- The Washington Times - Friday, November 1, 2002

After Wellstone I:
When a beloved figure dies, especially when he is cut down in mid-career and mid-life with wife and kids, he gets lionized. That's how it should be. And his political followers can, in their grief and shock, get galvanized. As well they might. It seems to me excessive to say that those who got carried away at the Wellstone-Mondale rally in Minnesota, an event that posed as a memorial service, were completely out of control. Emotions can get out of control. What was more striking, I'd say, is the focus of those feelings. They were not so much about principles and beliefs and legacies; they were primarily about a political party. They were as much about partisanship as principle. After all, Walter Mondale is not a Paul Wellstone Democrat far from it. Nor was Bill Clinton, who joined in the tackiness with aplomb. This was the Democratic Establishment against which Wellstone often fought. I can therefore understand the desire in this close race for the Democrats to use Wellstone's memory and for Wellstone's supporters to fight furiously for their side. But the zeal? The obsession? The complete indifference to any sort of decorum? This is partisanship as a reason for living. And it leaves a very sour taste in the mouth.

After Wellstone II:
And if the memorial service wasn't enough, next came the conspiracy theories. Get ready for this: Large numbers of Internet Dems and left-wingers seem to believe that President George W. Bush might have been involved in bringing down Mr. Wellstone's plane. Why? They don't really say. And their accusations are always interspersed with denials in order to let them put the absurd and sickening claim out there with no proof, no evidence and no plausible rationale. Here's Ted Rall, syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate, which counts among its columnists William F. Buckley Jr. and Doonesbury: "George W. Bush and his henchmen stole the presidency. They threw thousands of innocent people into prison without even charging them with a crime. They're gearing up to invade Iraq without bothering to come up with a substantial justification. Now some Democrats and progressive Americans are asking the unthinkable about an administration they increasingly believe to be ruled by thugs and renegades. Did government gangsters murder the United States' most liberal legislator? … Ronald Reagan may have been a hard-line conservative, but had Wellstone died during his watch you wouldn't have heard liberals asking whether the Gipper had had him offed. Mr. Bush is different. Asking mailmen to spy on ordinary Americans, creating military tribunals for anyone deemed an 'enemy combatant,' locking prisoners of war in dog cages, spending a decade's worth of savings in six months, allowing journalists to die rather than provide them with help in a war zone, smearing Democratic politicians as anti-American, invading sovereign nations without excuse these are acts that transgress essential American reasonableness. A man capable of these things seems, by definition, capable of anything."
There you have what troubles many about parts of the American left today. In commemorating a populist man with integrity, they turned a memorial service into a farce. And in the wake of a tragedy, they looked around immediately for someone to blame, however bizarre and conspiratorial a charge they could come up with. It reminds me of the hideous comments made by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell after September 11, scapegoating other Americans for the massacre. It is, to quote Ted Rall, a transgression of essential American reasonableness.

Passive times:
I mean, of course, the New York Times. I've been immersed in Orwelliana lately, and can't help but think of the great language analyst when reading the paper of record. One particular tic of the Times is the use of the passive voice to hide bias or to avoid anything racially "insensitive." Two classics from earlier this week:
Kate Zernike's report on the anti-war rally in Washington. The headline said it all: "Rally in Washington Is Said to Invigorate the Antiwar Movement." "Is Said To?" Actually, the people who are saying this are the organizers of the rally. It's one side of the story. And that's why it's the Times headline.
Dean E. Murphy's account of the fact that the Washington sniper-terrorist had previously been involved in shooting a synagogue. Here's the key sentence: "Rabbi Glickman said he was reluctant to characterize the shooting here as a hate crime, but he was troubled by Mr. Muhammad's association with the Nation of Islam, whose leadership has been accused of anti-Semitism." Notice again the passive voice "has been accused." But there is no doubt that the Nation of Islam's leadership and official ideology is offensively anti-Semitic in words and deeds. Why can't the Times report that? Would the Times hesitate to call a white supremacist group racist? Or would the Times simply say it "is accused of racism," without telling us who exactly is doing the accusing and whether they're right?

Raines watch:
"Economy Races Ahead at 3.1 Annual Rate in Summer" Associated Press headline on the AP Web site yesterday.
"Economy Grows at 3.1 percent. Consumer spending on big-ticket items fuels third quarter surge" The Washington Post.
"Economy Grew at 3.1 percent in 3rd Quarter, Slower Than Expected" - the New York Times.
"The economy is imploding," Maureen Dowd, the New York Times.

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