A matter of decency
   by Gene Lyons  January 14, 2004

To inhabitants of the visible world, the Bush administration has gotten
an awful lot of bad political news lately. In Iraq, American helicopters
continue to be shot down. The Shiite majority shows signs of rebellion.

The U.S. Army War College published a scathing report charging that an
"unnecessary" attack on Iraq and an indiscriminately broad "war on
terrorism" have left the Army "near the breaking point" and threaten
armed conflict with nations that pose no real threat. The American team
searching for Saddam Hussein’s apocryphal weapons of mass destruction
has withdrawn empty-handed. Exhaustive reporting by The Washington Post
found that WMDs existed largely as theoretical drawings on computer disks.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has concluded that Iraq
did not "pose an immediate threat to the United States, to the region or to
global security." In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted
that despite what he told the United Nations before the war, there’s no proof
of ties between Saddam and al-Qa’ida, "although the possibility of such
connections did exist."

Elsewhere, the International Monetary Fund warned that the Bush
administration’s fiscal indiscipline threatens the world economy. Former
Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill went on "60 Minutes" to portray
President Bush as an arrogant dim bulb who took little interest in
economic policy. President Dilbert sounds more like it.

O’Neill also said that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and fellow
hawks actively schemed to invade Iraq months before the 9/11 attacks
provided a false pretext and that plans for divvying up Iraqi oil reserves
circulated inside the White House.

Under the circumstances, you’d expect Republicans to be doing some
rethinking. Charging President Dilbert’s critics with being unpatriotic will
no longer suffice. It’s become necessary to question their fundamental
decency and humanity.

In Iowa, The Club for Growth has been running a TV ad featuring a
whitehaired, WASPy couple attacking Democratic hopeful Howard Dean.
The man says, "Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding,
latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading...."
His wife adds, "Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont,
where it belongs."

Needless to say, this ad won’t be running in neighboring New Hampshire.
Even in Iowa, it’s likely to drive Dean supporters to the polls. But ever since
Newt Gingrich declared Democrats the "enemies of normal Americans" some
years ago, GOP appeals to bigotry have become ever bolder.

The impeccably Republican editors of my hometown Arkansas
Democrat-Gazette recently ran a syndicated piece by one Peter Savodnik
alleging that Democrats suffer at the polls because party "fund-raisers in
Washington often take place in nightclubs filled with black people or
Jewish comedians." Also deemed problematic were an appetite for ethnic
foods and identification with "hep cats," a phrase I hadn’t heard since
1958. Jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie (1917-93) was the last hep cat.
Republicans, in contrast, go in for "SUVs, white picket fences, flags,
monogamy, organized religion." As Dave Barry says, I am not making this
up. Who could?

Well, Cal Thomas could. The conservative columnist recently questioned
Dean’s religious faith on the grounds that his wife, Dr. Judith Steinberg,
is Jewish. Marrying her, Thomas opined, was "strange at best,
considering the two faiths take a distinctly different view of Jesus."

At the august New York Times, however, columnist David Brooks conjured
a different brand of bigotry. He appeared to accuse retired Gen. Wesley
Clark of anti-Semitism, one of history’s darkest and most enduring superstitions.

Clark, it seems, was among a group of "fullmooners," i. e. lunatics,
whom Brooks charged with being "fixated on a think tank called the
Project for the New American Century... . To hear these people describe
it, PNAC is sort of a Yiddish Trilateral Commission, the nexus of the
sprawling neocon tentacles."

Describing PNAC as all but powerless, Brooks charged that for believers
in "shadowy neo-con influence" like Clark (the only individual named),
"con is short for ‘conservative’ and neo is short for ‘ Jewish. ’"

The insinuation couldn’t have been plainer. Brooks was following the
example of Joel Mowbray, another conservative columnist who had used
identical logic to allege that retired four-star Marine Gen. Anthony
Zinni had "blamed [the Iraq war] on the Jews."

The simple reality, of course, is that far from being obscure, the
Project for the New American Century includes among its illustrious
alumni Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and more than a dozen
other high-ranking Bush administration figures. Some are Jewish, some
are not. PNAC began petitioning President Bill Clinton to attack Iraq
as long ago as 1998. In September 2000, it issued a position paper titled,
"Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a
New Century," which is nothing short of a blueprint for world domination.
It’s available on the PNAC Web site. Confronted by angry readers,
Brooks alibied that he was only joking. Nothing like a light-hearted
accusation of anti-Semitism, after all, to liven up an election year.

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