[Mb-civic] NYTimes.com Article: A Convention for Carnivores

michael at intrafi.com michael at intrafi.com
Sun Sep 5 10:52:08 PDT 2004

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A Convention for Carnivores

September 5, 2004


My viewing pleasure of last week's Republican convention
was slightly compromised by my television's autonomous and
irrevocable decision to activate the Spanish-language
closed-captioning feature. Frustrating as this initially
was, it provided moments of multicultural illumination, as
when Senator Zell Miller was identified as "Senador
Molinero del Zell," and Senator Olympia Snowe became
"Senador Nieve de Olympia." Chris Matthews's comment that
Rudolph Giuliani had just given a red-meat speech was
rendered as "una habla de carne roja." And the chant "Four
more years!" which on the 100th utterance begins to sound
as if Leni Riefenstahl is filming the occasion, seems
charming and even invigorating when spelled out in the
language of Cervantes: "Cuatro más años!" 

Whether Presidente Arbusto (for some reason this too was
repeatedly translated) will get cuatro más remains to be
seen, but all in all this was a pretty good semana for the
Republicanos, and the carne was indeed roja. The Democratic
convention left one with a nice Chablis buzz. This
convention left one braced and bucked up, with that
post-rodeo or Nascar race feeling, seized with the impulse
to squirt a cheekful of philosophical tobacco juice onto
the Guccis of the nearest economic girlie-man. 

There were, to be sure, the obligatory feminine moments. It
is de rigueur to trot out the ladies to assure the
electorate that the testosterone is diluted. Laura Bush is
a Platonic ideal of Republican femininity: lovely, demure,
reticent, the hair just so, exquisite but not too dressy in
de la Renta blue. As she spoke, about her husband,
daughters, family, literacy and all the rest, you could
practically smell the pies cooling on the windowsill. In
retrospect, the sexy-sultry Mozambican billionairess Teresa
Heinz Kerry seemed hardly to mention her husband, coming
off as rather more interested in, well, other things. 

The mercifully brief appearance of the Bush twins brought
to mind Dorothy Parker's famously brief 1928 review of "The
House at Pooh Corner'': "Tonstant weader fwowed up." It is
doubtful that many were left hankering for cuatro más años
of this charm-challenged pair. 

Lynne Cheney, on the other hand, was as attractive as ever.
It was endearing when she called her husband, the G.O.P.
Darth Vader, "the love of my life," momentarily coating him
with Oil of Olay. Yet despite this emollient, there remains
something ineffably frightening about Mr. Cheney. Lately,
he has been much photographed in the company of his
adorable granddaughters, but then his opponent, Senator
John Edwards, is not above deploying the
cute-offspring-human-shield himself. 

Senator Liddy Dole was shown to the cameras. Mrs. Dole is a
woman of accomplishment, but she has a hyper-insistent
cheeriness that reveals the Viking helmet beneath the
church-lady coiffure. Her husband, the former senator and
Viagra pitchman Bob Dole, was later asked about her
interview and was moved to remark: "She's disciplined. She
stays on her message." This is my beloved. She stays on

But for all the cuddly moments, this was manifestly a manly
convention. This was not about reaching out and touching.
This was not about wondering what - oh, quoi! - can we do
to make the French like us more. This convention was about
kicking butt. It was about taking the fight to the enemy,
and keeping that fight "over there." 

A lineup that includes John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Arnold
Schwarzenegger, Tommy Franks and the peppery Senador
Molinero de Zell - to say nothing of My Lord Vader of
Wyoming - is not Mr. Rogers's Neighborhood. The summer of
'04 began with the funeral of Ronald Reagan, the Republican
epitome of manly virtues, so it was apt that it should
conclude with a display of unapologetic chestiness. But
there was an embedded irony, or two. 

Jon Meacham of Newsweek, commenting on Chris Matthews's
excellent program "Hardball," smartly remarked that John
McCain has become "the referee of American politics - if he
calls a foul, the people believe it's a foul." Armstrong
Williams, television show host and columnist, took this
metaphor and ran it past the end zone into the parking lot
when he called Mr. McCain "Mother Teresa of the Republican
Party." But the point is made: Mr. McCain is a figure of
reverence. Even Democrats like and respect him. 

Will they love Mr. McCain despite his passionate embrace of
Iraq? The second irony is that the 527's that have been
replaying Senator Kerry's odd pronunciation of "Genghis
Khan" were entirely the creation of McCain-Feingold
campaign finance reform. Senator McCain can denounce them
all he wants but he bears responsibility for them. If he
runs in '08, we may find ourselves watching ads by Hanoi
Hilton Veterans for Truth, saying that Lieutenant McCain
shot down his own plane over North Vietnam. In the event,
Mr. McCain can counter with the choice footage he created
on Monday night. For anyone who has despaired these last
months, of refuting "Fahrenheit 9/11," Mr. McCain's
"disingenuous filmmaker" line was - a gift from on high.
The striking contrast between the noble, white-haired
veteran at the podium with the snarling, adipose,
gum-chewing presence in the press section was as eloquent
as any of Mr. Moore's cinematic juxtapositions. 

Monday night was truly a night of carne roja. Rudy Giuliani
demonstrated yet again that he is the most electrifying
speaker in America today. Not many public speakers could
get away with pronouncing the phrase, "The flames of hell."
Mr. Giuliani can even get away with saying, "Bernie, thank
God George Bush is our president!" Monday night cannot have
been a happy one for any of his future opponents. 

Or for Senator Kerry, who was shown repeatedly wind-surfing
in Nantucket. My hat is off to Mr. Kerry's service in
Vietnam and to all hardy souls who pit themselves against
the high seas, but it might have made a better visual had
the senator been shown pitching horseshoes with the
Nantucket fire brigade. Or are horseshoes at this point too
Republican? The naughty thought crossed the mind that now
that whales are no longer (strictly speaking) endangered,
it would have been very carne roja to display the senator
heaving a harpoon into one off old Nantucket's shores.
Senator Kerry was, after all, the one who, when he came
under fire, threw away the Navy manual and turned his boat
into the fight. 

Instead he jetted off to Springfield, Ohio to defend
himself against Republican calumnies. His appearance, at
midnight Thursday, was the second anticlimax of the
evening, after the president's 62-minute speech. My own
unscientific poll revealed that everyone I called after it
was over had fallen asleep, somewhere between the
president's manly vow to "restrain federal spending" and
his bracing pledge to create "opportunity zones." My eyes,
held open by tooth picks, strayed to the closed captioning
beneath, searching for the word "sinvergüenza." It's a
Spanish colloquialism that is marvelously useful, denoting
someone who is gleefully "shameless." Alas, it did not
appear. Later on MSNBC, meanwhile, Chris Matthews became so
cross-eyed with boredom watching Mr. Kerry that he simply
cut away in mid-sentence. The trouble with carne roja is
that half an hour later you're hungry again. 

"And so," as Samuel Pepys would close his diary, "to

Christopher Buckley is editor of Forbes FYI magazine and
the author of the forthcoming novel, "Florence of Arabia." 



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