Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The wacky world of reality


By PAT MURPHY

Only those who hallucinate believe humankind is in a state of equilibrium.

In his zaniest moments, not even madcap comedian Peter Sellers could cook up anything as off kilter for the bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau as everyday reality of U.S. life.

A sampling makes the point.

Bill Clinton?s sex in an Oval Office ante room with an intern is ho-hum alongside Democratic Gov. James McGreevey?s show-stopper: after introducing his wife and the mother of their children at a press conference, he admits having a gay affair with an aide.


For ultimate triumph in the comedy of errors, meet airport screeners who?re supposedly the finest to be found: They?ve stopped U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, one of America?s best known and plumpest politicians, five times from boarding aircraft because an ?Edward Kennedy? is on a no-fly list of possible terrorists. Ditto for Congressman John Lewis, an easily recognizable, portly black political celebrity who?s been hassled 35 times at airports because a similarity of no-fly names. Screeners wouldn?t accept their Capitol I.D. cards as proof of who they are. Homeland Security finally confirms common sense isn?t a job requirement.

Want to hear the President of the United States speak? At some campaign stops, President Bush?s advance men deny admission to those who won?t sign pledges to vote for him. This is the Great Uniter?

Getting out the vote is a noble, desirable goal for black Americans, right? In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush?s Department of Law Enforcement sent officers into Orange County homes to interrogate blacks about what they know of alleged ?vote fraud.? (Is it coincidence that Democrats lately have defeated Republicans in Orange County elections.) This parallels FBI agents interrogating anti-war protestors in their homes about schemes to interrupt the Republican National Convention.

These aren?t serious police missions but Storm Trooper tactics to frighten people into abandoning civil rights.

Not much is as cockeyed as Swift Boat vets arguing whether John Kerry deserves all or only several combat medals. The same vets don?t question George W. Bush skipping Air Force duty to purportedly join an obscure Alabama political campaign (still some doubts about that) or Vice President Cheney requesting and receiving five draft deferments be-cause, he said, military service wasn?t among his ?priorities? or Attorney General John Ashcroft escaping Vietnam with seven deferments.

However, the golden slacker-to-hero award goes to Sen. Saxbee Chambliss, the darling of extremist Georgia Republicans, who defeated Democratic Sen. Max Cleland by sliming Cleland as insufficiently pa-triotic.

Cleland lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam combat. Chambliss sat out the war at home claiming to have a bum knee.




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