During the 2004 presidential campaign, John Kerry was described by his opponent as being a "waffler" and a "wind surfer." Some of those descriptions may have been deserved—focus groups determined far too much of what he thought. But, there are larger and more far-reaching dimensions to the subject of waffling. The GOP was once seen as being more on the side of minorities, since the Solid South, the Southern wing of the Democratic Party, was definitely racist. Until the sixties, about the only people in the South claiming to be Republicans were Negroes, as Blacks were then identified. Republicans were and remain the party of big business and the wealthy, but because Lincoln was a Republican, Blacks considered Republicans their friends. FDR brought the Northern Blacks into the Democratic Party, but because few Southern Blacks could vote, their numbers remained inconsequential. Many, if not most of them, continued to consider themselves Republicans. Richard Nixon used the Voting Rights Act as a wedge to turn the Solid Democratic (Dixiecrat) South into the Solid Republican South. That was one easy waffle for most of them. They've remained in the Republican column ever since. In fact, they are
the Republican Party there. The Blacks were politely invited out. Flip, flop
The GOP used to be the party of fiscal responsibility. They always opposed taxes, but debt they opposed even more—government borrowing was anathema to them. The last three Republican administrations have managed to turn that argument on its head, the current one turning debt into an art form. Flip, flop
Ronald Reagan was fond of the argument that government itself was the problem. By that he meant government was too intrusive. He may have meant that it got in the way of making money, but his argument was stated more generally. The current group wants government to know our every move, and indicates that it's unpatriotic to object. If the American government has ever been more intrusive than it is now, that fact has not been recorded in the history books. Flip, flop
The war in Iraq began as a search for weapons of mass destruction, and then waffled into a battle for regime change. It has since waffled into a war to bring democracy to the Middle East. While our brave young soldiers die to accomplish this noble feat, the rights that have made us the envy of the world have been eroded as quickly as the would-be dictator and his lemmings in Congress could manage it. So they were right. Government is
the problem. The party that once touted small government as the answer now wants unlimited power, and fear has become their weapon of mass destruction. Flip, flop
During the fifties, the Republicans were fond of calling Democrats the war party. After the First and Second World Wars, and the Korean conflict, it sold pretty well. Korea might have been forgotten were it not for Hawkeye, Hot Lips, Radar, and M*A*S*H*. It's still going on, only the shooting has stopped. Eisenhower gets credit for that. How or why we got into Vietnam is a matter of great conjecture. It began slowly with JFK, and heated up under LBJ. Dizzy Dean might have said we just "slud" into it. In any case, it started under a Democrat, enhancing the war party theme. Nixon, a Republican, got us out of it—sort of. Since then we've had Grenada, Panama, Iraq, and, again, Iraq. All four of them under Republican presidents. Another waffle. The current occupant of the White House, a Republican, has made being the warrior president his mantra. We're supposed to feel safer now with Bush, rather than the war party, in power . How's that for a waffle? Flip. flop
There are other issues that have flip-flopped, but one of particular importance remains. During the Sixties, while church leaders were greatly involved in the Civil Rights Movement, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell stood on the sidelines. Among the many leaders who fought the good fight, Martin Luther King, Jr. is the best known, but he was joined by Catholic priests and leaders from many Protestant churches. Now that civil laws have been enacted, and have made a difference, the Republicans, with Falwell and Robertson, have adopted the morality
issue, as if the next life should be an issue for government! The sad thing is, it was the Democrats who waffled on this one.
Waffling, it appears, is a sign of weakness, but only as applied to small issues—the battles, not the war. Democrats have made a significant difference in people's lives over the last seven or eight decades, but they have failed to capitalize on their accomplishments. "It's all in the selling," as they say. It's time we took back the waffles. IHOP says it best: We need people to Come hungry. Leave happy
Adden Dumb: A Follow-up to "The Doctored Drama"
As a remnant of the World War II generation, I deserve some leeway. Though I did nothing courageous or even productive during my time in the service, I have outlived the many who might contradict me should I involve myself in the writing of fairly tales. Those who are neither dead nor senile are probably telling lies of their own, but, despite the literary license available to me, I think I'll save that exercise for a creative writing class. Instead, I'll dwell on the home front, and compare it to the Administration's fairy tale version of the Iraq war.
To make the current war a credible version of World War II, as this Administration is attempting to do, we would first have to reinstate the universal draft. There were few families in the 1940s who did not have a son or daughter, niece or nephew, grandson or granddaughter in the service. Those who did not, had friends who did, so the entire nation, in one way or another, had an emotional stake in the fighting.
Lives were impacted in many ways. Imagine, if you can, being unable to replace a tire if you had a blowout, settling, if you were lucky, for a recap of reclaimed rubber. Imagine price controls and rationing. You'd need ration stamps to buy gasoline, which was in short supply for civilians. Highway speeds were reduced to stretch the supply of that precious liquid. The zipper on your fly might be replaced by buttons. High school and college sports were severely restricted, and night games were no longer allowed because of the blackout. Taxes were increased to make a down payment on the war. A twenty percent luxury tax was added to such things as jewelry. Items such as coffee, sugar, cooking oil, and cigarettes were both scarce and valuable commodities. Fresh meat, if you could find a butcher who had meat to sell, required ration stamps. High school and elementary students bought saving stamps each week that were turned in for war bonds when the proper amount had been reached. Cooks saved bacon grease for use in munitions production. Automobile factories turned out tanks, jeeps and military trucks in place of passenger cars. The airplane industry built only military planes—fighters and bombers. Children collected tinfoil to help build them. The shipbuilding industry built only merchant and warships for the Navy. Junkyard owners rose quickly on the social ladder. Civilian Defense volunteers watched for enemy planes at night, calling the authorities to report fly-overs. They were also on the lookout for lighted windows. Coastal cities and towns had blackouts for homes and automobiles. Grateful citizens gave rides to hitchhiking service personnel.
These and many other sacrifices and inconveniences brought the war home to us all. We did not consider many of them particularly restrictive—it was a time of lowered expectations. After all, we had just come through the Great Depression. Spoiled generations were yet to come. Everyone, in one way or another, was involved in the war effort. Nowadays we'd have to find other ways to sacrifice, and that's precisely why the comparison is truly a fairy tale. We have not been asked to sacrifice at all. In fact, our president has encouraged us to act as if nothing has happened. We are expected to be afraid, but that's just so we'll vote Republican. It's the current version of the bloody shirt that kept the GOP in power for decades following the Civil War. It's hard for a leader who has never had to sacrifice anything to know what to ask a nation to give up.
If this really were a modern version of World War II, we would all be well acquainted with sacrifice. It's not that we as a nation are unwilling, it's just that this war is a lot like a bad movie. There's no real plot or story line. There's no prospect of it ending with a kiss and money in the bank, as classic Hollywood once aimed for. The best that Bush can hope for is to salvage his legislative majority and to ride out the war for another two years.
Most of us no longer believe in fairy tales, so we're not looking to live happily ever after. But, we would
like to start the ever after
part soon. That would be close enough to a fairy tale for most of us. It would be for me.
The Doctored Drama
The Disney owned ABC network ran a mini-series recently depicting the purported lead-up to the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. I didn't watch the series, but the reviews I've read suggest that the Disney Corporation did not stray far from its history of turning fairy tales into big bucks or, in this case, propaganda.
The current administration in Washington, not to be outdone, developed a fairy tale of its own. The war in Iraq, so it seems, is World War II. The terrorists we're supposedly fighting have become goose-stepping Nazis—fascists all the way. Saddam has become Hitler and the W in Bush's name has somehow become Winston. Our president relishes this role of savior of the West. Of course, a few changes to history will have to be made if he expects all the characters and events to work.
Winston Churchill spoke English, and because of a speech impediment that made writing speeches for him a work of art, certain words had to be carefully avoided to accommodate his lisp. Something similar is being done for W. His sentences have been reduced to three word bursts followed by long pauses, and all words difficult to pronounce have been eliminated, though he still mispronounces many of them. But, more changes will have to be made if the current crisis is to match the events of the 30s and 40s.
Several characters in the drama will have to change sides and the Allies will have to attack Franco's Spain rather than Italy or Germany. Joseph Goebbels will have to change sides to provide a role for Cheney. The infallible Donald Rumsfeld can play Pope Pius XII, though the Pope did many things behind the scenes that do not fit well with Rumsfeld's record. Wolfowitz and Feith can fill the roles of Eisenhower and Montgomery with no problem, but Lord Ha Ha and Tokyo Rose will have to change sides so that Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly can fill their roles as administration apologists. Condi Rice may have to settle for the relatively minor role of Antonia Eden, necessitating a sex change. Karl Rove should be able to continue writing Dick Cheney's speeches. Numerous Democrats will be auditioned for the part of Neville Chamberlain—John Murtha, that old softie, is the leading contender. His suggestion that we implement a plan for withdrawal or re-assignment of our troops fits the Munich agreements to a T. It's true that Osama might have been cast in the role of Hitler, but his beard is far too long and, besides, he's nowhere to be found.
They needed someone to play FDR, but W insisted on playing both sides of the Atlantic. He assured the producers that the language barrier was no problem. Tony Blair will, of course, play Fala.
Osama bin Laden entered the developing hype for this fairy tale aimed at the showdown in November. Once again, using reverse psychology to keep the current group in power, he inserted a video at a critical juncture. Nothing unites like a common enemy.
The crew in Washington has provided Osama with poster boys for the Ugly American, and he knows a winning strategy when he sees one.
Let us hope that this fairy tale does not come true, and that, in the spirit of true fairy tales, we all live happily ever after... at least, for a while.