A New Front in the "Culture War"
    by Gene Lyons     August 20, 2003
 Maybe the best way to understand what galvanizes many Democrats about the idea of Gen. Wesley Clark running
 for president is to ponder recent manifestations of Republican triumphalism at its most absurd: the George W. Bush
 "Elite Force Naval Aviator 12-inch Action Figure," and GOP attack-blonde Ann Coulter's book "Treason."

 "Exacting in detail and fully equipped with authentic gear," the Bush doll comes advertised as "a meticulous 1:6 scale
 recreation of the Commander-in-Chief's appearance during his historic Aircraft Carrier landing" to (rather prematurely)
 announce an end to hostilities in Iraq last May. It may be purchased online from proBush.com, a site which also features
 an illustrated traitors list, including Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. John F. Kerry and an odd mix of
 Hollywood celebrities, recording artists and obscure academics. "If you do not support our president's decisions,"
 it seems "you are a traitor."

 The TV pundette Coulter's alleged "best seller"--its place on the New YorkTimes Book Review's list is marked by a
 symbol indicating bulk purchases, meaning some ideological sugar daddy's buying them up--makes an even more
 sweeping condemnation. Ever since FDR died, it seems, "[w]hether they are defending the Soviet Union or bleating
 for Saddam Hussein, liberals are always against America....They are either traitors or idiots, and on the matter of
 America's self-preservation, the difference is irrelevant. Fifty years of treason hasn't slowed them down."

 As embarrassing as Coulter's views are to conscientious conservatives, it's no exaggeration to say that the "liberal"
 sins she caricatures--atheism, cosmopolitanism, sexual license, moral relativism, communism, physical and intellectual
 cowardice, disloyalty and lack of patriotism--are identical to the crimes of the Jews as the Nazis depicted them.
 Also of "race mixers" as segregationist red-hots like Arkansas' own Justice Jim Johnson saw them. During the 90s,
 they morphed into the more irrational forms of Clinton-hatred. Not everybody who dislikes the former president
 is a bigot, it's worthwhile saying again, but all bigots loathed him.

 Exploiting these dark, unsavory stereotypes was the essence of Richard M. Nixon's famous "Southern Strategy,"
 and remains an essential part of President Junior's  2004 re-election plan. Doubters should read up on the whisper
 campaign against Sen. John McCain during the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary, which included insinuations
 that the former Vietnam POW was left emotionally unstable by his wartime ordeal, and hinting at dark secrets behind
 his adoption of a "non-white" child. Or, for that matter, on GOP attack ads in 2002 questioning the patriotism of
 Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, a Vietnam War triple amputee.

 As the latter examples make clear, Gen. Clark's own history as a decorated combat veteran wouldn't render him
 immune to such attacks. But it would limit their  effectiveness to the kinds of fools eagerly snapping up George W.
 Bush Elite Force Action Figures and standing in line to secure Coulter's autograph. For the great majority of Americans,
 the former NATO Supreme Commander's presidential candidacy could provide an historic opportunity to confront
 ugly stereotypes about Democratic perfidy and defeat them once and for all.

 That's not to say Clark's candidacy would automatically signal a truce in the "culture wars." But it would mark an
 important turning point nevertheless. Responding to questions from CNN's Wolf Blitzer about a TV ads sponsored
 by draftwesleyclark.com over the weekend, Clark disclaimed any contact with his would-be supporters but professed
 to feel in the country "an enormous hunger for leadership. And I think the draft movement is evidence that, to some extent,
 there is still that hunger out there, despite the number of candidates in the race and despite the president's polling."

 Not very modest of him, perhaps, but then humility is a quality for which 4-star generals are rarely noted. In fact,
 President Junior hasn't been polling all that well. A recent FoxNews/Opinion Dynamics survey asked if "he deserves
 to be reelected or would the country probably be better off with someone else as president?" "Someone else" led
 "deserves re-election" by margin of 42 to 36 percent, down eleven points from June.

 The argument that it's already too late for a Clark candidacy is nicely rebutted by an analysis on the draftwesleyclark.com
 website pointing out that with nine Democratic candidates, 4 or 5 of them considered "serious," and with polls showing
 upwards of half the Democratic primary voters undecided, the race remains wide open.

 My own sense is that Clark's announcement would send an electrical charge through the Democratic party. Most are angry,
 sick and tired of having soft-handed Beltway chickenhawks and blonde pundettes question their loyalty and malign their courage.
 They are spoiling for a fight and looking for a champion who's not a plastic action figure in a make-believe uniform.

 But would Clark the candidate measure up to Clark the symbol? I expect we're fixing to find out.

  back to  bartcop.com

Privacy Policy
. .