A couple weeks ago, I was listening to NPR while driving Cosmo the Wonderdog to a faraway park (Cosmo often feels the need to harass squirrels in foreign territory). At the end of a segment on something or other, an announcer intoned: “This portion of NPR has been brought to you by the parents of Timmy Johnson in celebration of his eleventh birthday.”
I am not making this up.
So: Somewhere out there, in the Washington metropolitan area, there are parents who think their eleven-year old kid will be psyched about getting a slice of Morning Edition with his name on it for a birthday present. Perhaps they envisioned a schoolyard conversation like this:
“What did you get for your birthday, Eddie?”
“I got an awesome new video game, ‘Death Ninjas IV: This Time It’s Personal.’ It’s so cool — you can remove an enemy’s spleen and then a sushi chef comes out and prepares it wrapped in seaweed with a slice of ginger! It really desensitizes you to the violence. What did you get?”
“Well, my parents sponsored a portion of NPR in my name. For a brief moment in time, I’ll be associated with the trenchant reportage of Alex Chadwick and the incisive analysis of Daniel Schorr.”
“Wow; so cool.”
Forget sending in special forces to retrieve Osama bin Laden — let’s throw a stun grenade into whatever sunken-bookshelf suburban cave little Timmy lives in and evacuate the poor kid to a Toys “R” Us.
The only thing more frightening is the possibility that Timmy’s parents were right, and their kid is psyched by his birthday present. If that’s true, just wait a decade or so and he’ll be a rising star at The American Prospect.
Now, I bring this up for a few reasons. A) I think it’s damn funny. B) I’ve spent the last 24 hours digging out from under hundreds of e-mails responding to my column on Cynthia McKinney, and another pile from subscribers to CAIR’s (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) e-mail alerts — they recently denounced me as a defamer of Islam — and I’m trying to keep things pleasant on this sunny Halloween afternoon. The fifth reason (I’m skipping points three and four for reasons of taste) is that I’m halfway through this column and I have no idea what it’s about yet. The sixth reason, however, is that this story is a nice reminder that sometimes people will never truly understand each other.
In fact, this is an important lesson for Halloween, a pagan holiday which reminds us, albeit ineptly, that there is evil in the world. But rather than make that point all over again, I refer you to my (all of a sudden) perennial Halloween essay, “In Defense of Monsters.” Enough Understanding Already
Alas, this is a lesson that seems increasingly lost on President Bush, who seems overly committed to the idea that we can all just get along. First he asked U.S. kids to raise money for Afghani kids, which I guess is okay. But now he wants them to start writing pen-pal letters to kids in Islamic countries — as if, in the middle of a nationwide panic over postal bioterrorism, parents will let their kids open letters with return addresses in Iran or Saudi Arabia. “Mommy, mommy, my new friend Achmed sent me some Iraqi pop rocks!”
I’m giving Bush a hard time because I think integrity compels me too. If President Clinton came up with ideas like these, the bonfire of mockery from conservatives would make the flames of downtown Kabul look like a marshmallow roast. What’s next, a speech from the president where he announces:
My fellow Americans, in an effort to better understand that the people we are bombing are our friends, I hereby request that every American family give at least one of their children a Muslim name. Because, as we all know, Islam means peace. My own family will lead by example: My beautiful daughter Jenna will now be known by her — peaceful! — Islamic name, “Ibn-Faud bin Talal Bush.” My own father, the former president, has decided to name my brother Jeb, “Cat Stevens,” which I am told is a revered Islamic name…
To be fair, I think the Bush administration has generally been conducting this war quite well, and I think the current kibbitzing in the media that the bombing isn’t working is stupid. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, it wasn’t until well into 1942 that the U.S. had a significant victory in World War II. Surely we could endure a little more bombing before getting a Cronkite-esque pronouncement that this war is unwinnable.
But somebody has to criticize Bush, because the liberals have simply shut up. My new theory is not that they’ve all come around to supporting the war (though many have, with great honor and distinction), it’s that many hate the war but simply have no alternative ideas to offer. So they’re just being quiet.
NOW, for example, railed about the need to topple the Taliban for years. And now that America is actually toppling the Taliban, the feminists are as quiet as they would be if someone told a funny joke in their presence. Not that it would be fun to look at, but if they really wanted to convince Americans that feminism is a mainstream movement consistent with American values, they’d be out there in their tube tops shaking their pom-poms. (“Good Lord! Is that Andrea Dworkin in the gold stretch pants?! Ach! My eyes! It burns!”)
And, of course, Hollywood liberals like Aaron Sorkin are complaining that federal guidelines punish crack-cocaine purchases more than they do the powder form. But that’s not important right now. They’re also complaining about a new era of “blacklists,” without being able to explain sufficiently what was wrong with the old era of blacklists. But when it comes to the war, they’re quiet too. Perhaps if someone could explain to these people that we’re not just fighting for freedom and capitalism, but that we are fighting to protect frothy gay sitcoms too, we might get a little more cheering out of these people.
Anyway, I don’t want to get all serious. But I would like to take a moment to talk you about my new job.
Okay, I don’t actually have a new job, but I’ve been thinking about finding one. So here’s the best idea I can come up with. The great senator from Alaska, Frank Murkowski, is throwing his mukluks (funny word) into the 2004 governor’s race. If he wins, and depending on some pending legislative chicanery up north, he might be able to select his own replacement to fill his Senate seat.
So my idea is this: He should appoint my wife.
Now, full disclosure: My wife thinks this is a really stupid idea. She rolls her eyes every time I bring it up, like she’s my mom and I’m explaining how the Hulk can beat up Superman. And I will be buying her flowers for weeks to make up for embarrassing her like this.
That said, the fair Jessica is from Alaska. She’s as smart, tough, and conservative as you can get. She’s currently Attorney General John Ashcroft’s chief speechwriter and senior policy adviser. She worked for Senator Murkowski for years. She has a master’s in international relations from the Johns Hopkins School for Strategic and International Studies.
And since she would be appointed with no plans for standing for election, she could really cut loose. She would have a great time railing about ANWR and the bogus claims of the “gentle G’wichin people” who don’t live there. And — no offense to Sen. Murkowski — she’s a lot easier on the eyes. And hey, her book on the perils of Title IX and its corrosion of men’s sports is coming out soon, and would be a great issue for a senator.
But none of that is really important. What is important is that I would become a professional senator’s husband — the Denis Thatcher of the American Right. I would walk around her offices in a bathrobe and dirty T-shirt, with beer stains running down the trunk of my body, yelling at staffers for forgetting to refer to the Chinese as the Red Menace or, at least, the ChiComs. At embassy functions I would — like Dan Ackroyd in The Blues Brothers — insist that the waiter fill my water glass with red wine. Every time Barbara Boxer started to say something dumb, I could blast my air horn or shine light in her eyes like Robert Downey Jr. in Back to School. (I would run through a lot of air horns.) Every time Orrin Hatch tried to shake my hand, I could pull it back and say, “Too slow!” (You know he’d fall for it every time.) And I would keep yelling at Arlen Specter, “Hey shmucko, aren’t you the guy who voted ‘glenfiddich’? during Clinton’s impeachment?”
Even more important, I would write about it every day for National Review Online. Now doesn’t that sound like a win-win for everybody?