Thursday, July 28, 2005

“Democrats Search for a Winning Issue”

It was getting late—after nine o’clock—and everyone should have headed home for supper long ago, but a few staffers were still in the conference room, brainstorming, trying to find an issue that could revive the Democratic Party. They were all still reeling from losing yet again to George W. Bush and falling even farther from power in Congress.

“Come on, guys,” said Dave. “There’s gotta be an issue that really connects with ordinary people, that energizes them, that offers them a real choice and lets ‘em know the Democratic Party cares about them, listens to them, and is tuned in to their concerns.”

“Oh, you put it so well,” said Barb. “That is just so true.”

“National security has always been a Republican strong point,” Danny threw out, “but now that it’s been proven Iraq didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction, and Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with September 11, the whole Bush administration has been discredited on that issue. I think there’s a real opportunity there for us.”

“Danny,” said Ted, a balding consultant to many a losing campaign, “you can’t win on national security in war time, even if the President started the war for some reason that nobody can explain and we’re getting our butts kicked by an army that doesn’t exist.”

“Oh, excuse me,” said the cleaning lady, “I didn’t know anybody was still in here.”

“That’s okay, Juanita, just go ahead and clean around us,” said Kevin. “It won’t bother us. Who’s that you’ve got there with you?”

“Oh, this’s my littlest one, Marcus. He got sick, and my sister’s car broke down so she couldn’t watch him, and I had to bring him along. But don’t worry none. He’ll just sit out front and color. He won’t bother nobody.”

“Shouldn’t he be home in bed if he’s sick?” asked Kevin.

“Ain’t nobody at home old enough to watch him,” said Juanita, “and if I stay home, I don’t get paid. If I don’t get paid, the rent don’t get paid, and we’re out on the street.”

“Oh yeah,” said Kevin. “Well, hey, there are some colored markers in my desk drawer if you want to use them.”

“He doesn’t look too lively,” observed Barb. “Maybe you should take him to the doctor.”

“Huh!” said Juanita. “Who can afford health insurance when they’re makin’ $5.15 an hour?”

Danny threw out another idea. “What about energy policy? Bush and Cheney let the energy companies write energy policy, and oil company profits have shot up like a gusher.”

“All I know,” muttered Juanita, “is when gas is $2.50 a gallon, and I make $5.15 an hour, I’m already out an hour’s pay every time I drive to work. Seems like gas prices go up every time you turn around, but minimum wage ain’t changed a penny in years.”

“You know what you ought to do?” said Barb. “You ought to buy one of those new hybrids. I get 53 miles to a gallon with mine.”

“I’m getting’ hungry,” moaned Kevin. “Why don’t we order some subs and drinks?”

“Sounds good,” said Dave. “You want us to order for you too, Juanita?”

“Nah, I packed up baloney sandwiches for me and Marcus. Subs and drinks would set me back two more hours’ pay at $5.15 an hour.”

“Oh, yeah,” said Kevin. “Hey, I’ll spring for subs for you and Marcus. My treat!”

“No thanks,” said Juanita. “We’ve already got our supper packed. No sense wastin’ it.”

“How about housing?” asked Danny, still digging. “Owning your own home is part of the American dream.”

“No good,” said Ted. “As low as mortgage rates have been, all kinds of people have jumped into the housing market.”

“How’s anybody makin’ $5.15 an hour gonna get money together for a down payment or get approved for a mortgage, when even some shabby houses be costin’ more than $200,000?” asked Juanita. “Housing prices doublin’ and triplin’ even, but minimum wage ain’t gone up in years.”

“I think you’re right, Ted,” said Barb. “My parents just bought a vacation home right on the beach in Oregon, had it for less than a month, and turned around and sold it for $100,000 more than they paid for it. Everybody’s getting rich in this market.”

“Folks,” said Dave, “why don’t we eat and call it a night. It doesn’t look as if we’re going to come up with anything this evening that would connect the Democratic Party with its roots. For some reason, the poor and the working class don’t even turn out to vote anymore. If we could just think of some issue they cared about….”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Monday, July 25, 2005

“Tabling the Debate”

Maybe you’re like me, and find yourself confused after watching political talk shows on TV. In the kind of balanced, civilized debate you’d expect in an advanced democratic society, carefully-selected department store mannequins representing the liberal perspective square off against badly-disguised attack dogs representing the conservative point of view. (“Karl Rove” is actually a Rottweiler; the name is a corrupted version of the command “Kill, Rover.”) While you’re waiting for the debate to be interrupted by beer commercials full of beautiful girls who love playing in the mud and drinking light beers—wait a minute, that’s Sunday afternoons—these debaters keep interrupting each other right in the middle of their top-of-the-lungs, ten-minute-long abusive rants. How rude can you get?

The result is that, after doing my public duty to understand these issues of grave national importance, I now understand how people can actually read People magazine instead or switch channels and watch a bowling match. What I don’t understand is whatever topic these guys were using to practice their Public Yelling. You just have to figure it out yourself, if the media won’t help. Thank God for the Internet, which has enabled me to research ancient history, almost back before the memory of humankind—say five or six years ago—without the physical stress of turning the pages of a book.

So let’s begin with an easy topic, Gulf War II—originally given the snappy name Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL), but later changed to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF. OIF?) —and review the opposing positions taken by liberals and conservatives:

Liberal Position
1a. There’s no good evidence that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with Sept. 11. Conservative Position
Saddam Hussein plotted with al Qaeda to launch the Sept. 11 attacks, and we can prove it.
Mr. Bush eventually concedes that Saddam Hussein had no connection to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Liberal Position
1b. I told you so.
Conservative Position
Saddam Hussein was a bad man.
Liberals right, conservatives wrong; conservatives win.

Liberal Position
2a. There’s no good evidence that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Conservative Position
We have evidence of specific WMD, including amounts and the sites where they’re produced and stored.
After exhaustive search, no WMD found.

Liberal Position
2b. I told you so.
Conservative Position
Did we mention that we want Iraq to become a model Middle East democracy?
Liberals right, conservatives wrong; conservatives win.

Liberal Position
3a. There’s no good evidence that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger.
Conservative Position
Iraq was buying uranium ore from Niger and aluminum rods to be used in nuclear centrifuges.
Uranium ore story discredited; rods turn out to be parts for conventional rockets.

Liberal Position
3b. I told you so.
Conservative Position
Joseph Wilson’s wife is an undercover CIA agent.
That’ll teach you to contradict me in public!

Liberal Position
4a. Lots of people will get killed.
Conservative Position
No sweat.
President lands on aircraft carrier in front of “Mission Accomplished!” sign, declares active hostilities at an end.

Liberal Position
4b. 1,800 US soldiers, 25,000 to 100,000 Iraqis killed; death toll still climbing.
Conservative Position
No pictures of corpses allowed; Iraqi dead don’t count.
Administration says, “We didn’t put that sign up.”

Liberal Position
5a. The war will be really expensive.
Conservative Position
We’ll sell Iraqi oil; the war will almost pay for itself.
Surprise! War costs $208 billion so far, with no end in sight.

Liberal Position
5b. This war is really expensive!
Conservative Position
If you don’t sign this blank check, you’re unpatriotic.
Liberals right, conservatives wrong; conservatives win.

Liberal Position
6a. You need a plan for the aftermath.
Conservative Position
Let’s just get this war started, and quit standing around.
Chaos. Offices, factories, museums, libraries, schools, archaeological sites looted and destroyed. Arms depots are left unguarded and looted.

Liberal Position
6b. I told you so.
Conservative Position
If you criticize the war effort, you’re unpatriotic.
Liberals right, conservatives wrong; conservatives win.

Liberal Position
7. The war is illegal because it violates both international law and the UN Charter.
Conservative Position
Who cares? The President can do whatever he wants in the name of national security.
President does whatever he wants, and says it’s because of national security.

Liberal Position
8a. Intelligence is being manipulated to justify an invasion.
Conservative Position
Intelligence is sound, situation critical. “Bush bashers” hate the President, would vote for Saddam Hussein instead, given a chance.
How did we go wrong? Intelligence was “seriously flawed.” (See nos. 1-6 above). Big-name panels created to find problem, but administration specifically excludes political pressure as factor to be investigated.

Liberal Position
8b. Downing Street memos, printed in London Times, prove intelligence was being manipulated to justify an invasion.
Conservative Position
What memos?
Corporate media in US unite to bury huge story for month and a half.
Liberals right, conservatives wrong; conservatives win…. Wait!

Liberal Position
8c. Downing Street memos finally surface in mainstream media, show intelligence was being “fixed around” justifying an invasion.
Conservative Position
Downing Street memos are “vague” and “old news.”
Public can’t find Downing Street, falls asleep waiting for commercials with beautiful girls who like playing in the mud and drinking light beers. Conservatives turn out to like playing in the mud too.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

“Remembering the Good Old Days”

Everybody was in for the reunion, and a bunch of us were at the local watering hole, wetting our throats for the Alumni Sing that evening. The crew at the next table were older guys, in their sixties maybe. They were pretty boisterous, and the more the beer went down, the more their volume rose. They were reliving the glory years of their youth at the top of their voices, and their conversation eventually dropped from sports to politics.

“Remember when it was the commies who would invade countries on some phony excuse, the way we did Iraq and Panama, and we’d just go ballistic?” asked one guy nostalgically, a big beefy fellow wearing a huge straw hat.

Everyone at the table fell silent as they reminisced about that for a minute, and then the bald guy to his right chimed in. “Remember when the Soviets would go to the U.N. and tell these transparent lies, and the rest of the world would just sit there, arms folded, waiting for the lies to end? And the Soviets didn’t care! Those were the good old days. When I was watching Colin Powell’s speech making the case for war against Iraq, and saw those delegates watching him, arms folded, it all came back to me.”

“I thought Powell had a lot more class. At least he didn’t take his shoe off and pound it on the podium,” said the big guy. Everybody laughed.

The skinny little guy sitting across the table from him piped up. “Remember when magazines like the Reader’s Digest were always carrying stories about how people were being picked up by the Soviet police and held with no charges being filed and no lawyer and no contact with their family? We always said, ‘That’s the way they do things in a police state, not in America, God bless her.’ And, hey, now we’ve got guys who’ve been in Guantanamo for two and a half years, and they have still never been charged with anything or allowed contact with their families.”

The big guy nodded his head. “And remember when the commies were the ones who were torturing people in their prisons, or kidnapping people off the streets in other countries? Now the U.S. has secret prisons around the globe, prisoners being tortured to death, and CIA agents being indicted in Italy for kidnapping, with cell phone records and everything.”

The bald guy said, “Sure, I remember that. And do you remember how we used to hear about the Roosky secret police invading people’s private lives? And we’d say, that’s the way it is in a totalitarian society. Now somehow we have this so-called Patriot Act, and the FBI is reading your e-mail and checking to see what library books you’ve been reading!”

The fourth guy, who’d been silent up till then, said, “Remember when we used to laugh at the way the Soviet newspapers and the other media just took whatever handout the Kremlin gave them, and that was their news? And we thought it was a hoot when some big news items got blacked out completely, the way the Downing Street memos were this spring?”

The skinny guy came back with, “Remember how there were always those stories of massive corruption, with the big guys in the Kremlin tied in to companies supplying the Red Army, and the big guys got rich while the poor suckers in the army got lousy food, low pay, and equipment shortages?”

“Yeah, I thought of that when I read about Cheney and Halliburton and all those no-bid contracts they were awarded,” said the big beefy guy, shaking his head.

“Remember the blatant hypocrisy, when the Russians would take over some country and claim they had ‘liberated’ it, and then install a puppet government in the name of a ‘people’s democracy’?”

“Oh sure,” said the fourth guy. “If you followed what we’ve done in Iraq and Afghanistan, you couldn’t help but think about it.”

“Speaking of Afghanistan,” said the skinny guy, “do you remember how the Soviets thought they had that place whipped? They installed a puppet government just like we have. I can’t remember how long it took—ten years or so—but the Taliban finally bled ‘em dry and ran the commies out of there. With our help! We trained the guys we’re fighting now. Wonder how long it will take ‘em to boot us out of their country?”

I’d had about all I could take. I sidled up to the bar, and in a low tone asked Eddie, “Who are those guys? A bunch of leftover radicals from some old SDS chapter in the sixties?”

Eddie glanced at the table and gave a snort. “Those guys in SDS? No way. They’re just a bunch of Republicans with loose tongues and long memories.”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

“National Republican Radio”

Office of the Board of Directors, Corporation for Public Broadcasting -

“Mr. Chairman?”

“Yes, Warren.”

“Isn’t it time that we get around to changing our name from ‘Corporation for Public Broadcasting’ to ‘Corporation for Republican Broadcasting’?”

“Now, Warren, you can’t hurry these things. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s more complicated than you think. Since we’re in charge of public radio, should we change that from ‘National Public Radio’ to ‘National Republican Radio’? Or public television from ‘PBS’ to ‘RBS’? Do we change all three names at once, or make the changes one at a time?”

“Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the reference to Rome from the minutes! The media don’t need anything else that hints at an ‘American empire’ parallel.”

“Point well taken, Bruce. Edie, please delete any references to Rome from the record. Now, before we get to new business, Harold is going to present us with an update on our accomplishments so far. All set, Harold?”

“Sure thing, Ken. I want to say, first of all, that we owe you a debt of gratitude for bringing your experience as former head of Voice of America in the Reagan administration and as an editor for Reader's Digest to our situation here at CPB. That’s the kind of balanced perspective we’ve been needing for a long time.”

“Thanks very much, Harold. I do what I can, and can who I have to—that’s a joke, Edie.”

“Okay, Mr. Chairman. Here’s what we’ve accomplished so far: Bob Edwards has been dumped; we’ve given the Wall Street Journal a show of its own to showcase the corporate worldview; we’ve hired Fred Mann, a Republican consultant and commentator who worked for Dan Quayle, to keep track of the guests' political leanings on Now with Bill Moyers; and we’ve brought a White House communications officer aboard as a special advisor. Whenever we need guidance on policy issues, he’ll let us know what the White House wants. And wait until you hear the best news. We’ve just installed Patricia Harrison, former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, as the new president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting! If ever there was somebody who was proud to be riding the elephant, it’s Pat. And here she is! Let’s all give Pat a big hand!”

“Thanks you for that nice introduction, Harold. I won’t say much at this point. Just that if you think right, you’re in the right place now!”

“I’m sure we are. Good to have you aboard, Pat. Bruce, do you have those new programming ideas your committee has been working on?

“You bet, Mr. Chairman. We’re proposing that we totally wipe out the witty liberal slant on NPR. We want to replace Terry Gross and Fresh Air with Hot Air, a conservative interview show hosted by somebody like Rush Limbaugh. Whodya Know, a quiz show pairing real-life lobbyists and Congressional staffers, would take the place of Whaddya Know with Michael Feldman. We want to drop This American Life, with Ira Glass and that array of misfits, and replace it with Our American Life, modeled on articles from Guideposts magazine—heartwarming stories of Christian faith and efficacious prayer. And for good measure, we’d like to replace Tom and Ray and Car Talk with Dick and Rummy and War Talk. We’re confident we can line up a ton of corporate underwriters for that one. ”

“I like your thinking, Bruce. That kind of program lineup really reflects where we want the country to go. Don’t stop when you’re on a roll.”

“Mr. Chairman, there’s somebody down there at the end of the table who has been waving his hand for a while.”

“Oh, yes. Sorry, I didn’t see you there. Are you one of those holdovers from the old bipartisan board?”

“Yes, Mr. Chairman. I just wanted to say that this board was originally designed to shield public broadcasting from partisan political influence. I’m wondering if the changes you’ve made are really faithful to our founding mission, which was to ‘provide a voice for groups in the community that may otherwise be unheard,’ to serve as ‘a forum for controversy and debate,’ and to offer programs that ‘help us see America whole, in all its diversity’?”

“Good Lord, is that supposed to be our mission? I certainly appreciate your drawing that to my attention. There’s just so much to undo here that I know I overlook things sometimes. We’ll tend to that right now. Do I hear a motion to draft a new mission statement more in line with the White House’s vision? Good. Could I have a second?”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Sunday, July 17, 2005

“Spineless Democrats”

My editor had sent me to interview a college professor, and I felt out of place. “Tell me, Doc,” I began, once we were seated, “what exactly is your title here at the university?”

“I’m in the Political Biology field,” he said. “I hold the chair in Comparative Political Anatomy.”

“Hope that chair is softer than this one!” I joked. It’s always good to put the interviewee at his ease. “I expected you’d have a huge lab,” I went on, “but you seem to have mostly office space.”

“I do some lab work,” he said, “but mostly I do field biology. I study the political animal in his native habitat—legislative chambers, smoke-filled rooms, watering holes near the capital. We only use the lab when one of our subjects is pronounced politically dead. Then we bring him here and perform an autopsy on the carcass.”

“I see,” I nodded. I’ve found that if you don’t understand a word somebody said, your best bet is just to nod. “Look, the reason I’m here is that the book you just published has created quite a stir. In it you announce the discovery of a new political species, the Spineless Democrat. Finding a new species must have been quite a thrill for you.”

“It’s actually a subspecies of the Common Democrat,” he said. “There have been isolated reports of such a creature from time to time, but it’s so drab that it generally escapes notice.”

“What led you to your discovery?”

“I had been observing widespread behavior indicating the absence of a backbone—Democrats lining up to support the Patriot Act, handing the President the power to start the war, voting to cut taxes for the rich, voting for CAFTA, endorsing the Republicans’ bankruptcy bill, being bought off on that godawful energy bill, etc.--, so there were some indications where to look.”

“From your description, it sounds as if it would be tough to tell them and Republicans apart.”

“A lot of people confuse the two species; they’re almost identical. You can distinguish the Spineless Democrat by his timidity, his poor vision, and the absence of venom in his fangs.”

“You make it sound easy.”

“Well, of course the lab work was more complicated than that. Some of the specimens were gutless, some had lost their heads, some their posteriors, and some their spines, so it took awhile to sort them all out.”

“How do these spineless creatures move around? Do they scuttle like crabs, for instance, or do they crawl on their belly like a reptile?”

“That was one of the amazing things we found. They actually have an exoskeleton—an outside skeleton, covering the surface of their body—made up of starched shirts and pinstriped business suits. They’re able to remain in a vertical position for fairly long periods of time, and are surprisingly mobile.”

“So they’re often upright?” I said, jotting a note.

“No,” he said, “just vertical.”

“Is there a large population?” I asked.

“It’s fairly sizable for the time being,” he said, “but the number of Democrats holding office is declining, and we think the spineless variety may be the reason. They seem unable to reproduce. Every specimen we’ve examined so far has been sterile.”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

“A Faith-Based Press Conference”

“Good to see so many of you here in the White House chapel for our first annual faith-based press conference. I’m ready for the tough questions, so let’s get started. Who wants to go first?”

“I will, sir. Mr. President, now that we have proof that you lied repeatedly to manipulate the nation into war with Iraq, do you think it would be appropriate to ask for forgiveness for all the thousands of people who have been killed, blinded, crippled, maimed, widowed, orphaned, or otherwise harmed by your actions?”

“I’m glad you asked that. See, most people don’t understand that you have to break eggs to bake a cake. When I hit the floor beside my bed every night, I think of that cake, and pray the Lord my soul to bake. Next question?”

“Yes, sir. I wonder if I might follow up on that issue a bit. You’ve come out staunchly against abortion and stem cell research, saying that you would do everything in your power to protect life. How do you square the hundred thousand or more deaths you are directly and deliberately responsible for with what you have said is your commitment to life?”

“That’s a good question, Ted. Let me respond by asking you a question: Who let you in here? Will somebody please escort him out the door and replace him with an embedded reporter? Thanks. Somebody else?”

“Over here, sir. As you know, your administration systematically plans, carries out, and attempts to justify cruel and barbaric treatment of prisoners; it brushes off the deaths of the innocent in war as collateral damage; and it strongly supports the death penalty for a wide variety of offenses. Some people claim these actions are unthinkable for a true follower of Christ, who let himself be tortured and crucified rather that strike his enemies. Would you care to comment on that?”

“Where are these people coming from? Where are all the usual reporters, who ask me if I had a nice vacation and whether the economy is going to improve and stuff like that? I don’t know whose idea this thing was, but heads are going to roll. Yes, you over there by the window.”

“Thank you, Mr. President. The Bible speaks often of the evil of pursuing riches and worldly gain, yet you and your family throw yourselves wholeheartedly into growing ever richer. Your administration is remarkable for the extent to which it favors the rich at the expense of everyone else. How do you square your personal and political behavior with Biblical values?”

“I’m glad this is a country—and a news conference, for that matter—where we can talk about Biblical values. I used to be a doper and a drunk, but once Jesus came into my heart, I found new peace, as well as a piece of the ownership of the Texas Rangers. He has blessed me with the chance to cut some really nifty deals. See, God looks after those who look out for Him. The Golden Rule: you slap my back and I’ll slap yours. A lot of people don’t understand that.”

“Mr. President, I was wondering if it bothers you to cynically exploit the trust of decent, ordinary churchgoers, like those women in the choir in Nashville, for example?”

“I’ll have to check with my spiritual advisors on that. I’ll get back to you.”

“Mr. President! Mr. President!”

“Will you all stop waving your hands for a minute! I’m looking for that fake reporter we planted in here, and I can’t see him if you’re going to keep jumping around. Oh, there he is. Tell me, what question do you have for me today, Ed?”

“Mr. President, I wonder if it bothers a born-in-the-blood, Bible-believing Christian like yourself to be second-guessed by a bunch of atheistic progressives, Bible-burning liberals, and anti-Christ Democrats?”

“Well, praise the Lord, it’s about time. That’s the kind of fair and well-balanced question we’re looking for. Let me just say I want to make it clear right now that I don’t think every Democrat is necessarily the spawn of Satan. Some of them voted for me. On the other hand, it stands to reason that opposition to my God-driven agenda has to originate somewhere. That’s all I’ve got to say; people can draw their own conclusions.

“One more question. You there in the back row.”

“Mr. President, where do you stand on the separation of church and state?”

“Whoa, looks as if we’ve run out of time! Let’s wrap things up. Dr. Dobson, would you lead us in closing prayer?”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Monday, July 04, 2005

“The Big Picture”

Late at night, deep in the bowels of the White House, three desperate men meet (somewhat in the manner of e.coli converging). One speaks. “Guys, we can talk frankly here. The President’s poll numbers are dropping to his IQ level. The body count in Iraq is rising like the national debt. Afghanistan is falling apart faster than our cover story for invading Iraq. We’ve got to do something. What?”

“Dick, why don’t we just run off another couple hundred thousand of those ‘Standing Tall’ bumper stickers and pass them out?”

“They’re already on order, Don, along with a batch of ‘These Colors Don’t Run.’”

“Maybe we could get Lee Greenwood to appear with the Prez and sing ‘God Bless the USA’?”

“It’s been done, Karl, but I guess I could get out the ear plugs and do it again.”

“How about activating our pastoral support network?” asked Karl. “Have them hold Fourth of July services doing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ along with the Pledge of Allegiance and songs like ‘Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus, Ye Soldiers of the Cross.’”

“I don’t know,” Dick responded. “I’m a little leery about asking churches to plug the war.”

“Come on, Dick, get real! What are you doing, developing a conscience? You’re a politician, for Christ’s sake.”

“No, Don, I’m not developing a conscience. Mine’s the size of a booger and shrinking. It’s just uneasiness about asking them to go out on a limb and endorse a lost cause,” said Dick defensively.

Whoops. Dead silence. Dick had just spoken the unthinkable. Thought the unspeakable. Whatever. We’re losing another war to people who don’t speak English and aren’t even Christian. TV footage of people hanging from helicopters, fleeing in panic from the embassy roof in Baghdad, raced through each of their heads.

“Uh, look, Dick,” said Karl. “Why don’t we play up the Iraqi elections—you know, we’re moving toward democracy, our goal is clear, it just takes a little time, you run into some bumps in the road, we’re winning the war, the Vietnamese—I mean the Iraqis—are taking more and more responsibility for their own security, etc., etc.”

“That sounds good to me,” said Dick reflectively. “When in doubt, ask yourself what LBJ would do. Did.”

“Isn’t that a little tricky?” worried Don. “Aren’t people going to see that we’re feeding them the same diet of deception, meal after meal, war after war?”

Dick laughed. “It’s like eating potato chips. They know it’s unhealthy, but they just grab another handful and shove’em in the dip.”

“Suppose we attack liberals for sympathizing with the enemy,” suggested Karl. “We could claim that showing basic human decency to prisoners is the same thing as supporting al Qaeda.”

“We’ve played that card before,” said Dick, “and you’d think sooner or later people would wise up. But you would be wrong. Let’s go for it. Karl, it was your idea; you be the point man on this one.”

An idea had been surfacing in Don’s mind, like a mine elevator rising slowly from a coal shaft. “Hey, guys,” he said. “Hold on. We’re not really in that bad a shape! Think about it. So the country’s going to hell in a hot rod. So everything we touch turns to manure. So what? Look at the big picture:

“The President just got re-elected. Our majority in the Senate is swelling like a tumor. With that slick redistricting trick Tom DeLay pulled in Texas, we have a semi-permanent lock on the House. And when we fill one—maybe two—seats on the Supreme Court, we’ll have a conservative majority that’s good for a generation. Four out of four ain’t bad!

“People want a pretty war with nobody getting hurt? Tough. People want fairness instead of favors for the rich? Tough. People get queasy about having their kids drinking poisoned water, breathing polluted air, and eating genetically modified food? Tough. People resent underfunded schools with impossible mandates? Tough. We’re in the saddle, and we’re taking these cattle for a long drive.”

© Tony Russell, 2005