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Of Armitages, Kennedys, Political Buttons, and More


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They’re beauties, the media, aren’t they? Aren’t they performing . . . well, just about how you’d expect, in the final days of a campaign? I’m surprised Dan Rather doesn’t have to say, “I’m Dan Rather, and I approve of this message.” You bet he does–approves, that is.

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For years, my line has been, “Conservatives make either too much or too little of media bias.” Some make too much of it, it is true. But I think the more common error is to make too little of it. It makes a huge difference. How can it not? Even with the proliferation of media, including conservative outlets, over the last few years.

Evan Thomas, the Newsweek editor, cannot be gainsaid: The advantage to Democrats of media bias is enormous. Thomas is to be applauded for his honesty.

Democrats like to dispute this, of course–dispute that media bias is prevalent, and that they are its beneficiaries. I think they should just be grateful.

My aunt said something that tickled me. She said, “I watched the news this morning, and didn’t hear much about the election. I figured it meant that Bush was doing well.”

Brilliant.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has zeroed in on the principal issue of this election. I’m impressed. Nothing profound–just the truth: “This [our current situation] reminds me of the days when Ronald Reagan was in office and he was fighting Communism. There were some people out there criticizing him, saying, ‘This is crazy, he’s a warmonger’ . . . And, in the end, he proved right. He wore them down because he showed great leadership, and Communism fell apart.”

The Reagans and the George W. Bushes are needed for twilight struggles. The Kerrys . . . are hindrances, or “nuisances,” to borrow a word recently bandied about.

Laura Bush was asked in an interview what kind of ketchup she uses at the ranch (where they serve a lot of hamburgers). She sidestepped the question. Her interviewer remarked, “You should be a politician.” Answered Laura, “I couldn’t think of another [kind] of ketchup [than Heinz].”

But Laura! How about good ol’ W Ketchup? Where ya been?

The New Yorker has issued an endorsement–the first in its history. The endorsement is for Kerry. That is very interesting, because The New Yorker had been so vague about its political preferences.

Come on, guys: Virtually every page of your magazine, for months, has screamed, “Vote Kerry!” Why bother to make it official? That is borderline insulting.

Did you read about that Florida lady, the stem-cell activist, who went around stealing Republican signs? (A report is here.) Her name is Fabiola Armitage. They’re always out to screw us, those Armitages.

Caroline Kennedy has demanded that President Bush stop invoking the name of her father, President Kennedy. Well, Senator Kerry invokes Bush’s father constantly–as a weapon against Bush. Not to mention the repeated invocation of Reagan.

Grow up.

You may have heard that “four British ex-inmates of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay sued defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others on Wednesday, saying they were tortured in violation of U.S. and international law.” (I quote Reuters.)

Just what the Kerry-Edwards Democrats always wanted: war by lawsuit! Wouldn’t that be nice.

You may have read, too, that “Democrats in Florida already are pursuing nine election-related lawsuits, accusing state election officials of conspiring to disenfranchise minority voters.” (That’s the Washington Times.)

Led by the Florida Democratic Party, the People for the American Way, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the AFL-CIO, the lawsuits target, among others, Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, President Bush’s brother.

The suits say Republican officials refused to count provisional ballots, improperly disqualified incomplete voter registrations, established overly restrictive rules to disproportionately hurt minority voters and actively sought to disenfranchise blacks.

I will ask the question I always ask, and tire of asking: Why, oh why, are black Americans never offended by such suits, such claims? Oh, how I long to hear, “How dare you. How dare you say that basic voting requirements somehow disadvantage blacks more than other Americans. What do you think we are, stupid? You think we can’t show I.D.? You think we can’t punch a ballot? How dare you!”

White-liberal racism–or racialism–is one of the most ignored, and maddening, phenomena of our time.

A friend of mine was saying, a couple of nights ago, that what the Bush campaign should do is go to 9/11–and remind people that there hasn’t been a major attack in three years. Why? Is that just a coincidence–a matter of luck? Surely, some luck is involved, as it always is, against terrorists. But vigilance and tough-mindedness are involved, too. Do Bush and his people deserve no credit whatever?

It could be that Americans figure they deserve a break from the War on Terror. You know, “Thank you, Mr. Churchill, but I don’t feel so beleaguered, so afraid, anymore. Hello, Mr. Attlee. Speak those soothing words, and give us some nice socialism.”

Of course, the one war was over.

I’d like to highlight a quote from Charles Duelfer, the former Iraq weapons inspector. Eli Lake had a useful story in the New York Sun yesterday about the famous weapons cache–which Duelfer asked the U.N. to destroy in 1995. The U.N. refused. Here is Lake:

Mr. Duelfer said he was rebuffed at the time by the [IAEA, the U.N.'s "atomic watchdog"] because its officials were not convinced the presence of the HMX, RDX, and PETN explosives was directly related to Saddam Hussein’s programs to amass weapons of mass destruction.

Instead of accepting recommendations to destroy the stocks, Mr. Duelfer said, the atomic-energy agency opted to continue to monitor them.

All right, here’s the quote I love: “The policy was, if acquired for the WMD program and used for it, it should be subject [to] destruction. The HMX was just that. Nevertheless, the IAEA decided to let Iraq keep the stuff, like they needed more explosives.”

Brilliant.

A lil’ music: For a review of James Levine and the Boston Symphony in the Mahler Eighth, please go here. For a review of Yuri Temirkanov and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, with the pianist Hélène Grimaud, please go here.

Friends, I wish to devote the rest of this column to the issue of buttons–the issue I brought up in Tuesday’s Impromptus. To refresh your memory, I see Kerry-Edwards buttons all about town–all about New York–particularly in concert halls and opera houses (where I spend a lot of evening time). I never–ever–see Bush-Cheney buttons. Just an hour ago, I was in Zankel Hall, and a Kerry-Edwards button seemed virtually mandatory. I discussed, in that earlier column, why this irks me so much.

I’ll expand a little. Rather, I’ll let Rick Brookhiser expand, because I was talking with my estimable colleague about this matter, and, unsurprisingly, he had some smart things to say about it. I said that I had taken a stab at explaining why I find the button-wearing so bothersome–but what did he think?

First, he said, “you’re against Kerry and Edwards. They’re not your candidates. So we have to take that into consideration.” Second is the imposition of one’s political views on others. I mean, if you’re reading this column, you chose to click on it. It may make you gag–but no one forced you. And third, who the hell wears political buttons in concert halls and opera houses? Or in court or at church or wherever? I mean, criminy.

(Rick is far more eloquent, needless to say. I’m just paraphrasing, Impromptusly.)

That Tuesday column elicited many, many–many, many–e-mails about buttons, and I’m going to let the tape run a little. Read as much of it as you like. But I dare say you’ll find it all sort of interesting.

”I’m a student at NYU, living on Bleeker and 7th Ave., and I can relate about the prevalence of Kerry-Edwards buttons. The Bush-Cheney button on my bag now is the fourth since last December, the other three having gone missing after I left my bag alone for a short time. I see hundreds of liberal buttons every day in the halls, and when people notice my button, I invariably get a response somewhere between disbelief and disgust. Each glare or ‘a**hole’ comment I get just makes me glad not to be one of them.”

Friends, this is the saddest one. I almost hate to print it, but here it is. Made me sort of angry.

I used to wear a “Vietnamese-American Against Kerry” button until someone on St. Mark’s stopped me and delivered a monologue on the Bush police state. When I brought up the real police state that my family lived in (including the re-education camps), he brushed that off and blathered on about Bush and the sorry state of the U.S. I decided to stop wearing the button because I couldn’t take the blind idiocy.

”Jay, I think I have the most perfect button, and I wear it every election week. It says: ‘McGovern-Eagleton.’ I vote Republican, but it gets the Democrats going when I wear it; really ticks them off. I tell them that the old Democrats would eat them for lunch and throw them out of the union hall, a** first. They hate me for that. Good.”

”Story for you: I was on the Upper East Side Saturday morning and I saw this guy walking down the street proudly wearing a Bush-Cheney T-shirt. I saw another guy come up to him, and at first I thought there might be some serious altercation. Instead, they high-fived each other, and the guy with the T-shirt proclaimed loudly, ‘It’s all over!’ Not the Upper West Side (where I live), I know, but it still made up for running into the clipboard kids and Al Franken on the way back to my apartment.”

I’m just slightly puzzled by the “It’s all over” comment, but I take it that meant confidence in a Bush victory. From the high-fiver’s mouth to . . .

”Jay, I live in the East Bay suburbs of San Francisco–Walnut Creek, to be exact. The Kerry-Edwards clipboard patrol is often soliciting donations at the local supermarket. I ignore them, except this one time. A very young, very pretty college-coed type asked as I passed by, ‘Will you help defeat Bush with a donation?’ I replied, ‘No thanks, but I am glad to see some younger citizens getting involved in politics.’ Since I’m over 50, I felt it was an okay remark, without condescension. Her reply was quick and chilling: ‘Bush’s concentration camps will be filled with the Jews, then the blacks!’ Her eyes had become dark flint and her expression was pure malevolence. For only the third time in my life, I was left utterly speechless. [The letter-writer does not say what the other two times were.] I shook my head and walked slowly to the car. What in G*d’s name had been poured into that young lady’s head? Did she even know what she was saying?

“I’m voting (for Bush) like my life depends on it, and sending the NRA another donation.”

”Dear Jay: I recognize the Kedwards buttons from stories my father tells about Cuba. In Princeton, as in New York, Republicans are ridiculed and threatened, their cars are scratched, and they sometimes fall victim to physical violence. During the Castro takeover of the anti-Batista student revolution, opponents were labeled ‘gusanos’ [worms] and suffered the same attacks as supporters of President Bush.”

”Jay, the Democratic party is the home of the drama queens of politics. The button-wearers–despite being surrounded by wearers of the same buttons–are showing their ‘courage,’ defying the henchmen of Ashcroft. It’s almost sweet, in a pathetic way.”

”I grew up in a conservative town (Camp Hill, Pa.), and no one walks around with a Bush pin. In a town where nearly everybody is Republican, to wear a Bush button makes you look like an oaf. If I saw someone wearing a button, I’d think, ‘Oh, boy, this is one of those in-your-face Republicans, and she has to announce to the world what she thinks.’”

”Late in September, I was in a small tourist village in France having dinner. I noticed a man a couple of tables over with a Kerry-Edwards button. First of all, the irony of wearing a Kerry button in France made me smile inside. When I finished dinner, I walked up to their table and asked them where they were from. Oregon. I mentioned that I was from Texas, the proud home of our current president, and that I was a strong supporter of Bush-Cheney.

“I still laugh inside when I think about this guy sitting there in France with a Kerry-Edwards button on.”

”Jay, check out this listing on EasyRoommate.com: ‘If you are even considering voting for W next week, don’t bother with this apartment, you won’t like it here.’”

”I’m smack dab in the middle of Democratic, Obama-loving, Daley-dominated Illinois, and I have a Bush-Cheney button on my purse, stickers in my home windows, and one in my car. People have told me I’m ‘brave,’ but I’ve had a lot of honks, smiles, and waves (with all fingers accounted for, thank you) since that Bush-Cheney sticker went up in the back window. I’d put up lawn signs, but I was informed by the president of our townhome association that it’s not allowed. Since I sleep with the president (he is my husband), I decided not to challenge this infringement on my First Amendment rights.”

Friends, pay special attention to the last line of this letter:

Mr. Nordlinger,

At my place of business there are probably three of 30 who will vote for Bush. We three try not to antagonize the majority with our clear thinking, but they know where we stand. One of them asked me after one of the debates whether I was still going to vote for Bush. After answering her in the affirmative, I asked why she wouldn’t vote for Bush also. She answered that she would not vote for Bush “even if [her] life depended on it.” “I know,” said I.

”Mr. Nordlinger, your irritation reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw this summer in my tony liberal neighborhood in St. Paul, Minn. The bumper sticker read, ‘Another Family for Peace.’ The arrogance, the vanity, the moral exhibitionism made me want to go home and make a new bumper sticker that read, ‘Another Family for War.’ At least that might start a few conversations, not end them.

“In turn, this calls to mind Chris Rock’s take on people who give themselves credit for holding to basic principles of good behavior. ‘These guys say, “I don’t beat my kids.” Whaddya want? A cookie? You’re not supposed to beat your kids!’”

Last, someone sent me a very clever, and entertaining, article from Slate magazine. It is by Richard Rushfield, a journalist who dressed up as a Bush-Cheney supporter in “blue” areas, and as a Kerry-Edwards supporter in “red” ones. You will find the results interesting–except that, since they are expected, you may find them less interesting than sadly confirmatory.

Hang in there, y’all. Catch you soon.



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