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  The Dust-Up in the Desert
    (Oct. 13, 2004)

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          John "The Platitude" Kerry has no knockout punch. Kerry floats like a butterfly, and stings like a. . .butterfly. He's got a decent left jab, and an occasional right cross (and I do mean right), but nothing to make his opponent see tweetie-birds.
        Yes, Kerry won the first debate when George "The Wire" Bush showed up punch-drunk, taking cues from an earplug, and the senator certainly took the second scrap on most scorecards. But in championship fights, the challenger doesn't usually win on points.
         It might be moot. Kerry just leaned into a hard right from Bush and Cheney, and their gloves are loaded with horseshoes. I speak of the senator's use of the word, "nuisance" deep in a New York Times interview. A word that is two letters away from another word the Repugnicans previously used to open a cut: "nuance."
        Kerry doesn't have a glass chin, but he needs to stop dropping his guard and talkin' trash, or the fight's over. Telling the world that he would like to see terrorism reduced to the level of "nuisance" crime like prostitution and drug use is practically like Ali dropping his hands and daring Foreman to hit him. Except Kerry is no Ali, and rope-a-dope is not going to work here. Not with Dick "Heart Attack" Cheney in Bush's corner, and Condi and Rummy rubbing linament into The Prez's gloves between rounds.
In debate number two---The Deleria in Elyira---The Prez swaggered about, beating the living hell out of grammar and syntax, as usual. . .
        Kerry was simply saying sensible, truthful things, of course. But people don't usually want the truth, unless it comes with free booze. And now you have Bush, the people's champ, claiming that Kerry equates terrorism with the level of "nuisance," and what's more, he doesn't plan to get rid of terrorism!
        "The Platitude" left himself open to a belly hit, and Bush swung. He is laying it on thick, telling hordes of fans that he's going to personally K.O. every single gol-derned terrorist in the world, period, for gawdand- country, which is not quite the same as saying there is a Santa Claus. As for his "opponent," as the Prez refers to the senator (why doesn't Kerry ever refer to Bush as "my opponent?") well, his legs are rubber.
        (Time out! Break! Just a moment, let me check something. . .Yes, yes, I see that insane people do indeed still have access to weapons. As long as this does not change, there will still be terrorism, no matter what Bush says. Okay, back to the column.)    
        What did Kerry mean? Simple. Remember when you didn't pick up the paper and read about bombs killing shoppers and diners in Paris, Spain, Kabul, Baghdad, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Russia every single day? Yes, I do, too. Those were the days weren't they? Way back before, well, back before Bush was president! Back before he hitched up that big silver cowboy belt buckle, tilted that $1000-cowboy hat into macho position, and snarled, "Bring 'em on."
        Kerry remembers, too. He was explaining in realistic adult terms (a big risk in the USA) how much can be done to contain terrorism. Utilizing international cooperation of intelligence agencies and selected military strikes---and dropping the "Bring 'em on" invitation---it's conceivable that all the murdering might eventually be rolled back to the good old days when bombs were a lesser kind of crime, usually happening in bad neighborhoods. You know, like hookers.
        Anyone who can't see this has been in the ring too long. Anyone who thinks all terrorists can be whupped forever has a job in Vegas waiting as an official greeter. Terrorism is driven by hatred and religious zealotry, forces about as immutable as a young Joe Frazier.
        But now Bush and his manager, Karl "The Brain" Rove, are going to make more of a nuisance out of "nuisance" than Kerry ever imagined. (Astounding that they haven't mentioned that the word comes from the French "nusaunce.") They're not engaged in the Sweet Science, you see. They are not looking to box, and win on finesse and speed and grace. They are looking to bite off earlobes and spit 'em out, Tyson-style. We're talking thumbs in eyes and kidney punches in the clinch. That's the Repugnican way.
Why, he was practically twinkletoes out there, tripping through a meadow of daffodils, singing "The Voice of Spring."
        In other words, tonight's debate---The Moaner in Arizoner, the Dust-up in the Desert---is going to be fought dirty. And don't look for referee Bob Schieffer, a closet conservative in the guise of a CBS newsman, to issue any warnings, or deduct any points. Kerry might be six-four, but Bush won't be called for low blows.
        Kerry has to change style. He has to stop with the gorgeous, sweeping hooks, and the occasional head-snapping jabs. To whit: in debate number two---The Deleria in Elyira---The Prez swaggered about, beating the living hell out of grammar and syntax, but then began engaging in the most immodest showboating since Cassius Clay roared, "I am KING! I am THE GREATEST!"
        The Prez practically proclaimed himself Johnny Appleseed, John Muir, Rachel Carson, and Jacques Cousteau all in one. He reeled off his flim-flam environmental programs with their Newspeak names like the Clean Air Initiative and the Healthy Forest Act and the Kiss the Flowers New Deal and the I Think That I Shall Never See A Thing As Lovely as a Tree Program. Why, he was practically Twinkletoes out there, tripping through a meadow of daffodils, singing "The Voice of Spring." You expected to see little bushy (pun intended) Disney squirrels and chipmuncks appear on his shoulders! (Just above the transmitter on his back.)
        What did the august, elegant, dignified senator do?
        He responded with an august, elegant, dignified sentence or two or three about how Bush is "one of the worst" environment presidents in history. Argh! He whiffed. He should have hammered Bush's midsection with hard facts and stats that demonstrate that The Prez comes straight from the Bizarro World (where everything is done backwards); facts and stats that show that the Clean Air Initiative just opens the smokestacks wider, and the Healthy Forest Initiative is real good for buzzsaw manufacturers, and, well, something like this:
        "His energy bill offers tax breaks and regulatory relief to the coal and oil industries. He supports major changes in the Endangered Species Act, arguing that it has created problems for ranchers and farmers. He has proposed altering the Clean Air Act to allow utilities to expand without installing new pollution controls, as long as they don't surpass their own highest levels of pollution over the last decade.He wants to open 20 million acres of national forests to logging, and repealed Clinton's rule banning road construction in many forested areas. Superfund clean-ups are down by 50 percent since Bush took office, and future projects are to be paid for mostly by taxpayers instead of polluters." (See, Senator? You don't even have to write anything original---just lift this paragraph from Newsweek, like I did!)
        With "nuisance," Bush will have Kerry in a corner, covering up, ducking left, ducking right. There is no easy way out. No finessing it. "The President is distorting my position" will get beer thrown in the ring. "What I was really saying was. . ." casts The Prez as the aggressor, no matter the senator's explanation. Might just as well take a dive. . .
        Three weeks from the election, Kerry is tied on all scorecards (and up on the electoral.) It's time to punch his way out, and go for the knockout. Open up the can of Whoop-ass. Otherwise, Bush could be saved by the bell.

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