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Master and Commander

Crank Call


Published June 8, 2005 at 4:00 p.m.

What a week for words it was! Words, words, words -- all of them so weighted, loaded, overanalyzed and "explained," you'd think nothing means what it says anymore. Indeed, things have reached such a pass in the Duping of America "reality show" as to out-wonder Alice, in Through the Looking Glass, when she meets Humpty Dumpty on his wall:

"'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

"'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

"'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master -- that's all.'"

Exactly. You can tell who the master is in this blighted land -- George W. Bush -- by the way the press reports on his opponents. Howard Dean, for example, who scares the Republican Party far more than Hillary Clinton could and who must therefore, at all costs, be treated with smirks, brushed off as irrelevant, depicted as a loser and, of course, a "Screamer."

According to a Gannett wire report last week, "Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean further burnished his shoot-from-the-lip reputation Thursday, saying 'a lot of Republicans' don't make an 'honest living' and the GOP has 'a dark, difficult and dishonest' vision for America."

Note that, please: "shoot-from-the-lip." Note also that this was not an editorial, but a front-page news story. Dean, moreover, was "speaking to a conference of liberals" (which sounds like a coven of witches, but in fact was the Campaign for America's Future). And compare it to the slobbering, slavering, fawning, preening, forelock-tugging ocean of untainted bullshit we've been hearing about Bush at the same time -- all those stories asking if Ding-Dong is already "a lame duck," and then telling us, before we can answer, that he is not.

"When President Bush first latched onto mountain biking as his favored form of exercise," the Los Angeles Times said on June 3 -- on the very day Dean was defamed as a loose cannon -- "he plowed over rough terrain with a distinctive technique: Even when he pedaled uphill, he refused to shift to a lower gear."

No doubt -- he probably doesn't know where the gears are. But that doesn't fit the obligatory script. On the contrary, says the Times, it's "an apt metaphor for the way Bush is making his way through the second term of his presidency: No matter how steep the climb to his goals ... Bush is pushing on, as if heedless of the enormous obstacles he faces in Congress, around the country and across the globe."

"As if" heedless? This from the man who gave us "disassemble" as a synonym for lying? Who remarked about Amnesty International's report of torture and abuse at the American "detention center" at Guantánamo Bay not just that it was "absurd," but that "It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of -- and the allegations -- by people who were held in detention"?

Come on! But did anyone in "the liberal media" write last week that Bush had "further burnished his reputation for illiteracy"? (Not to mention idiocy, because, yes, those would be the people complaining about their mistreatment and the "mishandling" of their holy texts.) No, they didn't. Apparently they don't dare.

And even when Dean stuck to his guns -- you know, as if he were pedaling uphill in first gear, plowing over rough terrain and pushing on, "heedless" of the consequences -- the headlines said it all: "Dean Defends Remarks" (something Dopey is never asked to do); "Democrats Criticize Dean Attacks on GOP" (something Republicans are incapable of doing with Bush); "Dean-ial," "Is Dean Being Allowed to Hang Himself?", "Howard Dean's Raised Voice Isn't Raising Cash," etc., ad infinitum and nauseam.

"I don't worry about anything here in Washington, D.C.," said the First Biker, to veritable "oohs" and "ahs" from the Fourth Estate. "I feel comfortable in my role as the president, and my role as the president is to push for reform." The press could barely wait for him to finish before swooning over his "doggedness," "steadfastness," sincerity and so forth. (It seems impossible for anyone in "the liberal media" even to criticize Bush, never mind rebuke him, without first explaining that he is "undoubtedly sincere" in what he says.)

Basta! Any president of the United States who says he doesn't care what's going on in Washington is a) "disassembling," and b) unfit for the job. And it is not the role of the president to "push for reform," especially when "reform" becomes a synonym for illegal warfare, detention, torture and death, as expressed on Sunday, again by the LA Times: "President Bush's ambitious vision of global democratic reform has begun to dominate the administration's foreign affairs agenda, in some cases pushing aside urgent international issues."

One of those "urgent international issues" would be "human trafficking" on the part of some of our "key allies" around the globe -- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, etc. According to a State Department report last week, "As many as 800,000 people are bought and sold across national borders annually," most of them women and children, and most of them traded as "sex workers."

"Trafficking in human beings is nothing less than a modern form of slavery," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But I'd be careful if I were her. "A modern form of slavery" sounds very much like "the gulag of our time." And as we know, Dr. Rice, the word gulag is already taken.

Speaking of Crank Call