Jewish World Review Dec. 21, 2001/ 6 Teves 5762

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

A chicken at roost in the liberal rafters -- JOHNNY WALKER is bad news for America, and the news is worst of all for hot-tub liberalism, the high church of secular America.

The high priests of the soft left are in a bit of a box, insofar as these worthies can be embarrassed by their cant and hypocrisy, with barely the grounds to protest when others point to the chickens roosting in the rafters of their sanctuary.

Johnny Walker is a traitor by anyone's definition, except in a few precincts of Marin County, California, from whence he sprang. But only a few; more than half of the readers who responded to a poll by the San Francisco Chronicle said he ought to be shot, or hanged, or however traitors are dispatched to wherever it is that traitors go. (As an American-born Muslim martyr, it's not clear that young Walker would be entitled to 72 virgins, even if the virgins set aside for Islamic martyrs turn out to be sheep.)

But how he got that way will be the stuff of endless argument, harangue and speculation.

Some people have been quick to blame the goofiness of Marin County, ground zero of the bean sprout-and-Volvo culture, where the citizens still think Pat Schroeder is a presidential contender, a culture that long ago slipped beyond satire. Richard Cohen, the columnist for The Washington Post, speaks for Marin County: "Behind the beard and the filth, almost any parent recognizes John Walker. He is the kid who is possible, not probable, who could be yours but probably is someone else's, who would be loved but not liked or understood. He is not the predictable consequence of relativism, liberalism and balmy weather but an exception to almost any rule you could think of - except, of course, the tendency to fix blame no matter what."

Mr. Cohen has a point, if a very small one; the young do stray from their upbringing, and what they've been taught about right, wrong, G-d, flag and country. But what Marin County - and those for whom Mr. Cohen speaks - cannot grasp is that the young are particularly at risk of straying if they're never taught very much about right, wrong, God, flag and country, and, too bad for them, America is in a blame-fixing mood.

Young Walker's treason is not difficult for anyone to recognize. He took up arms against his country, a country whose values of liberty and freedom and decency he mocked, but his country nonetheless. When he needed money to escape for a season the heat and inconvenience of the Afghan highlands, it was to his parents, miserable and pathetic examples that they are, he turned, and to the largesse of the country he despised. What he got was cash but no guidance. "I don't think John was doing anything wrong," the father told breakfast interviewers on CBS-TV. He further explained to ABC-TV: "We want to give him a big hug and then a little kick in the butt for not telling us what he was up to." By then it was too late for the little hug and the big kick in the butt he should have got years ago.

It's tempting to throw stones, but every wise parent understands that all children are brought up in glass houses. It's tempting to compare Johnny Walker with Johnny Spann, the young CIA officer who was killed when, in an irony that a novelist would dismiss as over-the-top coincidence, he was questioning Walker and several other al Qaeda fighters. Mr. Spann, who grew up in a tiny and insignificant crossroads Alabama town of the type dismissed by the elites as "two stores, two whores and a cotton gin," had few of the advantages of Marin County youngsters. But he was raised a Sunday school boy, who proudly pledged allegiance to America every morning when the school bell rang, and who inherited from his working-class parents a code of duty, honor, country. Like Johnny Walker, he grew up to be a soldier. Not an al Qaeda soldier, but a Marine. He joined the CIA after the Marines because he wanted to "do more for his country."

So we shouldn't throw stones and maybe it's not fair to compare Marin County, California, to Marion County, Alabama.

Or maybe it is. "Much of the country knows instinctively the kind of mindset that makes a John Walker possible," writes Andrew Sullivan in the London Sunday Times. "Besides, the left is in a very difficult position arguing that it is wrong to blame an entire subculture for the actions of a tiny few. For years now, they have used the example of Timothy McVeigh to indict any anti-government Republican from the heartland. Yes, guilt by association is wrong and unfair. But context tells you something. And what the story of John Walker and John Spann tells us is that for all the disdain and condescension that is often leveled at small-town conservative America, it's the men and women from those places who often make it possible for the rest of us to live in peace and security."

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

Wesley Pruden Archives

© 2001 Wes Pruden