Bad Mom, Bad Prez | Crank Call | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published September 25, 2002 at 4:00 p.m.

I was all set this week not to mention the Bush administration and whichever country it is around the Tigris and Euphrates that our government intends to flatten, but events got a hold of me.

Really, they did. I looked hard for other news on which to spin a bit of punditry. There's that Bad Mom in Indiana, for example, who was filmed punching the lights out of her little girl in a parking lot. Apparently, Bad Mom was miffed because she wasn't given a cash refund for a couple pairs of jeans. I can understand her frustration, if not her action, but I don't see a whole column in it. Bad Mom herself has the situation well in hand.

"I know I hit Martha and I knew I pulled her hair, and I shouldn't have did either of it," Bad Mom said Monday on CNN's "American Morning," her very first talk-show appearance. She is "horrified," "mortified," "sick to [her] stomach" that such a thing could have happened. Such a thing has never happened in Bad Mom's family before. Bad Mom is fully prepared to take her lumps: "There would be no excuse in the world why I did it."

Bad Mom has a very smart lawyer. Her lawyer is smart enough to enter a plea of not guilty with the explanation that it's just "a formality." He's also smart enough to inject a little multiculturalism into the proceedings by announcing that his client is a member of the Irish Travelers, known in the bad old days of prejudice and stereotyping as "Tinkers."

In the bad old days of prejudice and stereotyping, the stereotyped image of the Tinkers might well have been compared to the stereotyped image of the Gypsies. They are, in any case, a close-knit and itinerant people, and they don't make very good witnesses in court. This is why Bad Mom's lawyer needs to add, "I feel very confident that I can reach a plea bargain with the prosecutor for probation, as I have a very delightful client. She's smart, she's intelligent, and she's just a tremendous mother." One way or another, she won't escape the moral judgment of a wrathful nation.

Unfortunately, this thought brings me right back to the Bush administration and that particular part of Mesopotamia it intends to vaporize, if necessary, in the name of "full spectrum dominance." It brings me back because this wrathful nation's moral judgment is increasingly reserved only for pathetic, isolated cases like a Bad Mom. Because if you're really angry about child abuse, you have to be angry about war. And I don't think enough of you are.

I leave it to you how you navigate your way around "full-spectrum dominance," a phrase out of Orwell. A new defense document, "Joint Vision 2020," defines this as the ability and the right of the United States Ñ anywhere, for any reason, with or without provocation Ñ "to conduct prompt, sustained and synchronized operations with combinations of forces tailored to specific situations, and with access to and freedom to operate in all domains Ñ space, sea, land, air and information."

"Joint Vision 2020" scared me so much that I turned to the scandal-plagued Governor of Kentucky, Paul Patton, who last week "tearfully admitted" at a news conference that he'd had "an improper relationship with a western Kentucky nursing home operator who is suing him for sexual harassment," a woman the Governor pointedly calls "Mrs. Conner." In the South, it's not always easy to tell the difference between good manners and lying, and for all I know Gov. Patton, by emphasizing the "Mrs." in Mrs. Conner, is subtly undermining the reputation of a married woman who was once Ñ well, for two years Ñ dumb enough to have sex with him.

Anyhow, I couldn't continue with this thread. Like Bad Mom, the Governor just wants to come clean. He wants to "apologize to the people of Kentucky for [his] failure as a person." He's already apologized to Judi Ñ that's "Mrs." Patton Ñ after lying to her first, when the whole sordid tale erupted in the press. "My first response was to deny my unfaithfulness to Judi," is how Patton puts it. "I was wrong. The denial was another mistake." As to Mrs. Conner, in no way, under no circumstances, never, ever did the Governor or anyone in his administration "try to punish her" when she told him to take a walk.

Well, there I was back again with Bush and what is now called, with all reverence, the Bush Doctrine Ñ the right to the "preemptive strike." I hope that isn't classified information. But it seems to me that the press used to go "full-spectrum loony" on politicians like Gov. Patton, oily hypocrites with their pants off Ñ whatever. It seems to me that the full might of corporate media was recently employed in the effort to unseat a president over a junior-league land deal and some misaimed semen in the wash. And it seems to me..."

But this is where I turned to Samuel Johnson, a kind of Founding Father for writers. "In a time of war," Johnson said, "the nation is always of one mind, eager to hear something good of themselves, and ill of the enemy. At this time the task of news writers is easy; they have nothing to do but to tell that the battle is expected, and afterwards that a battle has been fought, in which we and our friends, whether conquering or conquered, did all, and our enemies did nothing."

Which is why I didn't want to write about it.