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Jewish World Review April 2, 2004 / 12 Nissan, 5764

James Lileks

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Slinging slime or citing facts? | Fractured as the bones of the body politic may be, we can all agree on one thing: This will be the longest, grimmest, harshest campaign in living memory. Right?

That's the conventional wisdom: It's going negative sooner than ever before, and the mud being slung is particularly disgusting. Blame, of course, the Republican Slime Machine, which will stop at nothing. Just look at how it attacked Richard Clarke — by sending out operatives to point out Clarke's contradictions. Heavens. Decent people everywhere took to their fainting couches over that one.

Slimy? No. Saying your opponent dates a goat and likes to set cats on fire is a slimy attack. Saying your opponent hangs around schoolyards in a trenchcoat passing out cotton candy — slime. Saying your opponent belonged to a group that took a vote on assassinating government officials — that's slime. No, wait a minute, that's truth. John Kerry belonged to Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and a proposal to kill some senators was discussed and voted down at a VVAW meeting in Kansas City, Mo., in 1971. Granted, Kerry says he quit the group just before that meeting — but ask yourself whether such a subject ever comes up in your social circle. Perhaps your book club regularly turns to the question of which high government official you plan to kill, but most people don't travel in such, ah, motivated company.

You want a hard ad, a tough attack? OK: "John Kerry, he's their man! Can't stop blabbing about Vietnam! John Kerry, he's their guy! Shot a man and watched him die!" Voiceover: "John Kerry may say he's for people, but he's the only presidential candidate ever to admit killing an Asian in another country." Cut to President Bush: "I'm George Bush, and I not only approved this message, I never plugged a guy who was trying to crawl back into the bushes."

That's a hard message. Until we hear ads like that, everyone needs to chill. We still have a ways to go.

Latest example of slime: Dick Cheney accused Kerry, a liberal Dem from Massachusetts, of having a pronounced affinity for raising taxes.

Whoa! The gloves are off!

Kerry's response: "They have found Dick Cheney in an undisclosed location and brought him out to attack me," Kerry droned. (Ho ho. Undisclosed location; that's novel. Next: Al Haig "I am in charge" jokes.) "That seems to be his designated role — not to create jobs, but to attack John Kerry." Speaking of one's self in the third person is usually reserved for popes and kings, but we'll let that slide. Consider this new job requirement for the vice president: creating jobs. Apparently there is a big button on the veep's desk marked "MAKE JOBS," and Cheney not only refuses to push it, he posts guards to keep others from depressing it when he's away attacking John Kerry the First.

Nonsense, of course; the veep's job is to hang around should the head man perish, not "create jobs." Governments don't create jobs. They help create the conditions in which jobs are created, or lost. If the government decides that it is good for workers to have paid family leave to grieve for a lost pet (hamsters on up, although we can work in goldfish in the next session), then employers might well decide to move customer support from New Jersey to Bombay, where they speak better English.

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In any case: Yes, we lost jobs after the '90s bubble popped. It's called "a recession." Then there was that whole war thing, which further depressed enthusiasms. You might remember that. It was in all the papers. But the Labor Department says that 2.2 million jobs were lost, not 3 million, as Kerry said in his response to Cheney. One might ask if he heard about these 800,000 workers from the foreign leaders who endorsed him.

Sorry! That was below the belt. Remember, everything's fair game this time. Except Kerry's record and public utterances. And if Kerry takes to a St. Louis pulpit, quotes Scripture and suggests Bush is a lousy Christian, well, that's hardly slime. Facts are facts.

G-d was unavailable for comment at press time.

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JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


03/26/04: One War, One Enemy
03/22/04: Bloodied Spain Rejoins Old Europe
03/12/04: Why All Those Foreign Leaders Want Kerry to Whup Bush
03/08/04: Introducing the Kerry Doctrine
02/27/04: Introducing the AWOLs: Angry White Outraged Libs
02/20/04: Sifting the headlines of election year 1992
02/18/04: Guess Which Candidate Our Enemies Want to Lose in 2004?
01/29/04: Every Laptop a Truth Squad
01/27/04: When the battle over artistic freedom goes over the edge
12/31/03: For the Left and Right, Some New Year's Resolutions
12/22/03: Dean's black helicopters
12/15/03: Dems Are Mainstreaming the Extreme
12/08/03: Does Dean Really Want to Be President? One Wonders, When He Opens His Mouth
11/24/03: The real story: Most Brits see U.S. as force for good
11/19/03: The Trouble With Al Gore's Screed on Civil Liberties
11/11/03: Can a fellow win with the Confederate Metrosexual vote?
10/22/03: Let's make Greenpeace pay
09/29/03: Ah-nold & Clark may be on different sides of the aisles, but their supporters are cut from the same cloth
09/19/03: All Hail the Ninth Circuit Court of Surreal
08/26/03: This time, the record industry doesn't stand a chance!
08/18/03: Assessing the Schwarzenegger Factor in Republicanism
08/08/03: No wonder Howard ‘Two Covers’ Dean gets all the buzz
08/04/03: Expect bad news for the foreseeable future
07/28/03: Despot's Deserts
07/21/03: No winners in this game of gotcha
07/14/03: Doing the right thing in Liberia may not be the right thing to do
06/27/03: On feet in Democratic mouths
06/16/03: The real story behind Hillary's book
06/09/03:America's new mission was and remains: Extirpating the flaming nutballs and the societies that nurture them
06/03/03: The Constitution as gag order
05/23/03: Sometimes the theme of world events is chaos itself
05/16/03: Newspapers are only human, after all
05/13/03: What McCarthy messed up
05/06/03: Still think the International Criminal Court was a good idea?
04/03/03: The world is ending, the world is ending! Doesn't anybody care!? Why won't anybody listen!?
03/14/03: Kerry and the Dems are banking on American electorate's tendancy to forget history
02/28/03: Roadmap to peace?
02/13/03: We live in an age where the poet has been cast out from the halls of power --- sob, sob
02/10/03: Found: League for International Justice and Peace talking points
01/30/03: The US can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the UN can do is pass more worthless paper
01/23/03: People who'd volunteer for the Iraqi army if they saw Saddam wearing a "Free Mumia" button
01/16/03: One of those head vs. heart things
12/27/02: Whistleblowers?
01/06/02: The second year of this jangled millennium
11/16/01: Attack of the 'Patriotism police' and other Hollywood fare
11/12/01: From the bleats of dismay
10/30/01: Osama and the Genie
10/08/01: "We can stop the Bush Death Juggernaut"
11/04/01: America, loathe or it leave it
09/25/01: Do the Europeans actually think that the war on murderous zealotry will be furthered by undercutting America?
08/27/01: If the economy is in a funk, why aren't we dancing?
08/14/01: Dubyah's embarrassing presidential vacation
08/10/01: Hail to our co-chiefs?
08/03/01: Constitution: George the Uniter picked a doozy to unify detractors
07/25/01: The real reason why we need missile defense (What those uppity policy wonks won't tell you!)
06/18/01: Paining the egalitarian soul
06/01/01: One of the stranger indexes you'll ever hear about
05/21/01: One man's toke is another man's snort
05/08/01: Republicans want poisoned water
04/23/01: We bleat as we're sheared
04/10/01: Boys will be boys. And that's the problem
04/06/01: Pity the anti-American Left, they're gonna have a hard time on this one
03/26/01: You've been warned
03/16/01: The GOP's inexplicable desire to fold
02/23/01: Will the Jeb Bush administration attack Saddam in 2011?
02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2003, James Lileks