Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The Democrats are talking trash these days, lobbing the left wing’s frantic and often melodramatic insults at the Bush administration while Iraqi prisoner abuse is still leading the news.

“There is no longer a distinction between the rhetoric used by people on the left fringe of the Democratic Party and the rhetoric used by the leaders of the Democratic Party,” Christine Iverson of the Republican National Committee said yesterday.

“This is the same vitriolic stream of political hate speech we’ve seen since the Democrat primary began. Anger is not an agenda, but anger is the only thing Democrats have been offering the American people. And it’s going to backfire,” she said.

But the Democrats are forging ahead.

“How sweet it’s going to be on June 2 when the Taliban wing of the Republican Party finds out what’s happening in South Dakota,” said Sen. Tim Johnson during a voter rally Sunday in Sioux Falls for an upcoming special election there for a vacant at-large House seat.

He initially refused to apologize, but finally issued a guarded mea culpa yesterday.

In a Senate speech on May 10, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts noted, “Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam’s torture chambers reopened under new management — U.S. management.”

Such talk is “anti-American slander,” according to Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby yesterday — ignored by the mainstream press and Democratic establishment.

Perennial presidential candidate Ralph Nader also got in on the act, calling President Bush a “messianic militarist” and “an out-of-control West Texas sheriff” during a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Monday. Mr. Nader also suggested the president be impeached for purportedly lying about the Iraq war.

Other Democrats have joined the chorus.

In an e-mailed fund-raising appeal for presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York declared that Mr. Bush’s re-election would “create an America we won’t recognize.”

In his own appeal, Mr. Kerry solicited donations but criticized “the slow and inept response by President Bush, which has further undermined America’s credibility in the world and created new dangers for Americans.”

Even Mr. Kerry’s wife, Teresa, chimed in, calling Vice President Dick Cheney “unpatriotic” in a May 7 interview with Telemundo, NBC’s Spanish-language network.

Democratic Reps. Bill Delahunt and Barney Frank of Massachusetts recently called the prisoner abuse in Iraq “disgusting and disturbing” and “heartbreaking,” respectively — though Mr. Frank also categorized the abuse as “sadomasochistic sexual degradation.”

Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington state said abuse images “depict an America I don’t know,” while Rep. John W. Olver, Massachusetts Democrat, said the situation had created “an unaccountable regime.”

There could be a price for all this rudeness, though.

“Voters know the Democrats are angry,” said the RNC’s Miss Iverson. “But they don’t know what they’re for — and that’s going to turn off moderate and undecided voters in a general election.”

Meanwhile, sundry journalists trotted out Nazi themes and overblown comparisons.

Before his ESPN column was sanitized by editors yesterday, Hunter S. Thompson wrote that the prisoner-abuse images were worse than “the foulest atrocities of Adolf Hitler.”

The published reference was later tidied up to read, “worse than anything I could have imagined.”

ESPN spokeswoman Ashley Swadell confirmed yesterday that “a portion of the column was removed because some readers found the Hitler reference offensive.”

The public, indeed, has its limits.

When novelist E.L. Doctorow criticized Mr. Bush in the name of “responsible citizenship” during a college commencement address Sunday, he was booed by the audience — including one grandfather who said the graduation “had been ruined by politics.”

Still, trash talk flourishes.

New Yorker writer Seymour Hersh said in a recent TV interview the images hearkened back to the Third Reich, while Air America’s liberal radio host Randi Rhodes mixed her totalitarian metaphors and called the Iraq prison the “Nazi gulag.”

In a New York Times commentary Sunday, author Susan Sontag compared the prisoner abuse to souvenir “lynching photographs” of American blacks during the Depression.

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