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Taking the Pulse
September 12, 2003
Satire by Michael Paine

Not long after George Bush spoke to the nation last Sunday, the New York Times - that bastion of liberal elitism - ran on its front page an article by David M. Halbfinger which purported to take "the pulse" of the American public's reaction to the speech.

And just where did the Times and Mr. Halbfinger decide was the best place to ask around? Why Georgia, of course - the nation's melting pot of diverse political opinion.

The responses - from self-described liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., ran the gamut from unqualified enthusiastic support for the president all the way to enthusiastic support qualified by a small level of discomfort with the mounting casualties in Iraq. Well, to be fair, Mr. Halbfinger did find one political extremist - a 27-year old waitress named Candi (or Ditzy - I forget), who said that soldiers dying was "like, icky and stuff".

I suppose in a way it's comforting to know that in order to continue propping up the narrow-eyed, dissembling twit in the White House the Times had to go all the way to Georgia to solicit opinions on his speech. Georgia is, after all, the state that thought Saxby Chambliss was more patriotic than Max Cleland.

Sure, the Times could have asked around in, say, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Madison, Montpellier, or even - here's a stretch - New York. But why poll blue-state elitists when you can talk to "Democrats" in Marietta?

Democrats like Dan Conaway, who described himself as "somewhere between Bismarck and Winston Churchill" on foreign policy. Oh yes, I think I remember Mr. Conaway from a Bella Abzug rally. The Times referred to his support of Bush as "thinking across party lines".

I may be picky, but to me, looking for a diverse political reaction in Marietta, Georgia is kind of like Bush letting Ken Lay pick the head of FERC - which, come to think of it, he did. So let's say it's like Bush choosing Henry Kissinger to head a truth-finding commission - oh wait, he did that too. Well, you get the idea.

For those picky readers interested in opinions from less broad-minded parts of the country, I offer the results of an informal poll of viewers I took here in Boston. Up here where the American Revolution started opinion also covered a wide swath, all the way from "does he really think we're that stupid?" to "Is he on drugs?"

And, as in Marietta, opinion here crossed party lines. Ultraconservative Republicans shared the shock and dismay of Progressive Democrats upon hearing Mr. Bush repeatedly juxtapose "The War in Iraq" with the terrorist attacks of 9/11 without actually making a connection between them.

"Why does he keep doing that?" asked Roger Moore, a Republican. "If he can prove a connection between Iraq and 9/11 why doesn't he just come out and say so?"

Heddy Lamarr, a Green party functionary, agreed. "It's clearly just a sneaky rhetorical device meant to mislead people. Frankly I found it grossly insulting."

"Insulting" was also the word used by self-described "hard-right conservative" Horatio Hornblower in recalling his reaction to the president's claim that any change of policy in Iraq would "encourage the terrorists". Mr. Hornblower, who owns a chain of scented candle shops in Cambridge and who says he is "to the right of Ivan the Terrible", thought the president was "way out of line."

"I voted for Bush several times in the last election. But now he's basically saying that anyone who disagrees with his policies in Iraq is supporting the terrorists. That's an outrageous statement. I mean, he knows that plenty of Americans disagree - is he calling them all traitors? Heck, half the Democratic candidates running against him - many of whom served this country in uniform when he ducked it - have come out against his policies."

"I agree completely," said Democrat Bruce Springsteen, a steelworker from Lincoln, MA. "He gets on national television supposedly to inform us of the progress of the war on terror, and he finds time to take a cheap-shot at his political rivals? I thought he was going to be a 'uniter,' not a 'divider?'"

Support across party lines also plummeted in reaction to Bush's statements of his intent to ask the UN to become more involved in Iraq.

"What the hell is up with that?" asked Amber Lynn, a member of the Know-Nothing party. "A few months ago we were calling our allies 'cheese-eating surrender monkeys,' and now he expects them to send their kids to Iraq to bail us out? Wouldn't it have been smarter to involve them from the beginning?"

Springsteen agreed. "Look, this administration decided that rather than give the UN its props and go into Iraq as an international force, they'd go it alone. And worse, they and their supporters played to their base by calling the UN 'irrelevant' and some our oldest allies childish names. They even changed the name of french toast - which is a completely American food invented in Albany, for God's sake. Now he's saying maybe they'll forget all that and help us out - but by the way if they don't it'll cost at least $87 billion. Hello? Can you say 'blindingly incompetent?'"

Hornblower summed it all up: "I may be a radical right-winger, but I simply cannot wait to vote this clown out of office. Heck, I'd vote for George McGovern before I'd vote for George Bush again."

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