Joe Conason's Journal

Georgia's Confederates lose again! Plus: Time floats its own Wellstone theory.

By Salon Staff
Published November 12, 2002 8:20PM (UTC)
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Confederate money
Certain politicians specialize in fleecing rubes. They promise to cut everybody's taxes, then send the rube $300 while the rich guy gets $30,000. They send the rube to war while they and their sons stay home. They cash out while the rube is left holding the watered stock. They tell the rube that the guy who left three limbs in Vietnam isn't as patriotic as the guy who had a bad knee when the draft board called -- and the rube believes that, too.

And now those disgruntled Georgia rubes may not even get their Confederate flag back.


During his campaign, Sonny Perdue clearly promised a referendum on restoring the old Dixie-style state flag hauled down by Roy Barnes, the Democrat he defeated in an upset. Since his victory, however, the Republican governor-elect has backed away from that pledge, saying only that he will think about how to "resolve this issue." See, an ugly political battle over the Confederate banner would be bad for the tourism business, and business matters more than any demagogic promise. Rubes will usually vote against their own best interest next time anyway, no matter what the politician does to them. That's the political definition of a rube, and they're less than a dime a dozen. But a Yankee dollar is still a dollar.

Post-election snipe hunt
Reaction to the Wellstone memorial service probably brought down Mondale in Minnesota, but blaming the broader Democratic defeat on Rick Kahn seems far-fetched. That's the theory promoted in Time, where Matthew Cooper quotes a Penn, Schoen & Berland survey that indicates the Wellstone event inflicted some national damage. (Such notions may comfort clients of Mandy Grunwald, political consultant to such losers as Mondale, Jeanne Shaheen and Tom Strickland, who were more or less expected to win. Grunwald also worked on the Shaheen campaign with the Penn firm. She's also Cooper's wife.) In some respects, this is an attractive theory. While it would suggest that millions of silly voters are swayed by media-hyped trivia, it would also mean that the election was no referendum on issues. But how do they explain the Democratic sweeps in neighboring Iowa and Wisconsin?

Nazi badges and other errata
A reader points out that one of those "ruptured duck" links connects to a Web site that markets Nazi as well as Allied memorabilia from World War II. I wasn't endorsing the site, just the picture. Another reader says it was Alan Simpson, not Bob Dole, who publicly advised Saddam to ignore Western media carping about his gassing of civilians and other human rights problems. That's correct, according to the excellent Gilbert Cranberg. (The first Bush administration's ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, also said much the same thing to Saddam.) Bob Dole mildly demurred in defense of the press on that visit to Iraq with Simpson and three other senators, but he was still a major coddler of Saddam in those days.
[3 p.m. PST, Nov. 12, 2002]


That Saddam show
Although Saddam Hussein seems to know that he's often criticized in the Western media -- remember when Bob Dole told him to ignore the pesky press and their carping about human rights? -- the Iraqi dictator still has no clue how he and his regime are perceived outside Iraq. Otherwise it's difficult to understand this week's manipulation of his parliament. Does he truly think that anybody regards a vote in that body as a "message" from the Iraqi people? (Surely he knows the Iraqis don't believe it.)

Anyway, after a long display of ventriloquism denouncing the odiousness of the international demand on Baghdad to disarm, the National Assembly today "rejected" U.N. Security Council resolution 1441 (with a footnote acknowledging that whatever the boss says will go). The only conceivable purpose of this clumsy, old-fashioned marionette show -- unless Saddam is indeed mad and suicidal -- is to allow the dictator to appear statesmanlike and reasonable when he capitulates before Friday midnight.

If Saddam is paying attention to the Western press, however, perhaps he's merely teasing the likes of Bill Kristol and Andrew Sullivan. Like other armchair hawks, they now fret constantly about diplomacy trumping warfare, and would much prefer Iraqi defiance so they can get their war on. (I love it when Sullivan writes, "We should be publicly mobilizing for war right away." Does this mean he and Hitchens will soon be appearing together in their chemical protective gear? Are they starting a scrap metal drive?)


Ducky democracy
Speaking of the home front, several readers have asked about my "ruptured duck" reference yesterday. In 1944, the War Department created an eagle emblem, usually worn in the form of a lapel pin, which signified honorable discharge from military service. It seems that the enlisted wiseguys, always skeptical of the brass, thought the emblem's bird more closely resembled a duck in distress than the national symbol. A fuller explanation, plus speculation on the origins of the nickname, may be found here, and a large illustration can be viewed here.
[9:32 a.m. PST, Nov. 12, 2002]

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