Thrice Blessed

Thrice Blessed

Thrice Blessed
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Jan. 27 2003 7:09 PM

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Dear Chris and Chris,

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So there I was on the US Airways Shuttle from New York to Washington—forbidden to leave my seat to go to the bathroom by anti-terrorist government edict—reading the list of signatories on the two-page New York Times anti-war ad that also caught the eye of Chris B. As a connoisseur of the 1960s versions of these bear-moral-witness statements, I was delighted to see such familiar names as Angela Davis, Ossie Davis, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Pete Seeger. It's gratifying to know that Seeger's folk-song army is still out there, signing petitions to affirm, "We will resist the machinery of war and repression."

But as a war-with-Iraq skeptic, I did wonder if this shrill peace-button-on-your-lapel style of politics accomplished anything beyond putting a smile on the face of the ad-sales department of the New York Times. Did the authors of this petition really have to couple memories of Sept. 11 with "similar scenes in Baghdad, Panama City and, a generation ago, Vietnam"? Did they have to angrily snarl that the Bush administration "attacked Afghanistan"? (What is this, the Taliban-rights movement?) I'm eager to ask presidential contender Al Sharpton, one of the signers of the screed, if he equates the destruction of the World Trade Center with the 1989 invasion of Panama? Or if he believes that Afghanistan was better off under the far-sighted leadership of Mullah Omar?

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer announced at his briefing today, "Most of the State of the Union will not be about Iraq. Most of the State of Union will be about improving America's economy and providing greater access to health care." Let's see if I've got this right. America is poised to go to war with Iraq, but the president has decided that the topic is not significant enough to be the central theme of tomorrow's address to Congress. I don't want to sound like Pete Seeger, but if we're going to invade Iraq, let's at least make it our top priority. I can just imagine Karl Rove thinking, "The elderly vote and the residents of Baghdad don't."

I'll now sign off until tomorrow, comforted by the notion that we live in a nation so blessed that our president can offer us tax cuts, prescription-drug benefits, and a bang-up war all in the same electrifying speech.

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Best regards,
Walter

Walter Shapiro has covered the last seven presidential campaigns and just completed a fellowship at the Joan Shorenstein Center at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He can be reached at wshapiro@belnord.org.