- The Washington Times - Friday, September 17, 2004

When a car bomb blew up in the Iraqi town of Baqouba, turning a market into a charnel house, with twisted metal and burned bodies everywhere, wounding 56 and overwhelming the local hospital, angry bystanders cursed the attackers. But one man in the crowd seemed genuinely mystified: “These were all innocent Iraqis. There were no Americans. What was their guilt?”

What is the Americans’ guilt? That we’ve overthrown a murderous tyrant and are trying to build a free and stable Iraq?

There’s always one guy in every outfit who never gets the word: Terrorists aren’t interested in guilt or innocence, or whether it’s Iraqi or American blood they spill. They’re just out to kill, maim and destroy. Anybody. The purpose is to instill fear and create the kind of chaos in which their kind prospers — a power vacuum they can fill.

Lest we feel superior to this Iraqi man in the street, who seemed able to feel human sympathy only when his own countrymen were killed, there are those of us who know American deaths in that war now have passed a thousand — but have no idea how many innocent Iraqis have been blown away. Does anybody even count them?

It’s the human condition. God forgive us and help us remember: We’re all in this together.

It’s revealing to note where the presidential candidates are buying television time. Because where they put their money says something not only about the candidates but about the general culture, as in Kulturkampf. Need a handy guide to the culture war of 2004? Just note where the campaigns advertise:

The Bush campaign has bought hundreds of spots on the History channel, doubtless to rev up its own voters or, as they say in the political-science business, to energize the base.

It makes sense. Conservatives have a way of trusting experience more than theory, the lessons of the past more than promises about the future. In short, history more than political science — a term that always struck some of us as an oxymoron. Politics a science? It’s more an art, sport, and free-for-all. Like kick boxing. But not, as Mister Dooley famously noted, beanbag.

A senior adviser to the Kerry campaign, Ted Devine, described the History channel to the Wall Street Journal as “one of the most Republican of channels.”

That figures, though its Democratic viewers might be surprised to learn it. Maybe the fair labeling laws ought to require the channel to post a warning label: “Beware: Watching this channel may turn you into a Republican.”

As for the Kerry campaign, it doesn’t seem big on investing in cable television commercials. Why should it? It has NPR, the New York Times, the major TV networks, and a big 527 — MoveOn.org — to do its campaigning for it.

Like the Bush campaign, the Kerry campaign has bought time on the various cable news channels, plus one spot on BET, Black Entertainment Television. That makes sense, considering the Democrats’ now traditional hold on black voters. (Mr. Lincoln is long gone.)

But the Kerry campaign may be missing a good bet in not running commercials on Bravo or MTV, where something tells me Democrats would also do well. (They rerun episodes of “West Wing” on Bravo, don’t they?)

Politics a science? In this country, it’s more a branch of sociology or ethnography. Doubt it? Well, the GOP also invests heavily in the Golf channel. Q.E.D.

Paul Greenberg is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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