Barbara Walters is leaving her desk at ABC's 20/20. The grand dame of
television news rides off camera to "read a trashy novel" once in awhile. She's
exercised inhumane obsequiousness to land the big interviews of our times:
Monica Lewinsky, Martha Stewart, Michael Jackson. Oh, journalist! Where is thy
dignity? Wait, a most revealing factoid emerged during Walters' departure
thoughts: her ratings for her interview with Justin Timberlake, of NSync fame
who narrowly escaped a Britney Spears 55-hour marriage, exceeded those for her
Fidel Castro interview. Her subtle chide tells me one thing: Babs has had it
Barbara WaWa interviews are maddening, from the tree question flung at
Katharine Hepburn (who I thought had more sense than to answer) to her soft balls
lobbed to Hillary Clinton. But, she paid her dues with years of 5 AM reports
for Today and she charted new territory for women in broadcasting. Now, at age
74, Ms. Walters' backbone emerges. She will no longer interview airheads for
ratings. Babs thumbs her nose at the punks.
The world once shunned punks, those inexperienced, arrogant braggadocios.
Punks don't realize what they don't know. A goodly portion of those between
the ages of 13 and 17 are punks. You grit your teeth, bite your tongue,
choose your battles, and pray for punkdom to pass before their low-slung pants fall
off in public. But leave it to our perpetual youth culture to breed the adult
punk. As boorish as teens, the adult punk is ubiquitous.
Paul O'Neill is an adult punk who described his former boss, President
Bush, as "a blind man in a room full of deaf people." Missed the tenor of the
Americans with Disabilities Act, eh?
I labeled O'Neill a punk in 2002 when he went to Africa with singer Bono
and sat around in native robes and funnel cake fedoras for reasons no one yet
understands. The impropriety of the Treasury Secretary of the United States
partying with a rocker and the locals escaped punk O'Neill. Did he think the
Swahili's thoughts would get the bond markets crackling? O'Neill's new tome
is a punk's attempted revenge because Mr. Bush rebuffed O'Neill's misguided
thoughts on raising taxes. The economy's stunning turnaround proves O'Neill
wrong, but punks don't let facts get in the way of a good bashing.
Howard Dean is a punk. Internet punks fund his campaign. This
screeching bundle of insecurities has referred to President Bush as "odd." Screaming
like a Banshee in Des Moines, of all places, and not even in native Hawkeye
garb, casts doubts on Dr. Dean's bell curve analysis of emotional norms. Punks
have tunnel vision. The world is their oyster.
Pete Rose leads the pack of abundant professional sports punks, many of
them on trial or probation for various felonies. Hollywood grows punks.
Martin Sheen, a peculiarly delusional punk, has come to believe he is his West Wing
role. Alec Baldwin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Johnny Depp, and Kate Hudson all offer
Euro punk snippiness about the flaws of the US. Musician punks abound. John
Cougar Rodham Mellencamp wants Mr. Bush recalled.
But, these are the benign punks. Their verbal indictments pass as all
teenybopperish comments do, with time. The adult species of punk can be
dangerous. There is the insidious punk who appears mature, caring, and deferential in
certain settings. Eddie Haskell, of Leave It To Beaver fame, was the
quintessential insidious punk, a stealth punk. Think also William Jefferson Rodham
Adult punks who act on their misguided beliefs are dangerous. They can
be headed off at the action pass, but we must call a punk a punk. In this era
of tolerance, love, joy and peace, . . . oops, that last one is not a fit.
This is not an era of peace, which brings me to Jose Melendez-Perez, punk
spotter extraordinaire. Mr. Melendez-Perez, INS inspector, turned away a young
Saudi, the so-called 20th hijacker, at Orlando International Airport.
Mr. MP confronted Mohamed al-Kahtani because he looked "chilling."
Translation - instinct told Mr. MP, "Punk." Jose's questioning found the young man
without hotel reservations and a return ticket. Mr. MP put the punk back on a
plane to Dubai.
Punk radar is in the gut. Many love Bill Clinton. The rest of us see
only Eddie Haskell having affairs each time the man speaks. The same is true
with terrorist punks. National security depends on stopping punk terrorists from
entering the US and wreaking havoc. It all boils down to instinct, a gut
feeling. It's unscientific, and perhaps it's profiling, but it works.
Which brings me to Saddam and weapons of mass destruction. Their
presence was and is irrelevant. Mr. Hussein is an adult punk. Mr. Bush's CIA may
have been wrong, but his instincts weren't. To rationalize away Punk Hussein
with the tired WMD argument ignores the danger of the adult punk and his cure, a
boot to the pants, or sometimes, boots on the ground.
Punks and their arrogance need a firm hand, a rebuke, and rebuffs at the
border. Babs made the right choice. Sometimes you just have to stand up to
the punks, whether in interviews or for the sake of international political
stability. Sometimes you just have to call a punk a punk because punks
unchecked, stealth and otherwise, armed or not, can wreak havoc.
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JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State
University. Send your comments by clicking here.