Jewish World Review Oct. 26, 2004/ 11 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765

Wesley Pruden

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Running on empty is not an option | MEMPHIS — Hate is a high-octane fuel for a presidential campaign, and if the engine doesn't blow up from the heat and metal fatigue, it sometimes works.

Hate has worked before (you could ask the ghost of Rutherford B. Hayes). Samuel Tilden and the Democrats lost that argument in 1876 in a sea of bloody shirts. Now, John F. Kerry and the Democrats, waving bloody shirts, shoes, trousers and even their BVDs, are putting hate to the test in the final week of this campaign.

You can see it, feel it and taste it, all across the land, even here in the polite, laid-back precincts of what we once called Middle America. In some neighborhoods, you can hardly read the ubiquitous yard signs for the imaginative graffiti defacing them.

Some of us are scared. Elizabeth Edwards, the Democratic candidate for Second Lady, tried to reassure a fan at a rally in Harrisburg, Pa., who asked plaintively whether there would be riots after the election. Replied Mrs. Edwards: "Not if we win."

Mrs. Edwards, clearly a novice at answering questions on the fly in the chaotic hurly-burly of stump politics, was no doubt innocent of trying to telegraph a riot. But such is the venom directed at George W. The Secret Service is well-advised to keep reserves, a reinforced armored division if one is available, at the ready if, as many people expect, the president is re-elected.

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This is in part what the Founding Fathers feared — election campaigns brutalized by the mob. Hence the Electoral College, which was intended to moderate the power of the mob, and the Founding Fathers never even imagined celebrity and what celebrity would do to the common culture.

Rosie O'Donnell showed up to headline a get-out-the-vote rally for Monsieur Kerry in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the other night and only 38 people showed up, but they got what they came for, an earful of hateful blubber. George W., Rosie explained, "goes against the foundation of what our country was built on" because he told the United Nations "we would ignore their doctrine and resolutions." Rosie thinks Monsieur Kerry's "global test" was "the best part to me in the entire debate."

Florida, in fact, has not been kind to Kerry celebrities, perhaps because so many Floridians have never heard of some of the celebrities. (Where were George and Gracie?) Rosie's rally started after dark and most of the little old ladies who marked their ballots for Pat Buchanan four years ago, thinking they were voting for Harold Stassen or FDR, were home in bed. Rosie spent most of her shtick examining her various ample body parts, speculating on how plastic surgery could improve them. No one fainted, but it wasn't clear whether anyone was inspired to reflect on Monsieur Kerry's greatness.

Cher, the night before in a disco in Miami Beach, grumbled that she was promised "thousands of people," but only 200 showed up. She warned "all the gay guys" to vote against the president because if they didn't, really, really bad things would happen to them. "It would be only a matter of time before you guys would be so [abused in a naughty place]." If the Republicans prevail, she said, not only would George W. appoint new "Superior Court judges," but homosexuals would be sent off to live in a state by themselves. She did not say which of the 50 states would be appropriated, presumably by eminent domain. (Massachusetts, anyone?) "These guys are not going to want to see Gay Pride Week."

Europeans who can't vote are shipping in tankers of hate (Parisian crude, worth a lot less than $50 a barrel) to make sure our native haters don't run dry. London's Guardian, which would be PBS if it were an American network instead of a British newspaper, first tried to recruit readers to instruct pen-pal voters in Ohio in how to rescue the world from George W.'s evil clutches, but the Kerry voters told them to butt out. There's enough domestic hate to get the job done.

The Guardian, once the distinguished voice of the respectable Old Limey left, then called for an assassin's help. "On Nov. 2," wrote columnist Charles Brooker, "the entire civilized world will be praying, praying Bush loses ... he'll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of G-d once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over us and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. — where are you now that we need you?" Hate comes in no higher octane.

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

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