Milky Way Week in Review
With the Dash Brothers
Welcome to Milky Way Week in Review. The name refers to the galactic rather than the gastronomic level of existence.
Maybe to emphasize that the world doesn't begin and end in Washington.
Well, it might end in Washington.
Point taken. Let's move on. I'm your host, Phineas Dash, and around the table are distinguished experts on everything, which of course doesn't distinguish them from anybody else---my brothers, Theron, Phineas and Christopher. Gabriel is off consulting with his muse.
That's what I said.
So let's start with a roundup of the good news. Just when we thought the whole country was asleep---
We get maybe half a million protestors in Washington, and another 150,000 or more in San Francisco, plus significant gatherings in a number of other cities in the U.S. and around the world. It turns out that three-quarters of the American people are against attacking Iraq and want to let the inspections option play out.
Then the French government made a strong statement that they'd veto a UN authorization for an attack in the Security Council. Most of the other members are against it as well. There was a trans-Atlantic huff over the Secretary of Defense referring to the French and Germans as "old Europe," sort of too over the hill to fight, I guess. That wasn't nearly as provocative as the guy the defense department sent to represent them on the PBS News Hour, who said flatly that the French and Germans are irrelevant, that they have no power in the world. Only the Brits count.
And though the British people feel about this impending war about as the American public does, their government is sticking with the Bushies.
Did you see Tony Blair on C-Span the other day? Appearing at parliament in this weird pale green shirt and patterned tie of the same color? He looked like he was auditioning to play Dr. Who.
And just when you thought the American press had definitively rolled over, or bent over, we get a firebrand going after the White House.
Yes, and who should this brash, impudent and insolent purveyor of non-minced words be but eighty-two year old Helen Thomas, who has covered more presidents than anybody else---and she really loathes this one.
Helen had been the definition of the nondescript scribe---a wire service reporter---but she's become a columnist, and she's like a Phoenix rising from the ashes and being let out of her cage. "I censored myself for 50 years when I was a reporter," she said recently. "Now I wake up and ask myself, 'Who do I hate today?'
The neat thing is that with her seniority she still starts the White House press conference questioning. We've got a taste of what that's been like recently, direct from the official transcripts. Who wants to do Helen?
I'll be Ari Fleischer.
The White House Press Secretary. Okay, here it is:
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon and happy New Year to everybody. The President began his day with an intelligence briefing, followed by an FBI briefing. Then he had a series of policy briefings. And this afternoon, the President will look forward to a Cabinet meeting where the President will discuss with members of his Cabinet his agenda for the year. The President is going to focus on economic growth, making America a more compassionate country, and providing for the security of our nation abroad and on the homefront.
And with that, I'm more than happy to take your questions. Helen.
Q At the earlier briefing, Ari, you said that the President deplored the taking of innocent lives. Does that apply to all innocent lives in the world? And I have a follow-up.
MR. FLEISCHER: I refer specifically to a horrible terrorist attack on Tel Aviv that killed scores and wounded hundreds. And the President, as he said in his statement yesterday, deplores in the strongest terms the taking of those lives and the wounding of those people, innocents in Israel.
Q My follow-up is, why does he want to drop bombs on innocent Iraqis?
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, the question is how to protect Americans, and our allies and friends --
Q They're not attacking you.
MR. FLEISCHER: -- from a country --
Q Have they laid the glove on you or on the United States, the Iraqis, in 11 years?
MR. FLEISCHER: I guess you have forgotten about the Americans who were killed in the first Gulf War as a result of Saddam Hussein's aggression then.
Q Is this revenge, 11 years of revenge?
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, I think you know very well that the President's position is that he wants to avert war, and that the President has asked the United Nations to go into Iraq to help with the purpose of averting war.
Q Would the President attack innocent Iraqi lives?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President wants to make certain that he can defend our country, defend our interests, defend the region, and make certain that American lives are not lost.
Q And he thinks they are a threat to us?
MR. FLEISCHER: There is no question that the President thinks that Iraq is a threat to the United States.
Q The Iraqi people?
MR. FLEISCHER: The Iraqi people are represented by their government. If there was regime change, the Iraqi --
Q So they will be vulnerable?
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, the President has made it very clear that he has not dispute with the people of Iraq. That's why the American policy remains a policy of regime change. There is no question the people of Iraq --
Q That's a decision for them to make, isn't it? It's their country.
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, if you think that the people of Iraq are in a position to dictate who their dictator is, I don't think that has been what history has shown.
Q I think many countries don't have -- people don't have the decision -- including us.
Now that's entertainment! So what's the consequence of all this going to be?
On the war? Probably none. The troops are there, the weather's right, the moon will be dark, CNN has taken up residence on aircraft carriers, and Bush's poll numbers are starting to tank. So sooner rather than later. The ides of March is still a safe bet.
I agree. What has changed is the prospects for Bush in Congress, and especially the '04 election. Once again, arrogance is going to be the Republican downfall. They're pushing a radical right agenda on every conceivable front, and though they're likely to do a lot of collateral damage, they're also getting the opposition's full attention.
Democratic candidates are already campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire. Nobody is sounding like a Bush clone anymore. The Bush agenda is going to get critiqued from several points of view-the primary debate is probably the healthiest thing about this process.
I heard bits of some of the Iowa speeches. Strong words, strong proposals, clear language for the most part. And ideas. Changes of direction. Kerry invokes the Kennedys---it's interesting how he's challenging his own generation to get involved again. That could be a potent argument---the baby boomers are still a huge generation, and a relatively high proportion of the older half are known voters.
Was it Kerry or somebody else who proposed a kind of senior Peace Corps? Man, every American I know whose been in another country recently has had a real hard time. They're getting abused. It's more than just tourist inconvenience. There's real prejudice. It's like a lot of old anger is just letting loose, thanks to the Bushies. And I'm not talking about the Middle East. I mean Australia. I mean Switzerland.
I think maybe I'd still volunteer to help the cafes of Paris reclaim their former glory. Or Turino even.
You'd go that far? What a patriot!
So-anything else happening in the Milky Way?
Jerry Springer may run for the U.S. Senate. I wish that was a joke.
What's going on with TV documentaries? Why do they repeat the same point over and over? I thought attention span was a problem. I feel like I'm being bludgeoned.
You're talking about that "Journey of Man" thing on PBS the other night.
The latest example, yes. Lots of long lingering shots of blond, boyishly handsome Dr. Spencer Wells, and every single point repeated at least three times in succession, and frequent recaps of the repetitions. How dumbed down can you get? But the story---if you can ever get to it---is absolutely fascinating: the attempt to trace early human migration from Africa throughout the world by following genetic markers. All the wonder of it, utterly smashed by the mind-numbing prattle, repeated and repeated and repeated. For two endless hours!
Not enough time for any counter-evidence, I noticed. Or any contrary opinions on the migrations. Seems that guy solved the whole thing all by himself. And his personal cameraperson.
It's the same effect as commercials, isn't it? There are so many ad messages now, a half dozen of them one after the other, that you completely lose the thread of the main program. By the time it comes back on, who cares?
Kiss dramatic tension goodbye.
Speaking of which, I'll bet you can't wait till next week's edition of the Milky Way Review.
Be kind to each other, will you? And goodbye out there.
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