Jewish World Review Dec. 5, 2001/ 20 Kislev, 5762

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Support Sharon


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- THE back-to-back assaults on innocent civilians in Jerusalem and Haifa by Yasir Arafat-blessed suicide bombers last weekend makes America's war on terrorism even more clear: President Bush must immediately, and vigorously, align his administration with Israel's Ariel Sharon and wipe out the Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and any other Palestinian extremists who've been coddled for far too long.

As Sharon told New York Times columnist William Safire after meeting with Bush on Sunday, "You in America are in a war against terror. We in Israel are in a war against terror. It's the same war."

Bush's reaction to the escalating violence was less tepid than in the past, but still not strong enough: "Chairman Arafat must do everything in his power to find those who murdered innocent Israelis and bring them to justice." Arafat, who's had ample time to promote a peaceful solution among his followers, can't be trusted for a minute. He's finished as a leader. Bush ought to recognize that and support any action Sharon's government takes.

But what about the "coalition," pundits will cry, fearing that such decisive action will anger Pakistan, Jordan, European nations and those one-way-street allies Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It's imperative that Bush roll the dice, figuring that resolute force will command respect among those heads of state who mistakenly believe the war should be limited to Afghanistan. Times reporters Richard Berke and Thom Shanker wrote a hopeful (from the Times' point of view) front-page article on Dec. 2, citing unnamed sources, suggesting Bush might short-circuit the war in favor of concentrating on the faltering economy.

"[I]nside and outside the White House," the pair said, "many advisers to Mr. Bush have urged him to use [his] political capital to declare victory sooner rather than later and to emphasize efforts to fix the economy. The party could suffer in the midterm elections next year, they argue, if there is too much emphasis on the war at the expense of the economy."

The absurdity of this argument is breathtaking. First, Bush has staked his presidency on a lengthy, and all-encompassing, war against terrorism. If he bailed out once the Taliban and Osama bin Laden were eliminated, Americans would rightfully rebel at the voting booths. It's true that a protracted recession will hurt Republicans next year-which is why Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is purposely avoiding a meaningful stimulus bill-but it's still too early to predict what condition the economy will be in next fall.

Sharon

More significantly, there's no reason why Bush can't attend to domestic concerns while waging a war that will inevitably lead to Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz and even Colin Powell are resolute in their determination, along with Bush, to successfully prosecute the campaign. I do think the President needs to get more involved in partisan politics-Sen. Patrick Leahy's refusal to release judicial nominees from his holding pen must be addressed-and suspect that next year he and Dick Cheney will raise money for GOP candidates while Karl Rove maps out an election strategy. Ditching RNC chairman Jim Gilmore indicates Bush won't be as passive as his father in duking it out with the Democrats.

But as the recent bloodbath in Israel demonstrates, there's no turning back from Bush's declaration of the United States' intent to hold terrorists, and the countries that harbor them, accountable for their crimes against the civilized world. If the President retreats from that stance, he'll be correctly judged a failure and won't even deserve renomination in the 2004 presidential contest.

IT'S ALL TOO MUCH

While reading the scores of George Harrison tributes in the last several days, I felt embarrassed-for the first time-about my status as a baby boomer. By now, anyone with a lick of perspective groans when that sullied phrase "The Greatest Generation" is bandied about: The men and women who lived, and fought, during the Great Depression/World War II years never asked Tom Brokaw, Tom Hanks or Steven Spielberg to romanticize their sacrifice, courage or ability to cope during an unprecedented upheaval in American history.

But boomers, get a grip. Robert Hilburn, the washed-up Los Angeles Times music critic, typified the reaction of "The Wimpiest Generation" in his Dec. 1 piece about the sad passing of Harrison. He wrote: "Rock's greatest group arrived in America in 1964 not only with wonderful music, but also with a free, uplifting spirit that made everything seem possible and everyone feel as if they would live forever... We don't mourn just for Harrison, but also for the Beatles and our own mortality."

Michael Long, writing last weekend for the National Review's website, was equally dopey: "If Lennon's evil murder was a winter blast of mortality and fate, Harrison's passing in the night is autumnal; a reminder that Time Is Passing, that graying temples and bifocal glasses are leading to something... Today, many of us are thinking of the calendar, wondering about the clock." And the profound Erik Tarloff in Slate: "We thought we'd be young forever. We thought we'd live forever. We were wrong on both counts."

Dylan Thomas would be appalled. The Welsh poet-whose first name Bob Zimmerman, part of rock 'n' roll's trinity along with the Beatles and Stones, appropriated-inspired untold numbers with his fierce "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night." Hilburn, among other middle-age quitters, might rewrite Thomas' famous line in that poem to read "Cower, cower against the dying of the light."

Harrison, despite the attention of the world's finest doctors, died prematurely. No, he wasn't killed in early middle age like bandmate John Lennon, but his demise at a mere 58 was a relative anomaly; most of his fans, happily, will live at least two more decades than Harrison. So stiffen up, noodle-spined boomers, and take solace in the reality that the treacly "Something" will still be on your playlists in the year 2025.

Harrison will now forever be labeled the "Quiet Beatle," but I think "cool" or "aloof" is more accurate. His foray into, and subsequent immersion in, Indian culture and music certainly wasn't "quiet"; it had more influence on the Beatles, and many other bands, than his individual songs did. But like any other kid who first saw the Fab Four on Ed Sullivan's Sunday night show almost 38 years ago, I can rattle off a dozen Harrison tunes (and let's be frank, that's a fair number) that would fill a classic CD. In no particular order: "Don't Bother Me," "Taxman," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Long, Long, Long," "Piggies," "Only a Northern Song," "Think for Yourself," "Dark Horse," "Apple Scruffs," "My Sweet Lord," "I Want to Tell You" and "Love You To."

As a bonus track, I'd throw in the hilarious "Crackerbox Palace."

Most of the American dailies ran cliche-ridden obits. Perhaps the worst single line I read was in Saturday's Daily News: "George Harrison took the entire world on a magical mystery tour, and the planet is a better place for it." Allan Kozin's article in The New York Times cleared that paper's extraordinarily low bar for such writing, but his insistence on referring to McCartney as "Sir Paul" was just too precious.

My favorite article was written by 25-year-old Caitlin Moran in the Dec. 1 edition of London's Times. She said: "There's no point in pretending that George Harrison was anything other than the third-most talented Beatle. 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' may be inordinately lovely, but it didn't cause a whole generation to scream until they wet themselves and then want to invent the future, like Paul and John's songs did. But rock and roll isn't, much as Nick Hornby would have us believe, about compiling lists. It's about moments and intentions and people coping in the face of heroic stupidity, and George Harrison acquitted himself with gentlemanly aplomb in all three...

"I love that George got grumpy. Grumpiness is one of the few artistically under-explored emotions left. I find it very pleasing that one of only four Beatles the world has ever had spent the entirety of his Beatledom in a mood, and continued to be quite arsey about it until he died."


JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press (www.nypress.com). Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2001, Russ Smith