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Jewish World Review Feb. 27, 2004 / 5 Adar, 5764

James Lileks

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Introducing the AWOLs: Angry White Outraged Libs | So Ralph Nader has decided to — Oh, who cares. Without the Green Party, Nader has no organization. He'll pop up scolding on the cable channels, just another Angry White Outraged Liberal — AWOL for short.

Al Gore has become a full-blown AWOL; Howard Dean, with his head full of hornets, may have lost the race because of his AWOL temperament. John Kerry is sour and condescending, and as angry as his room-temperature personality permits him to be. The only one who isn't AWOL is John Edwards, who realizes people don't like to vote for lemon-suckers.

Anger doesn't sell in elections. Ross Perot got a pass because he was more peppery than peeved, more annoyed than infuriated. You got the sense that if this thing didn't work out, well, he'd head back home and resume spending his kazillion dollars on home security systems designed to confound GOP spy satellites. Bob Dole seemed angry, because Bob Dole always seemed to be imitating Dan Aykroyd imitating Richard Nixon imitating Bob Dole.

Cheer works best. Ronald Reagan was a happy guy. Bill Clinton, for all his conspicuous wrestling with his mediocre demons, was a happy guy. George Bush 41 was cheerful, in that late-middle-aged way guys have when the investments are doing nicely and the plumbing still works, but that sort of distracted cheer played poorly in a recession.

The current Bush is a reasonably happy guy — no small achievement when you go to bed worrying about small nukes smuggled in container cargos and wake to find the Washington Post obsessing over 30-year-old dental records.

So anger doesn't work. How about lies? Oh, that works much better. Example? Here's what John Kerry wrote to President Bush the other day:

"Over the last week, you and your campaign have initiated a widespread attack on my service in Vietnam, my decision to speak out to end that war, and my commitment to the defense of this nation. As you well know, Vietnam was a very difficult and painful period in our nation's history, and the struggle for our veterans continues. So it has been hard to believe that you would choose to reopen these wounds for your personal political gain. But, that is what you have chosen to do.

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"I will not sit back and allow my patriotism to be challenged."

Reopen the wounds? Has he taken leave of his senses? It's been Kerry who keeps prying the wound apart — the man couldn't place an order at McDonald's without bringing up his service in Vietnam. It was Terry McAuliffe, Democratic National Committee chairman, who accused the president of criminal desertion. If George W. Bush hasn't spent a great deal of time reopening old wounds, it's because he's dealing with new ones.

Two years into the war against Islamist fascism, Kerry wants — no, demands — that we relive Vietnam, but only the version he knows: the one where his service was honorable, his dissension noble, and the totalitarian nightmare that befell South Vietnam regrettable but irrelevant.

If he'd been around in 1942, he'd be complaining that our conduct in the Spanish-American War should influence our strategy toward Japanese imperialism.

Kerry's blatheration appeals to people who live in a parallel universe where Bush personally called for the Dixie Chicks to be stoned to death, and John Ashcroft put Tom Daschle under house arrest for insisting that the administration get French approval to invade Iraq. The people who think that Michael Moore sleeps in a different house every night to avoid deportation to Gitmo.

It's also aimed at the general electorate whose knowledge of world events comes from scanning the headlines in the newspaper box. A pre-emptive strike, if you will. Sen. Kerry couldn't accuse the president of questioning his patriotism if it weren't true, could he?

Sure he could. Anger makes people do curious things. But eventually someone's going to notice who makes the AWOLs apoplectic. It's not the United Nations. It's not European officials on Saddam Hussein's payroll. It's not Saddam. It's not al-Qaida that drives them mad.

It's Republicans. Fellow Americans! Why, that's rather unpatriotic of them, eh?

Relax! Just kidding. I apologize. Will Kerry?

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JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


02/20/04: Sifting the headlines of election year 1992
02/18/04: Guess Which Candidate Our Enemies Want to Lose in 2004?
01/29/04: Every Laptop a Truth Squad
01/27/04: When the battle over artistic freedom goes over the edge
12/31/03: For the Left and Right, Some New Year's Resolutions
12/22/03: Dean's black helicopters
12/15/03: Dems Are Mainstreaming the Extreme
12/08/03: Does Dean Really Want to Be President? One Wonders, When He Opens His Mouth
11/24/03: The real story: Most Brits see U.S. as force for good
11/19/03: The Trouble With Al Gore's Screed on Civil Liberties
11/11/03: Can a fellow win with the Confederate Metrosexual vote?
10/22/03: Let's make Greenpeace pay
09/29/03: Ah-nold & Clark may be on different sides of the aisles, but their supporters are cut from the same cloth
09/19/03: All Hail the Ninth Circuit Court of Surreal
08/26/03: This time, the record industry doesn't stand a chance!
08/18/03: Assessing the Schwarzenegger Factor in Republicanism
08/08/03: No wonder Howard ‘Two Covers’ Dean gets all the buzz
08/04/03: Expect bad news for the foreseeable future
07/28/03: Despot's Deserts
07/21/03: No winners in this game of gotcha
07/14/03: Doing the right thing in Liberia may not be the right thing to do
06/27/03: On feet in Democratic mouths
06/16/03: The real story behind Hillary's book
06/09/03:America's new mission was and remains: Extirpating the flaming nutballs and the societies that nurture them
06/03/03: The Constitution as gag order
05/23/03: Sometimes the theme of world events is chaos itself
05/16/03: Newspapers are only human, after all
05/13/03: What McCarthy messed up
05/06/03: Still think the International Criminal Court was a good idea?
04/03/03: The world is ending, the world is ending! Doesn't anybody care!? Why won't anybody listen!?
03/14/03: Kerry and the Dems are banking on American electorate's tendancy to forget history
02/28/03: Roadmap to peace?
02/13/03: We live in an age where the poet has been cast out from the halls of power --- sob, sob
02/10/03: Found: League for International Justice and Peace talking points
01/30/03: The US can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the UN can do is pass more worthless paper
01/23/03: People who'd volunteer for the Iraqi army if they saw Saddam wearing a "Free Mumia" button
01/16/03: One of those head vs. heart things
12/27/02: Whistleblowers?
01/06/02: The second year of this jangled millennium
11/16/01: Attack of the 'Patriotism police' and other Hollywood fare
11/12/01: From the bleats of dismay
10/30/01: Osama and the Genie
10/08/01: "We can stop the Bush Death Juggernaut"
11/04/01: America, loathe or it leave it
09/25/01: Do the Europeans actually think that the war on murderous zealotry will be furthered by undercutting America?
08/27/01: If the economy is in a funk, why aren't we dancing?
08/14/01: Dubyah's embarrassing presidential vacation
08/10/01: Hail to our co-chiefs?
08/03/01: Constitution: George the Uniter picked a doozy to unify detractors
07/25/01: The real reason why we need missile defense (What those uppity policy wonks won't tell you!)
06/18/01: Paining the egalitarian soul
06/01/01: One of the stranger indexes you'll ever hear about
05/21/01: One man's toke is another man's snort
05/08/01: Republicans want poisoned water
04/23/01: We bleat as we're sheared
04/10/01: Boys will be boys. And that's the problem
04/06/01: Pity the anti-American Left, they're gonna have a hard time on this one
03/26/01: You've been warned
03/16/01: The GOP's inexplicable desire to fold
02/23/01: Will the Jeb Bush administration attack Saddam in 2011?
02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2003, James Lileks