- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 15, 2006

Who is James Vicini?

Well, he works for Reuters, the storied news agency. By “storied,” I don’t mean in the Hans Christian Andersen sense, though these days it’s hard to tell. But they have an illustrious history and they’re globally respected and whatnot. And last week newshound Mr. Vicini was assigned quite an interesting story:

“WASHINGTON — A California-born convert to Islam, accused of making a series of al Qaeda propaganda videos, became on Wednesday the first American charged with treason since the World War II era, U.S. Justice Department officials said.

“Fugitive Adam Gadahn, 28, who is believed to be in Pakistan, was accused of treason, which carries a maximum punishment of death. … ”

Wow. Treason. First time in a half-century, since the Tokyo Rose days. Since then, of course, the very word “treason” has come to seem arcane, if not obsolescent, like something some fellow in doublet-and-hose might accuse somebody of on “Masterpiece Theatre” but otherwise not terribly relevant and frankly no big deal: indeed, the campus left usually gives the impression “treason” is little more than an alternative lifestyle, like transvestism.

Yet the Justice Department wants this fellow over in Pakistan for treason. Now why would they do such a thing? After chugging through the various charges, James Vicini got to the meat of his story: “Justice Department officials denied the case was timed to deflect attention from the fallout over lewd computer messages sent by a former Republican congressman to young male aides, a scandal that may help Democrats seize control of Congress in the Nov. 7 elections.”

Cut out that paragraph and have it framed. Or now that the nights are drawing in, if you’re at a loose end of an evening, sew it into an attractive sampler and hang it in your parlor. In years to come, you’ll spend many precious moments treasuring it as the perfect summation of the 2006 U.S. election.

“Justice Department officials denied .. .” What Reuters means by those words is that a reporter — possibly the Great Vicini himself or his colleague (“Additional reporting by Rick Cowan”) — gets the press release about this once-in-a-half-century treason thing and says to the relevant Feds, “C’mon, you guys are just nailing this dude in Pakistan to distract from Mark Foley, right?”

And the Justice Department fellow no doubt replies, “Mark who?”

And Rick Cowan (or James Vicini) says, “The ex-congressman. Teenage pages. Horny gay Republican predators. Hastert’s notorious pedophile ring. You must have read about it. It’s been in all the papers.”

And the Justice guy says, “Sorry, I’ve been working the fax machine to Pakistan all week, typing up the relevant indictments in triplicate, and so forth.”

Originally, only the Republican Congress was covering for Mark Foley. But, as Messrs. Vicini and Cowan see it, the conspiracy now extends to the Justice Department. We should be grateful Reuters imputed merely the “timing” of the treason indictment to the “lewd computer message” scandal, not the indictment itself. After all, why would the Bush administration have earmarked some nobody in Pakistan for a cockamamie charge of “treason” if it weren’t for just such an eventuality as this? Also, note that the most damaging “lewd computer messages” and the toppling of Saddam both occurred in 2003: Did the neocons stage the entire Iraq war in order to set Mr. Foley up with an endless supply of fetching young Arab houseboys? As Al Jolson liked to sing, climb upon my knee, Sunni boy.

And what about that North Korean nuke? That timing’s pretty suspicious, too. And in that goofy outfit of his Kim Jong-il looks a bit like a teenage congressional page at a slumber party. Well, from a distance and in a poor light, and if you’ve had a couple drinks.

And how about this for convenient timing? From the BBC on Thursday:

“A man has pleaded guilty to conspiring to murder people in a series of bombings on British and U.S. targets. Dhiren Barot, of North London, planned to use a radioactive ‘dirty bomb’ in one of a series of attacks in the U.K., Woolwich Crown Court heard.”

I have a new book out this week, folks: You’ll find it at the back of the store past the September 11 Conspiracy section and the Christianist Theocrat Takeover of America section and the ceiling-high display of the new Dixie Chicks six-CD box set of songs about how they’re being silenced. In that book, I say some of us looked at September 11, 2001, as the sudden revelation of the tip of a vast iceberg, and I try to address the seven-eighths of that iceberg below the surface — the globalization of radical Islam, the freelancing of nuclear technology, the demographic weakness of Western democracies. Other folks, however, see the iceberg upside down. The huge weight of history — the big geopolitical forces coursing through society — the vast burden all balancing on the pinhead of the week: in this instance, Mark Foley.

Thomas Sowell says the question for this election is not whether you or your candidate is Republican or Democrat but whether you’re “serious” or “frivolous.” Many Americans, and not just their sorry excuse for a professional press corps, are in the mood for frivolity. It’s like going to the theater. Do you really want to sit through that searing historical drama from the Royal Shakespeare Company? Or would you rather be at the sex comedy next door?

In the 1990s, Americans opted for the sex comedy — or so they thought. But in reality the searing historical drama carried on; it was always there, way off in the background, behind the yuk-it-up narcissist trouser-dropper staggering around downstage. The mood of the times was to kick the serious stuff down the road so we could get back to President Lounge Act offering to feel our pain.

With North Korea, the people delegated to kick the can a few years ahead — Madeleine Albright, Jimmy Carter — are now back, writing self-congratulatory op-eds about their genius and foresight. Not at all. Mrs. Albright’s much-touted “agreement” was a deal whereby Washington agreed to prop up a flailing basket-case state in order to enable it to buy enough time to become a serious destabilizing threat to its neighbors and beyond. Many of our present woes — not least Iran — derive explicitly from the years when Jimmy Carter embodied the American “superpower” as a smiling eunuch.

Thanks in part to last decade’s holiday from history, North Korea and Iran don’t need to buy any more time. They have all they need. Life isn’t a night on Broadway where you can decide you’re not in the mood for “Henry V” and everyone seems to be having a much better time at “La Cage Aux Foley.”

Forget the Republicans for a moment. In Connecticut, the contest is between a frivolous liberal running on myopic parochial platitudes and a serious liberal who has the measure of the times and has thus been cast out by the Democratic Party. His state’s voters seem disinclined to endorse the official Dems’ full-scale embrace of trivia and myopia. The broader electorate should do the same.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

© Mark Steyn, 2005

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