’s call by war profiteering. More will be looking to get their next tax cut. A lot of them will affix a yellow-ribbon decal on their cars, the one that says “Support Our Troops,” though an American supporting his troops is indistinguishable from a donkey braying for oats—a brassy, spitty, screeching sound conveying nothing.
Performing hermeneutics on Mr. Friedman’s prose is chancy work, but I take it that his resentment at the Bush-Kerry failure at “putting our personal politics aside” is some form of buyer’s remorse. Maybe he’s obliquely kicking himself for being one of the lost battalion of credulous newsies who cheered on the war. That’s becoming rather the thing to do. Or he could be feeling betrayed because George Bush acted like George Bush instead of—what? A Quaker? A Democrat?
For myself, I will cross my fingers and toes, hope like hell that Mr. Kerry has been lying through his eye teeth and put an “X” next to his name. If John Kerry turns out not to have been royally misrepresenting himself, if he is shooting straight with the American people, well, deal with it … or don’t.