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Peddling Influence

Crank Call


Published April 13, 2005 at 4:00 p.m.

I never thought anything could get me yearning for the good old days of Terri Schiavo-mania, but if anything did, it was the death of the pope.

"Major news media around the world devoted 10 times as many stories to Pope John Paul II's death as they did to the re-election of President Bush," according to an AP wire report last week.

"The Global Language Monitor, which scans the Internet for the use of specific words or phrases using Roman characters, found 35,000 new stories on the pope in the 24 hours after his death. That compares with about 3500 new stories on Bush within a day of his re-election and 1000 new stories on former President Reagan within a day of his death last year."

Pressed to account for this unprecedented glut of Pope-o-philia, Paul J.J. Payack, president of Global Language, said, "The jump reflected the Roman Catholic pontiff's influence."

Come again? More influential than Reagan? More "influential" than Bush? Somehow, I doubt it.

"He was tied in history," Payack stammered, "probably more than any pope in contemporary time." This isn't surprising, John Paul II being the only pope "in contemporary time," and "history" meaning nothing to anyone outside the academy and a few stragglers who might recall it. We don't know what some other pope "in contemporary time" might have been like.

Sheesh! I'd say that's the extent of my pope-bashing, but it isn't, quite. I regard the late pontiff as neither wonderful nor more appalling than any other provincial prelate elevated to supreme power in a secretive and reactionary institution. Like many, John Paul II outlived his century, which was the 19th. Ask any woman who's been told to lie down and take it, any boy "interfered with" by a priest, or anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the middle of an AIDS epidemic -- which is to say, an awful lot of people.

OK, enough! If "the media" can divert their attention so quickly, without pause, so can I. I never thought, either, that I'd feel sorry for Prince Charles, not to mention Camilla, the "Rottweiler." But I do right now. I can't believe the knives that are out for this man (and I was a great fan of his first wife). If I were Charles, I'd have told my mother to attend the pope's funeral herself and gone right ahead with my wedding plans. But, of course, as Her Majesty once said to Diana with a wink, "Charles is hopeless."

How's that for "family values?" People should stop thinking about "the royals" as if they were "the same as us." They're not. If they are, there's no point in having them. Witness Laura Bush, the "First Lady," who traveled to Afghanistan recently for a whole six hours, backed by the full might of the U.S. military and the Secret Service, and afterward declared, "I knew we'd be safe. Afghanistan is safe. There are certainly parts of it that aren't right now. But, in general, I think it is a very safe place to travel."

Uh-huh. I never thought I'd end up hating Laura Bush, because I never thought I'd have to think about someone like Laura Bush, much less her grinning, back-slapping, mentally challenged fraud of a husband. "Left-wing" columnist Sheila Samples, in a recent editorial, quotes Dubya verbatim at one of his stage-managed stumps for Social Security "reform" in Tampa, Florida. A woman in the (pre-selected) audience asked Ding-Dong to explain what this revolting Republican scam was really about, "in words that she could understand," and this was the reply:

"Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculated, for example, is on the table. Whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to what has been promised. Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled."

Kind of? Reading it, you can actually feel the Leader of the Free World groping to remember whatever it was they told him before they let him off the ranch. The full extent of the (second) Bush disaster, if we're lucky enough to survive it, won't be known for many years. But the responsibility for it lies squarely with a "media" so craven, so besotted with money, power and "access," so rife with phony pundits, talking heads, vicious blondes, gloating voices and drooling "experts" that it will not -- it cannot -- confess its own complicity in the destruction of the American state.

And, oh, yes -- here's the first Mrs. Bush, Barbara, "America's Favorite Grandmother" and one of the wealthiest women on the planet, helping Junior sock it to the poor at another Florida rally for Social Security "reform."

"I'm here because your father and I have 17 grandchildren," this pearl-encrusted monster explained, fawning to a man so rude and graceless she couldn't allow him anywhere near the Queen of England when H.M. dined at the White House in 1989. "And we want to know, is someone going to do something about it?"

Too late, Granny -- way too late. Dubya, as always, got his own way, accosting Her Majesty despite all efforts to stop it.

"I'm the black sheep of my family," he said with a grin. "Who's yours?"

"None of your business," the Queen replied. And those, my friends, really were the days.

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