Sunday, August 01, 2004

This is what democracy is all about

When delegates and speakers at a party convention are stage-managed, that’s not good. When George Bush speaks over and over to crowds of military personnel, ordered to be there and under threat of military discipline if they express any disapproval, that’s bad. But when Team Chimpy starts requiring signed endorsements of his candidacy from members of the general public before they are allowed into a public appearance by Dick Cheney (key word = public), that’s...and here’s a word you won’t often if ever hear me use...unAmerican. In March, John Kerry earned my respect--something else I haven’t said too often--when he responded to a heckler by questioning him in return, and then defending him against his own supporters, who he told, "This is what democracy is all about."

In 1950, the London Times ran an editorial entitled "A Good Word for Hecklers," which argued that too much polite applause only shielded politicians from the facts of political life and did nothing for their performances, that (this is a rough quote) a few well-timed interventions and a sprinkling of laughter in the wrong places, would hasten politicians’ political development and promote their spiritual welfare. George Bush stands in desperate need of greater contact--hell, any contact--with the real world, which he is as unfamiliar with in his bubble as is Michael Jackson in his. Maybe the first sign was when he started giving everyone nicknames. Then he started rubbing the head of every bald man he passed, and wiping his glasses off on the sweater of whoever was standing by. If he gets elected in November, within two years he’ll be just like Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria.

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