Thursday, September 23, 2004

Here There Be Moderates

Cryptozoology is the study of "hidden" life, or mythical beasties, such as Sasquatch, Nessie, the Goat-sucker, and so forth. I have a new one for them to seek out: the Moderate Muslim.

We hear about this group, occasionally getting a glimpse of them as they walk away into the underbrush, or swim past a sonar-activated camera, leaving us with grainy images open to debate. They're the poor, put-upon folks out there that suffer deeply when someone points out that it is Muslims who are murdering children, beheading aid workers, or flying jumbo jets into buildings. When someone tells us these things, also known as "pointing out the obvious", they are accused of racism, discrimination, bad taste, you name it.

But when a fine, upstanding Muslim decides to kill children, behead aid workers on video, or fly jumbo jets into buildings, the Moderate Muslim is nowhere to be found.

Now, I cannot say conclusively they don't exist, just because I have never seen one. I haven't seen Italy, but I am pretty sure it exists (at least I hope so, there is a gelatto shop in Rome that serves an Islay Malt Whisky that I'd like to try). I haven't seen a moderate muslim, but there is that grainy footage. It could be a guy in an ape suit, it could be Sasquatch, but I can't tell.

During the worst of the IRA terrorism, in the early 90s, a bomb was set off in a department store on the day before Mother's Day in England. That was the day children would go out to buy Mummy a nice gift. A lot of them died. And the next Sunday, the Catholic IRA terrorists were roundly condemned by Catholic priests and Bishops, who went so far as to say that these terrorists (that is what they were, not insurgents, not militants, not the resistance) were bound for hell if they did not repent and submit themselves to civil justice.

Now where are those Moderate Muslims again? Perhaps they exist in some terra incognita, labeled "Here there be moderates", like the old explorers' maps of Africa and India, imagining fanciful beasts and peoples. Perhaps, like those explorers who found a narwhal horn, some one has found a small piece of evidence that promises these Moderate Muslims exist. They are certainly shy, running into the brush at the least sign of trouble.

I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps not all muslims are terrorists in the making. Perhaps many of them are cowards. At any rate, they are not worth much either way.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Less JFK, More RMN

If you weren’t drunk while watching the Democrat National Convention (the only way I would), it was hard to miss the Vietnam imagery swirling around the candidate. To get to the convention across the dangerous waters of the harbor, and avoid the even more dangerous streets of Boston, Kerry boarded a ferry with his old (Literally. Has anybody noticed how old these freaking hippies look? I’ve seen guys who look like David Crosby in the retirement home) ship-mates. Then we were treated to Kerry’s home movies, tweaked a bit by the geniuses that brought us Saving Private Ryan.

Now, as far as the whole issue of Vietnam service as a campaign issue, I agree with, at least an earlier incarnation of, John Kerry: Who served and who didn’t serve in Vietnam should not decide the legitimacy of a presidential candidate.

That said, I can’t help but notice that, as a part of his second (three month) tour of duty, Kerry chose the “Swift Boats”, patrol boats used to cruise the rivers and delta in Vietnam. He had two reasons: first, it wasn’t dangerous. I can’t blame him; I can’t say I’d like to go for the deadly duty at first blush. Of course, I’m not trying to base my campaign on four months of service in a war on the losing side from 40 years ago, either. The second reason: the boats looked like PT boats, those old plywood hulled, torpedo carrying speed demons that were used in the Pacific theater of WWII. And why is that? Who is the most famous PT boat driver next to McHale? John Fitzgerald Kennedy, of course! John F. (what does that “F” stand for, anyway?) Kerry, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, JFK, JFK! Kerry is the new JFK, every Democrat’s wet dream.

And then this whole National Guard thing started up. Someone in the DNC (new motto: fifth time’s a charm! Really, we can make it stick!) thought they should try a new tack: gin up some letters from W’s past, showing what a bad pilot he was, how he kept missing duty, and what a big fat liar he was. They hand them off to Dan “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” Rather, and, employing the investigative skills honed through years of diligent reporting, pretty much reads the letters verbatim on the air, failing to do even the most fundamental background check. Experts galore come forward, pointing out that the typeface is inconsistent with the technology of the 1970s, the acronyms are wrong, the signatures don’t match, they’re written in crayon, and so forth. The author of the letters, conveniently dead, is silent on the subject. His wife and son, however, have come forward and pointed out that Dad couldn’t type, he didn’t keep private memos, and he actually liked Bush. Whoops.

And now, the scramble starts. Hurricane Danny defends the CBS decision to run the memos, saying “You can’t prove definitively they’re forgeries. They might be the product of an alternate universe, or maybe a laptop with Word was sucked through a wormhole back in time to 1970. And besides, metaphysically, can we really be sure of anything?” CBS refuses to say where they got the memos. Terry McAuliffe, head of the DNC (and Clinton’s chief capo) blames Karl Rove: “It’s a secret plot, yeah! Rove wrote them, pretended he was a Democrat, and handed them over to CBS in order to discredit us! Ah, but the strawberries…” At this point, we have to ask ourselves if Kerry is less JFK than RMN.

In his 1972 run for re-election, Nixon’s campaign authorized the break-in of the offices of Edwin Muskie’s psychiatrist. They stole documents showing that Muskie was mentally unstable. Chuck Colson wrote the famous “Canuck Letter”, which made it look as if Muskie called Canadians “canucks”. When Muskie dropped out, he cried.

While running for president in 1968, Nixon promised as president he had a “secret plan” to get the US out of Vietnam.

So let’s see: Danny Boy runs with a story clearly designed to derail the Bush campaign, the DNC loudly denies involvement, because it was Bush’s fault, and Kerry tells us that, while he voted for the war, would vote for the war again, even though it was a mistake, he still had a plan to get us out of Iraq, the details of which he can’t reveal to the public.

Let’s add to this the fact that Nixon wasn’t exactly a man of the people: he was photographed walking on the beach in California in shorts and hard shoes. Kerry isn’t a man of the people either. Unless “the people” own a vacation home on Nantucket where they windsurf. The man lives in Boston and couldn’t name the lineup of the Red Sox. And have you seen him attempt to eat a corn dog?

So between being aloof, the paranoia, the emotional fragility, and the dirty tricks, Kerry seems more like Nixon. Now if we can only get him to say “I am not a crook”.