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Jewish World Review April 5, 2004/ 14 Nissan, 5763

Mark Steyn

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Consumer Reports


The flip-flopper hip-hopper: John Kerry gets down — and not just his poll numbers

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com |
For a year or so now, I've woken up to a ton of e-mails each morning with the subject marked BUSH LIED! — or, to be more precise, BUSH LIED!!!!!!! I'm not one who thinks it helpful to characterize a policy difference as a ''lie.'' So, when John Kerry says he supports the Kyoto Treaty even though he voted for a bill that declared the United States would never ever ratify it, that doesn't mean he's a ''liar,'' it just means that, well, to be honest, I haven't a clue what it means, you better to take it up with him, now he's out of the hospital after his elective surgery. ''Elective surgery" means you vote to have the operation, and then spend the next year insisting you've always been strongly opposed to the operation.

Anyway, as I said, I wouldn't call Sen. Kerry a liar. But I did get the vague feeling in the following exchange that, if it had gone on a minute or two longer, the candidate's nose would have cracked my TV screen, extended across the coffee table and pinned me to the wall.

The time: last month; the place: MTV. The interviewer asks: ''Well, we know that you were into rock 'n' roll when you were in high school, and we know that you play the guitar now. Are there any trends out there in music, or even in popular culture in general, that have piqued your interest?''

''Oh sure. I follow and I'm interested,'' says John Kerry. ''I'm fascinated by rap and by hip-hop. I think there's a lot of poetry in it. There's a lot of anger, a lot of social energy in it. And I think you'd better listen to it pretty carefully, 'cause it's important . . . I'm still listening because I know that it's a reflection of the street and it's a reflection of life.''

Really? You're ''fascinated'' by rap and ''listening'' to hip-hop? You're America's first flip-flopper hip-hopper?

The best riposte to Kerry came from an encounter a few years ago between his predecessor Al Gore and Courtney Love, lead singer of the popular beat combo Hole, when they chanced to run into each other at a Democratic party night in Hollywood.

''I'm a really big fan,'' gushed the vice president.

''Yeah, right. Name a song,'' scoffed Courtney. The panicked vice panderer floundered helplessly. Fortunately, his Secret Service guys moved in before he wound up completely riddled by Hole. As wise old campaign consultants always say, the politician's First Rule of Holes is: When you're in one, stop digging. Al introduced us to a Second Rule: When you're with one, stop pretending to dig her.

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If only that MTV guy had said to Kerry, ''Yeah, right. Name a song.'' Think Kerry could've? Reckon if you bust into his pad and riffled through his and Teresa's CD collection you'd find a single rap album? Of course, you wouldn't find any in George and Laura's CD collection either. The difference is that President Bush doesn't feel the need to pretend.

Margaret Thatcher didn't either. Interviewed by disc jockeys on London radio stations and invited to name her favorite pop song, she'd choose the Beverly Sisters' British cover version of ''How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?'' or the Australian didgeridoo virtuoso Rolf Harris' ''Two Little Boys.'' The title of ''How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?'' is the very definition of compassionate conservatism — the vocalist's compassion for the confined puppy shrewdly tempered by cost-benefit analysis. As for ''Two Little Boys,'' that was written in 1902 and seemed kinda hokey even then:

''Two Little Boys

Had two little toys

Each had a wooden horse

Gaily they'd play

Each summer's day

Warriors both of course''

To the old taunt ''Be there or be square,'' Thatcher replies, ''Go ahead, punk/hip-hopper/techno-industrial-garage-house-wraparound-porch beatnik, make my day. I'll be there and be square.'' That's much cooler than a 60-year old Botoxicated Brahmin from the U.S. Senate recycling a lot of 20-year-old cliches about rap being the authentic voice of the streets.

By comparison, here's Gov. Bush four years ago being given a ''verbal Rorschach'' test on American pop culture by Glamour magazine: What comes to mind, David France wanted to know, when you think of Madonna?

''I'm not into pop music,'' replied Bush.

Boy, that MTV special would have been a short one. Stunned by the candidate's ignorance, Maureen Dowd, the New York Times' elderly schoolgirl, wrote a column mocking him for never having heard of ''Sex and the City,'' beginning as follows:

''W. may have gone too far this time.

''Americans can forgive him not knowing that Gen. Pervez Musharraf seized power in Pakistan.

''But can we forgive him not knowing that Sarah Jessica Parker quaffs Cosmopolitans in Manhattan?''

Answer: Yes. Unlike Dowd, Americans are apparently willing to cut him some slack on this vital question. Some may even feel that his cheerful admission that ''I'm not into pop music'' is the sign of a man secure in his sense of himself.

This isn't entirely a matter of trivialities. The fads and fashions of the world aren't confined to the Billboard Hot 100. All over the planet, men in late middle age are pretending to like stuff just 'cause it's what the likes of Maureen Dowd tell them people want to hear. John Kerry pretends to like gangsta rap. Russia pretends it supports the Kyoto Accord. The European Union pretends Yasser Arafat is committed to peace with Israel. The Security Council pretends its resolutions mean something. Kofi Annan pretends the Oil-for-Fraud program is a humanitarian aid effort for the Iraqi people. The International Atomic Energy Authority pretends the mullahs in Tehran are good-faith negotiators on the matter of Iranian nukes.

It's easy to pander to fashion — whether on pop music, the environment, the Middle East ''peace process'' or sentimental transnationalism. But on MTV, Kerry wasn't done yet. After coming out for hip-hop, he managed to blame the Bush administration's ''behavior'' for making terrorists become terrorists. I guess that terrorism's just a ''reflection of the street,'' too. Doubtless there's ''a lot of anger, a lot of social energy in it.'' The MTV crowd loved the line, and no doubt Jacques Chirac and the Arab League will as well. Welcome to John Kerry's hip-hop foreign policy: Ask the multilateral gang what's hip, and hop to it.

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JWR contributor Mark Steyn is North American Editor of The (London) Spectator and the author, most recently, of "The Face of the Tiger," a new book on the world post-Sept. 11. (Sales help fund JWR). Comment by clicking here.

03/25/04: We tried appeasement once before
03/16/04: The Spanish dishonored their dead
03/10/04: Beware of the fruitcakes in government
03/01/04: It's the war, stupid
02/23/04: So which would America rather have: Pretty Boy or Long Face?
02/17/04: The Default Democrat from another world
02/10/04: Kerry won't scare any of the big beasts
02/02/04: The Kerry biography: He's risen without trace
01/26/04: Mad Dr. Dean jolts Kerry campaign to life
01/21/04: Undoing the party herd
01/13/04: llIegals the political 'untouchables'
01/05/04: Don't leave Saddam trial to the 'jet set'
12/30/03: Doers and disparagers
12/23/03: Spates of denial
12/16/03: Defiant? He's a Ba'athist who won't bath
12/10/03: Rummy speaks the truth, not gobbledygook
12/02/03: War on terror can't stop with Iraq
11/24/03: It's not Vietnam and Bush is no Kennedy
11/12/03: There is a Cold War between the US and the EU
10/28/03: Muslim paranoia: Enemies made us impotent!

10/28/03:The CIA scandal is important not because it put an agent's life at risk — it didn't — but because it shows that US Intelligence is either obstructive or inept
10/08/03: Palestinian death cult
09/29/03: Bring on the capitalists
09/22/03: Here comes General Clark, his policies will follow shortly
09/17/03: Don't wait for government protection
09/11/03: Predators aren't looking for peace
09/02/03: This is Hillary's moment — You go, girl!
08/29/03: There are now calls for greater UN involvement in Iraq. Thatís the last thing the country needs
08/26/03: There's only one hyperpower — so everything is our fault
08/04/03: The White Man's Burden
07/29/03: Bill Clinton got this right
06/25/03: It's Mullah time!
05/07/03: What counts is what a guy does when he's not talking
04/30/03: It's named UNSCAM for a very good reason!
04/14/03: Movers and shakers have moved on to the next 'disaster'
03/25/03: Give Saddam credit
03/18/03: 'Eurabia' will have to look after herself
02/27/03: Death wish
02/19/03: The curtain will come down on the peaceniks
02/10/03: Let's quit the UN
02/03/03: Columbia reality-check
01/29/03: Go forth and multiply
01/09/03: America's fake identity crisis
12/31/02: GOP underperforms, but Dems are laughable
11/26/02: A bombing pause --- for 12 months!?
10/30/02: Stop making excuses for Muslim extremists
09/27/02: The more inventively you try to ''explain'' the Islamist psychosis as a rational phenomenon to be accommodated, the more you risk sounding just as nutty as them
08/23/02: Battered Westerner Syndrome inflicted by myopic Muslim defenders
08/09/02: Friends in low places
08/02/02: Armageddon out of here
07/26/02: Enjoy the ''scandal'' while you can, lads
07/16/02: Arafat is toast; Bush knows it --- so why doesn't the rest of the world?
07/10/02: Hey, FBI: So, denial really is a river in Egypt!
06/20/02: A fight to the finish
06/11/02: Rock, royalty a good match
05/31/02: Unless we change our ways ... the world faces a future where things look pretty darn good
05/24/02: Sweet land of liberty: Britain and Europe have free governments, but only in the US are the people truly free
05/14/02: Extreme hypocrisy in the pursuit of 'peace' is ...
05/10/02: The home office of extremism
05/01/02 Slipping down the Eurinal of history: France, the joke is on you
04/23/02 It's time to snap out of Arab fantasy land
04/16/02 Mideast war exposes 'ugly Europeans'
04/09/02 Arafat has begun his countdown to oblivion. Now it's time to crush the Palestinian uprising
03/27/02 The good, the bad and the Gallic shrug
03/20/02 Grand convocation of the weird

© 2004, Mark Steyn