Thursday, February 26, 2004

Now that “The Passion of the Christ” has been released, I have made my decision. I shall not see it. My reasoning, I suppose, will be seen as shallow, but I shall stick to my guns. I am not seeing the movie because it clearly abounds with blood and gore, two staples of Hollywood that I abhor. Not only are they revolting, but they are leading ingredients in Hollywood’s chief byproduct, fantasy. Practically every film that comes out of Hollywood produces fantasy. I incline toward reality.

As for blood and gore, any time I have witnessed the real thing the real thing is never so dazzling, colorful, and dramatic as Hollywood depicts it. Moreover, real blood and gore never take place in slow motion. The real thing is slam bam and off to the hospital or the morgue. I recall seeing mortar fire from a faraway hillside hitting buildings in Bosnia. It all happened so fast I never had a chance to calculate quite what was taking place, let alone savor the scene.

Hollywood’s dramatic portrayal of blood and gore is another example of one of my most dearly held prejudices, to wit, the camera falsifies. Devotees of the camera will tell you the camera produces accurate depictions of reality. I believe the opposite. A camera in the hands of a Hollywood cameraman rarely replicates reality and almost always produces fantasy.

For the real Christ I shall content myself with a reading of the Gospels. And so on to the week’s other fantasies, specifically the continuing presidential candidacy of Sen. John Kerry, the very French-looking front-runner in the Democratic presidential race. When I heard that he was being accused of having had an affair with a young woman, I thought to myself, “How very French.” And when I heard Howard Kurtz on his CNN media show say that the story was part of the Limbaugh-Hannity conservative smear machine, I went back to the early stories and discovered that they originated not from conservative sources but from people around Gen. Wesley Clark. Mr. Kurtz’s panel of experts also said there was no substantial evidence of an affair having taken place. Apparently they had forgotten that at least one British newspaper quoted the alleged inamorata’s father saying Mr. Kerry had pursued his daughter in some vague but troubling way. The father called Mr. Kerry a “sleaze ball.” Later the father said he would vote for Mr. Kerry, but the man’s early aspersion is difficult to explain away.

Well, whether or not Mr. Kerry had a Francois Mitterrand-like relationship with a cutie, he still seems very Gallic to me. Now it turns out he has a cousin who is mayor of a small French town. Mon Dieu, how French is that? Oh, and by the way, did I hear that he served in Vietnam?

James Taranto, the wit who edits Opinion, has been having a grand old time teasing Mr. Kerry about his chest-beating boasts of service in Vietnam. This past week, reports have begun to surface that the senator’s boasts might be highly exaggerated. It appears he only served four more months in Vietnam than the 90 percent of the men of his generation who did not serve there at all. Some critics are dredging up evidence that the senator’s decorations were more the consequence of his political skills than his military heroics.

Actually I doubt these critics. Thus far, Mr. Kerry’s demonstrated political skills do not appear to be that good. If he continues to drone on about the he-man he was three decades ago, he may achieve the hitherto unthinkable effect of rendering combat service laughable.

As this campaign runs on, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the junior senator from Massachusetts is something of a cad. That he allowed and at times seemed to encourage talk that President Bush, an F-102 pilot in the Texas National Guard, had three decades ago been AWOL and a “deserter” was shameful. His treatment of his opponents has been graceless. His lapses into artless circumlocutions and dissembling suggest an essential meanness in the man.

Mr. Kerry talks about wanting to keep the presidential debate on a high plane, addressing issues rather than personalities, but he is forever lapsing into boasts about himself and belittlement of his opponents. Having reviewed his life and all its unlovely manipulations, I suggest he stick to the high plane as best he can. It is only a matter of time before wags suggest to him that he could close the federal budget deficit that so alarms him by marrying yet another rich wife.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute. His “Madame Hillary and the Dark Road to the White House” has just been published by Regnery Publishing.

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