John Warner is against the war in Iraq and he sleeps better knowing the anti-war crowd is about to bring the Americans scuttling home. Surrender is an odd sleep aid for an ex-Marine. Probably something borrowed from John Murtha's prescription bottle.
John Kerry is eager to stop the war he helped start so the rest of the world will think better of us. Mr. Kerry worries a lot about what America's critics think of us. He has been in Davos taking the waters and communing with the critics of America at the World Economic Forum.
Someone asked him why the United States failed to deal with Iran before the seriously creepy Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took over two years ago. The John Paul Jones of the Vietnam War took that as his cue to get a lot of things off his manly chest, none of them an answer to the man's question about Iran.
"When we walk away from global warming, Kyoto, when we are irresponsibly slow in moving towards AIDS in Africa, when we don't advance and live up to our own rhetoric and standards," said the man who voted against ratification of the Kyoto treaty, "we send a terrible message of duplicity and hypocrisy. So we have a crisis of confidence in the Middle East in the world, really. I've never seen our country as isolated, as much as a sort of international pariah for a number of reasons as it is today."
Once upon a time, an American politician, especially a politician who had been nominated for president of the United States, would not have dreamed of trashing his country abroad, of calling his country a pariah any time, anywhere. But these are mad and treacherous times, when even resentful elderly statesmen feel no constraints of decency, decorum and love of country, and let fly with bottled-up bile.
Mad times distress knave and patriot alike. Jane Fonda, on the other hand, hasn't had so much fun since she posed as a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gunner, aiming death at American fliers. She's staying out of Iraq if she poses arming a suicide bomber he might cut off her head, anyway, as his last earthly gift to Allah but there's plenty of action when the wrinkled regiments of the '60s, prostates aflame and Botox-deprived, rally for one last reprise of Vietnam protest.
"I haven't spoken at an anti-war rally in 34 years," the old gunner, now 69, told the Saturday throng of whatever size. "Silence is no longer an option." She spoke as the tail end of the rally, almost as an afterthought, and she was careful to recite the ritual mantra "but I support the troops" that Democratic campaign consultants have impressed on the critics of the war in Iraq. Say any mean thing but remember to recite the mantra, twice if possible. Even The Washington Post seems no longer awed by peace celebrities exiled by the passage of time to that half-forgotten neverland of yesteryear, describing, cruelly, the one-time "actress, feminist and anti-war activist" as having "morphed into a workout maven, post-feminist arm candy for billionaire media magnate Ted Turner, a vocal Christian and an autobiographer ... [who] defibrillated her movie career [playing a mother-in-law]."
As anti-war rallies go, as any post-feminist arm candy vocal Christian autobiographer could tell you, this one was small turnips compared with the monster rallies of her barefoot years, which drew millions to the Mall. The organizers of this one boasted they would draw 100,000 people, but when the cops declined to make an estimate and the newspapers and television networks conceded that it looked like a lot less than that, even the righteously indignant didn't argue.
But the crowd was big enough, the noise loud enough to intimidate the summer soldiers of January. John Warner called in an impressionable young reporter for The Post to boast, despite "the guilt he still carries because of the Vietnam War," of how he had "grown" into someone mellow enough to sleep better than a man in his ninth decade should expect to (though he didn't say he could still sleep through the whole night).
"I gotta tell you," he told his interviewer, "I've gotten to that wonderful age in life I don't worry. If you do what in your heart you feel is right, go to sleep. Don't worry. I go to sleep and I don't worry."
It's nice not to worry, and nice to see an old man's guilt finally assuaged, but it's not so nice to think of how guilt is assuaged by the blood of young men abandoned to a whim of the transient opinion of a fickle public. It's a Washington thing.