November 9, 2002
Hussein must be a lot more accommodating than rumor would
have it. After all those weeks of screaming that we had to
go to war with Iraq now, that the country was in imminent
danger and we hadn't a moment to lose, Mr. Bush found time
to campaign for friends and relatives. Obviously Saddam decided
it wouldn't harelip him to put off destroying the U.S. for
And it paid off: the "liberal biased" press announced "Bush
Gambled With Popularity and Won!" "Bush Given Credit and Clout
Over GOP Victory!"
Of course Republican victories are always announced in hyperbolic
terms. The two-thirds majority of Congress finally voting
to authorize Bush's grudge match against the man who tried
to kill his daddy was described as "overwhelming." Two-thirds
is a tidy lead, of course, but overwhelming? Similarly, Jeb
Bush's 54% win in Florida has been called a "landslide" and
a "rout"; presumably they would have called 55% unanimous.
And now 3,000 (they don't even bother to say "roughly," "approximately,"
or "almost" anymore) is the official accepted tally of lives
lost on September 11, 2001; it gives 166 more reasons to go
to war than the more accurate 2,834. (Conversely, the 25,000
lives lost to AIDS before Saint Ronald Reagan deigned to acknowledge
its existence are but a dim memory.)
As we all learned in high school, it's awfully hard to beat
popularity, especially in a culturally superficial country
where "most popular" so easily translates to "most worthy."
(Which makes Valley of the Dolls the best novel ever
written because it still holds the record for copies sold.)
No doubt about it, George Wonderful Bush these days is star
quarterback and homecoming queen combined (certainly not,
however, "class president"--we haven't had a class president
since Kennedy); Mssrs. Daschle and Gephardt the beaten-up
nerds slinking off to study hall and wood shop. Already there's
been a rash of "And You Thought He Was Just a Lucky Cowboy"
editorials. (Actually, I still do; after all, when the popular
kid gets a dork to do his homework for him, or cheats on a
midterm, the only crime is getting caught. In fact, the Republican
triumph--to say nothing of Bush's popularity--hinged largely
on the success of the "Credit Bush for everything good and
blame Clinton for everything bad" strategy. Clinton, you see,
The question now is what to do about the Democrats' tarnished
image. The Paul Wellstone memorial, generally condemned as
a "political rally" of questionable taste (ho ho ho, wait
till Reagan dies), unfortunately didn't help matters. Neither
did the Toricelli withdrawal, which was perceived as a foul
play mid-game and gave the Dem-bashers a limb to swing from
(still, New Jersey wound up with a Democratic senator at the
end of it).
The public claims to be turned off by negative campaigning,
even giving that as an excuse for not voting, but who's kidding
whom? It's been an advertising staple for decades: take the
spaghetti sauce commercials which present the rival brands
as unappetizing red bilge, or the "other" paper towel which
disintegrates on contact with the spill it's supposed to sop
up. You love it and you know it, people.
We all know that Republicans do their share of mud-slinging.
Janet Reno was smart enough to know she didn't have a chance
in Florida (which is why her campaign in the primaries ran
out of gas so soon). The GOP, usually so tough on illegal
immigrants, didn't waste a moment characterizing Ms. Reno
as the monster who snatched away poor cute little Elian Gonzales
(he really was "Little Ricky" for real) and thrust him into
the godless communistic arms of his own father. (Now for Attorney
General we have someone who could have been cast as Margaret
White, the religious fanatic mother, in last Monday's television
remake of "Carrie." ) But that's the kind of bullying that
only upperclassmen get away with.
Maybe the wise thing would be for Democrats to watch and
wait. Just how carried away will the "Valley of the Dolls"
president get with his newly assumed power? The "liberal biased"
papers all expect him to use his leverage to push through
his agenda, which consists primarily of turning this country
into a combination of theocracy and martial law. It's entirely
likely he won't get any farther with Saddam Hussein than his
daddy did, though it's a shame that so many American lives
will have to be lost before that is found out.
If the next presidential election were to happen now, it
wouldn't be close. But a lot can happen in two years. (Getting
back to high school for a moment, so often the "popular kid"
gets overconfident and trips up, or else finds life after
high school a jolting reality check.) One nice thing about
the Republicans being well and truly in charge is that they
can no longer blame everything on Bill Clinton. Not that that
will stop them, of course, but it's a nice thought.
Kevin Dawson is nobody in particular.