- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 2, 2004

So who hasn’t had enough?

Enough already with Osama bin Laden’s rants, the ants in John Kerry’s pants and his polling about what to think about Osama’s rants. Enough already with the polls measuring everything but Teresa’s shoe size (and where have they put the lady with the mouth these past few days while Laura and the girls have been campaigning everywhere from Cucamonga to Myrtle Beach?).

The cries of the balloon blowers and the murmurs of exhausted confetti shredders, the shrieks and shouts of the candidates on stump and trail, signifying sometimes a lot and sometimes not very much, will be over before the cock crows again. Maybe. (Unless the cock, too, has fled.)

But we’ve learned a lot about America since the conventions ended in New York City at the beginning of September, something about Monsieur Kerry and something about George W. Bush, and we’re about to learn something tonight about ourselves. We’ve learned a lot about how fatuous some of our larger pomposities can be when there’s a microphone, a camera or even an empty pad and Eberhard Faber No. 2 in the hands of a nearby scribe or Pharisee.

Contempt for George W. has bloomed like kudzu and sometimes blossomed into hate. Analogies to Hitler are sissy stuff now. The Bush men connive with evil. Walter Cronkite, perhaps the fattest head among us still, thinks he knows what the famous tape was all about: “I’m inclined to think that Karl Rove, the political manager at the White House, who is a very clever man, he probably set up bin Laden to this thing.” (Like all television anchormen, Walter Cronkite only gets in trouble when he departs from words written by others for him.) So many celebrities have endorsed Monsieur Kerry that the newspapers hardly bother to mention them.

Osama himself has apparently learned a thing or two about how the system works. Translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (memri.org), who examine vast amounts of Arab media stuff and Internet junk to glean useful tidbits, say the first translation of the tape missed an important threat by the man who plotted September 11. This is what Osama said: “Your security is up to you, and any state that does not toy with our security automatically guarantees its own security.”

But a careful reading of the words — the “nuances,” Monsieur Kerry might call them — reveals a far more sinister threat. Yigal Carmon, the president of the translation institute, notes that Osama used the Arabic word “ay-wilya” to refer to “state.” This term, he says, specifically refers to one of the 50 American states, such as Tennessee or Massachusetts, and if Osama had meant “nation” or “country” he would have used the Arabic word “dawla.” Other translators who listened to the tape again yesterday agree. Osama may enroll for study in the Electoral College tonight with the rest of us.

No word yet on what Monsieur Kerry’s polls are telling him to say about this, but if he’s not blowing smoke at us, Osama is saying that Massachusetts, loyally blue, is safe, but Tennessee, faithfully red, isn’t. This worked in Madrid, and it might work in Massachusetts. It probably won’t work in Memphis.

What most of us want most is a little silence after the fact, and the voting won’t begin (and end) a minute too soon to suit nearly everyone, like the two good ol’ boys who set out on Scott Bayou on a whim to shoot a mess of possum for Sunday-night supper.

Homer and Jethro had lent their hounds to neighbors, and Homer volunteered to climb a hickory tree to chase the possum out of his lair. This was not smart, as any one of his hounds could have told him. Old hounds, scarred by experience, will always stay back when the dogs tree a possum and let the young dogs get up close.

Homer, perched on a lower limb, gave the tree a mighty shake, and at the top of the tree leaves flew and twigs broke and a horrendous racket rattled the countryside.

“Get ‘im, Homer,” cried Jethro. “Shake him out of there.”

The tree continued to shake, the ground began to quake, the noise commenced to hurt ears in the next county. But from his distance Jethro couldn’t see anything to shoot.

“Shoot, doggone it, shoot!” cried Homer from somewhere among the branches.

“I can’t shoot,” yelled Jethro. “I might hit you.”

From the top of the tree came a cry of desperation: “Go ahead and shoot. One of us has got to have some relief.”

The moral is clear even to old yellow dogs on their day: Go ahead and vote. One of ‘em — all of us — deserve some relief.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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