Jewish World Review Feb. 13, 2004/ 21 Shevat, 5764

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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The world once shunned punks


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | 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 with punks.


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.


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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 Clinton.


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.

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© 2004, Marianne M. Jennings