The Last Word by Fern Chandonnet
Now and then - not often - a saintly person will cross my path, but I have never met a group whose membership comprises fewer criminals than any other. I'm thinking of the army of priests and evangelicals who are constitutionally incapable of keeping their pants up above their knees; president-impeachers who tut-tut the unearthing of their own "youthful indiscretion"; lying governors; thieving businessmen; disingenuous politicians; at once sanctimonious and avaricious newspaper owners; teachers who deflower their students; policemen who differ from their prey only in that they carry badges; junkie doctors on the take; lawyers and judges and secretaries of defense, oh my.
So when the professional explainers drop out of their respective trees after an election and tell me it was all about moral values, I have to laugh.
Here's what went down.
Karl Rove, described by the explainers as the genius behind the throne, but whose intelligence actually resembles more closely that of a hungry rat, has codified every criminal sentiment extant into the electioneering process.
To be sure, lies, deceit and evasion of the question at hand have always been part of the arsenal of the public person who aims for beatification. But Rove has finessed these black arts enough so that now they smack of a grand American tradition.
And he has raised trash talk to an art form: So what if Bush is nothing? Kerry, the big-deal, so-called hero with the fancy-schmancy medals, is a dirt bag. Nyah nyah.
Shoot, ask the person next to you if she or he even knows what calumny means anymore.
Which is not to say the Democrat wasn't complicit in his own defeat. Kerry was. And he did it by debating a cretin.
Let's say you are invited to climb into a barrel to argue the issues with a rabid monkey. (A sane person wouldn't do it. But political aspiration does funny things to the mind.) And let's say you are enough of an intellect to subscribe to the conventions and politesse of formal debate. You say to the monkey, "Education needs our support; the economy needs looking after; we need clean air and water; and we need to aim for peace in our international deliberations."
The rabid monkey of course bites you on the arm, then starts biting you all over until you leap, screaming, from the barrel.
What you should have done was smack the monkey upside the head with a two-by-four. Really hard.
You should have said: "Mr. President, your efforts to rape American education by stealing its prerogatives and money are transparent; you have pillaged the economy for your crook friends and established a sufficient enough national debt to block all future efforts at helping the poor or the sick or the needy of any kind; your Orwellian lies about clean water and clean air may be the most disgusting of your many disgusting habits; and you have killed more than a thousand American servicemen and women, crippled thousands more, and done away with maybe 25,000 Iraqis. For what?"
But Kerry debated the president.
Dukakis, you will remember, had a similar problem. Also an intellect, he really couldn't respond when Bush One played the race card - the ugliest political ploy imaginable. Hitler was fond of it. Probably Dukakis could not even conceive of dubbing Papa Bush the scum that he was for appealing to America's favorite prejudice.
And then there's the electorate. As the explainers pick lice off each other, they ruminate about how "the nation is divided"; "the Democrats are searching for an identity"; "Americans are seeking security in the midst of terror."
Here's what happened.
The New Deal Democrats died, and the Dems' numbers have never recovered. The descendants of the people whom Roosevelt kept alive and therefore endeared have resubscribed to their forebears' atavisms - which had been kept at bay during the Great Depression by social programs that worked (and which Bush Two will now disassemble).
There is no division. Here's how the electorate breaks out: About half wanted the president out. Half of the other half comprises business types who truly believe that there is no greater good than the bottom line, that Coolidge was right about America, and that you get a better return from bribing Republicans than from bribing Democrats. The remaining 25 percent are the reactionary imbeciles (Rove's meat) who have no memory that FDR plumped for life in the life-and-death struggle of their grandparents. These may be further identified by their splashy patriotism; their subscription to haywire hypotheses such as creationism; and their condemnation of a candidate for purely Rove-ian reasons: "He seems stiff," or "He flip-flops."
So what's gonna happen, O wise one?
Not much that's good. A population that gorges on Cheetos and is entranced with Beavis, Butthead and pop-tart Madonna's iron garter-belt is not about to reform a damned thing.
And rabid monkeys are infectious.
Fern Chandonnet is Sunday editor of the Juneau Empire.