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Barry Crimmins

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Compromising position

A wide-open – but completely unaffiliated, mind you – letter to presumptive presidential nominee John Kerry

BY BARRY CRIMMINS


DEAR JOHN,

I'm sorry, but there's no other way to put this: I can't see you anymore – at fundraisers that is. If Whoopi Goldberg's comments about court-appointed President Bush at your recent New York show-biz gala were enough to stir up a media storm, the Weather Channel would need to break out its full hurricane crew to cover any joint appearance you and I might make.

From what I understand, Whoopi used a "bush" double entendre to insult your opponent. If you caught my act lately, you'd have a hard time finding anything but a single intention in my shows. I am urging my fellow Americans to do whatever it takes to drive this government Of the Cronies, By the Cronies, and For the Cronies from stolen office. If pitchforks and torches are necessary, I stand ready to authorize their use.

I was sick of these people before they stepped off the reviewing platform on January 20, 2001. This was back when they came to town promising to "return ethics to Washington." (Keep your enemies closer, I suppose.) Three and a half years later, the entire nation is colicky – nauseated by the policies and conduct of a regime that, to put it in the parlance of old-school Boston political insults, is so crooked it could hide behind a corkscrew.

And so you are our hope. Our only hope. Some of my old political allies are vexed with me for placing hope in you. The main reason they question me is that you signed off on letting an administration rife with self-proclaimed Christians cast the first stone in Iraq.

Oh, sure, you have plausible reasons for having done so. Anyone with a whit of political savvy knew Saddam was a bad guy long before Donald Rumsfeld began appearing with him on Kodachrome in the 1980s. And the pre-war human-rights situation in Iraq was undeniably deplorable. But the alibi for falling in line that goes something like, "Well, the administration has produced compelling intelligence information" never clicked with anyone who has even a passing familiarity with the CIA's odious track record. And giving this administration the benefit of the doubt certainly does not demonstrate the grasp of reality that we should expect from a leader.

I understand the political pressure you felt, but still, you're a brilliant guy and had to know what a load of hooey was being dumped on us. I further estimate that the hard-bitten among your insiders advised, "Look, you know we can always just say they lied to us," and considering who was trumping up this war, that was a pretty safe fall-back position. But please, you did a nice job investigating and exposing much of this crew back when terrorism was a central component of Saint Ronald Reagan's not-so-secret foreign policy. And so when the same gang of thugs who help facilitate death-squads in Central America came forward as the defenders of innocence and champions of democracy, you should have marched right outside of the Capitol and joined the hundreds of thousands of us who were in the streets screaming, "Noooooo! Don't do it!"

Well, Senator, we told you so.

Some of my lefty pals won't forgive you and I can see their point. Nevertheless, I refuse to join their circular firing squad. I know how to face political reality myself, and if ever there were an occasion for compromise, this is it. I don't value my moral purity more than the lives of countless innocents. My stridence withers when I consider how much suffering would result if the Bush regime extends beyond next January. Someday, George W. Bush's administration will be labeled for what it brought us to: the "New Low." Under your leadership, even a slight trajectory of improvements in health-care, environmental regulation, civil liberties, and workers' rights will have to be measured against the all-too-imaginable speed at which of these vital matters would reach even newer lows during a second Bush term. So I won't be doing any benefits for Ralph Nader this year, no matter how much the Heritage Foundation offers.

In this system, at this time, we have but two options; one is George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The other is you and John Edwards. To say there is no difference between the pairs of you would be to articulate political naveté of the worst sort. No matter what you do as president, the next four years will be better than they would be if we Elect Bush, Just This Once. Because I know you will begin to undo some of the New Low damage that's been inflicted on us. If you win, no one with even shadowy ties to the Ku Klux Klan will be appointed to the federal bench. I doubt that you'll ever bring in lobbyists from the chemical industry to write environmental law. I'm relatively certain that you won't allow national parks to be used for monster-truck rallies.

Even though you're a hunter (at least, according to your Red State campaign ads), you won't be persuaded that your fellow outdoor-carnage enthusiasts need automatic weapons because deer attack in waves. I believe that even though you are a Christian, you'll never take it to the cultish lengths that our current crackpot-in-chief does – which is to say you are not among the lunatics who think that if we can provoke one final fatal conflict between Islam and Judaism, it will end the world and begin a members-only rapture.

And I know that if you're elected, you'll be the most powerful person in the world ... and you'll do a better job of it than Dick Cheney has. I like the Edwards-Cheney match-up; it says you understand that trial lawyers play a huge role in the battle to keep this country safe and just. It gives us a choice between a ticket that includes a trial lawyer and one that doesn't believe in trials. For that matter, it hasn't much use for laws either.

But the most important part of this November's choice is the one between you and George W. Bush. Your charisma has suffered a very unfair assault. I realize that to keep your "all things to all people" advisers happy, you must make overly qualified, platitude-heavy statements of little substance. When I hear you preface anything with "I believe," I know I have time to wash, dry, iron, and fold a load of laundry before you get to telling us exactly what it is you hold dear. But hey, that's politics. In any case, if this race is decided on charisma, then you're Clark Gable and John F. Kennedy rolled into one compared to the beady-eyed placeholder who now occupies the Oval Office. A president is supposed to instill confidence. This guy's press conferences are so heavily scripted that I am always disappointed when Roger Ebert fails to give them a thumbs-down. If charisma is an issue in this campaign, it has to disadvantage the man who tortures the language as if it were a detainee at the Abla Gaduu uh, err, Abo Galabaaga, oh never mind.

NO MATTER how anyone tries to spin it, the American people are sick of Bush. The wise among us appreciate that his leadership has brought us to the sorry point where it's become our patriotic duty as Americans to be ashamed of our nation. The rest are ready to do him in because, as Americans with God-given short attention spans, they've had enough of a guy who keeps whining about "freedom-haters." They are ready to reach for the remote and click over to anything but George W. Bush.

Some pundits maintain that Bush is more likable than you, yet all but the pathologically deluded know otherwise. Although you seem like a refined and somewhat inaccessible Ivy Leaguer, it's obvious that you got into Yale because you are a smart person. Everyone knows that somewhere there is a guy with a degree from Brown because George W. Bush legacyed him out of four years in New Haven. Bush is the kind of rich boy who would get even with you for beating him out for the baseball team by having his father get your father fired as the greenskeeper at the country club. Americans have the innate ability to sniff out that kind of stench on a man, which is why we didn't elect this latter-day Sonny Drysdale in the first place.

I am endorsing you and voting for you, Senator, because you have done two things a simpering daddy's boy like George W. Bush never would: you have marched both to and against war. As a result, I have great hope that when your decisions result in life or death, they will not be reached via the swerving, dangerous, and ridiculous path of a drunken frat boy.

I must compliment whoever on your staff came up with the ingenious idea to leak word that you didn't want to release your military records. Man, did the rubes from Texas ever fall for that slick hunk of Yankee bait, or what? Once you released the documents, the only imaginable reason for your reticence was humility. Not only did you show up Bush with your stellar record, you reminded the country that military records can in fact be produced.

It's great that the Democratic National Convention is being held in Boston. Despite all the worst efforts of the court-appointed Bush administration, the Hub is still a bastion of free speech – providing, that is, you don't mind walking your picket sign into town on I-93. I trust you will make some grand and broad gesture to reach out to the protesters to make it clear that you understand that dissent is the lifeblood of democracy.

There would be far fewer protesters if not for the all-consuming issue of the Iraqi quagmire. My view can be articulated in just three words: more is worse. But as you may recall, I have never been a man of few words, so let me add: to continue to waste American, "Coalition," and Iraqi lives and resources in this illegal, horribly planned, and cynical effort to restore a nation that is nothing more than a failed 84-year-old British construct would be a blunder of historic proportion. This war is a failure. The Iraqi people hate America because Americans, attacking from the self-proclaimed moral high ground, have brought violence and degradation to their homelands. The only ones to benefit from not getting out as soon as possible have been the war profiteers and terrorist recruiters. Maintaining Western hegemony over Iraqi oil is not worth the human price that will be exacted so long as one survivor of this conflict lives with its memory.

And I know you know about war memories, John. I know you still live with the horror you saw in Vietnam. To your everlasting credit, you continued your heroic behavior upon returning from duty. Were it not for hero vets like you, the draft would have surely taken me in the early '70s. And I'd have gone because I was a rural boy who didn't know any better – so I owe you and the entire anti-war movement for my life. Had I fought, I might have survived physically but I wouldn't have escaped becoming one of the emotional fatalities. We will have tens of thousands of such cases returning from Iraq (and Afghanistan) – that is, if Bush ever stops exiling them with extended tours of duty.

You understand that the saddest thing that can be said about our nation today is that it would rather create veterans than care for them. In the coming years, we need a president who will guarantee that the vets of our current wars come home to compassionate, top-notch care and support. I can think of no one who would be more dedicated to carrying out that policy than you, Lieutenant Kerry.

There will be plenty of your fellow vets at DNC protests. I know you can never view them as enemies. I also know that at least part of your reluctance to directly advocate an Iraqi pullout is that it could be seen by the troops in the field as undermining their already treacherous circumstances. But I am taking you at your word that you will use the power of the presidency to conscript the rest of the world into bringing peace, order, and justice to Iraq. Perhaps your boldest words have been to suggest that Arab nations be brought into the process. Now there's an idea.

So here's the deal, John. We get you in, and you get us out. A little of the old in-and-out never hurt anyone. I guess I do stoop to double entendres on occasion – just another reason to avoid me for the next three months. You'll do fine without me. If you need me to perform during the inaugural weekend, I'll be happy to reassess my position.

With best wishes for great success,

Barry Crimmins

Political satirist Barry Crimmins is a writer and commentator for Air America Radio, for which he recently recorded the comedy special Satire for Sanity. His new book, Never Shake Hands with a War Criminal, is due from Seven Stories Press this fall.

updated: 9 years ago