Jewish World Review May 9, 2002/ 7 Iyar, 5763

Wesley Pruden

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Abandoned on the dock, drowning in tears | A penumbra's gonna get George W. Bush if we don't watch out.

A penumbra, as every diligent schoolboy knows, is what grows on the Constitution, like green scum on the bayou. Until now, the experts had thought that only a Supreme Court justice could recognize a penumbra, which is easily confused with an emanation.

Roe v. Wade, for example, owes its existence to a penumbra. When the Supreme Court couldn't find a right to privacy in the Constitution - the Founding Fathers being fluent only in plain English - some of the justices found a "penumbra," which, if you're a Supreme Court justice on a roll, can be just as good as a constitutional right.

Now some of our pols and pundits think they have found another penumbra, though it's not clear whether they found it in the Constitution or a back issue of the Police Gazette, a Ku Klux Klan manual, or even on the editorial page of the New York Times. This is the penumbra that says a president can't visit his troops, particularly if they're on an aircraft carrier and definitely if he's wearing a flight suit. Robert Byrd, the Helen Thomas of the U.S. Senate, waxed exceedingly wroth about this in a speech to his colleagues, many of whom spent the duration of his declamation rolling their eyes.

"As I watched the president's fighter jet swoop down onto the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln," he said, "I could not help but contrast the reported simple dignity of the president at Gettysburg with the flamboyant showmanship of President Bush aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln."

This was quite a comedown for an old, superannuated grand kleagle (or maybe it was exalted beagle) of the Ku Klux Klan, who apparently thinks paying unexpected homage to the Great Emancipator, so called, gives him a little cover for his habit of calling blacks, even on television, by the n-word.

Rep. Henry Waxman of California, a free-spender of other people's money who would have been a war hero but couldn't spare the time, has asked the General Accounting Office to find out how much it cost taxpayers for the president to pay tribute to the men and women who liberated Iraq in 21 days.

Paul Krugman, the resident hysteric at the New York Times, is terrified of registered guns even if the guns are M-16s and sometimes sees boogers and goblins dancing on his bathroom wall in the middle of the night. He confessed to finding the sight of George W. surrounded by the fliers of the Abe Lincoln particularly "scary."

Rep. Maxine Waters of California, who never met a white man she thinks well of, says George W.'s tribute was either "shameful" or "shameless" (she's not sure which), and she is particularly upset that he wore a "custom-fitted flight suit." (If approximate-fits from Wal-Mart are good enough for a California congresswoman, they're good enough for a president.)

The Democrats are understandably desperate for something, anything, to cut George W. down to size, but seizing on the commander in chief's tribute to his troops is exceedingly odd, because the Navy guys and the public loved it. The precedents for George W.'s drop-by are abundant.

Lyndon Johnson flew to South Vietnam to rally his troops, urging them to "nail that ol' coonskin to the wall." FDR joined Winston Churchill and assembled sailors in a spirited chorus of "Onward, Christian Soldiers" aboard a warship in the North Atlantic in 1941. Lincoln visited Union troops on the battlefield, just as James Madison did during the War of 1812. Madison, the father of the Constitution, actually directed soldiers in battle. George Washington, who insisted on being addressed as "General Washington" even at the White House, once put on his sword to address Congress, and was no doubt tempted to use it. (Note to Maxine Waters: Washington, too, wore "custom-fitted" uniforms. No Wal-Mart stuff for the Father of Our Country.)

This has been a tough year for the Bush-baiters, and next year is likely to be worse. The Bush-baiters tried to portray George W. as a dunce, a frat guy and a jerk, and failed. They thought they had him cornered in a quagmire in the first hours of the Iraq war, and when the war became a stunning military spectacular, it broke their hearts and they had nowhere to go. Hence, grasping at straws, or at least at the rings on a custom-fitted flight suit.

Penumbra or not, there is no separation between a commander and his troops. You could ask anyone who has ever been there. Most of the squawking is from the Nancy boys who ran off to hide when their country called, and the color khaki frightens them to this day. Too bad for them.

Twenty-seven of the 42 men who have been president have worn their country's colors, and all but one of the 11 presidents since World War II have worn the khaki. We must excuse the lone exception, since his pants were usually around his ankles and nobody could see what color they were.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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