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Cries in the night

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Somebody needs to take away David Broder’s computer or Eversharp or whatever implement he commits punditry with before he blathers again, as in a recent column suggesting that Asa Hutchinson would be a nice mainstream nominee for the United States Supreme Court. Asa the Extreme a mainstreamer? He’s probably more mainstream than, say, Reinhard Heydrich — who is ineligible for the appointment anyway, being German, and dead — and possibly more so than some of his fellow grads of Bob Jones U., the South Carolina bigots’ academy. But not many others. Whether he’s prosecuting cancer patients for smoking marijuana, or trying to overthrow an elected president, excess is Asa’s business, “nothing in moderation” his motto. Broder is especially irrelevant, but most of the national political columnists today seem sold-out or senile, comfortable in the lap of the Bush administration. The cartoonists, on the other hand, have never been keener. Their work was shown to good advantage over the weekend in the Arkansas Times and the daily down the street. Two characters in “Doonesbury” discuss the Iraqi war. “Do you think most people grasp the ripple effects of this war without end,” one asks, “especially on the thousands of families and communities whose kids have been maimed and killed?” He continues: “Certainly the man who caused it doesn’t seem to have lost a wink of sleep over it.” The scene shifts in the last panel to an exterior view of the White House. Inside, the First Lady asks, “What’s wrong, dear?” Her mate replies: “It’s the stem cells. I hear their cries.” The point is made like a punch in the stomach: This is a president who is badly confused, his priorities horribly disordered. And the cartoonist didn’t even mention the thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians killed and wounded, their voices too drowned out by the stem cells, and by the whimpers of multimillionaires seeking repeal of the estate tax. Tom Tomorrow focused on 18-to-22-year-old Republican think-tank interns pondering how to support the troops, now stretched to the breaking point by the Army’s difficulty in recruiting 18-to-22-year-olds. “Maybe we could advise the Army on the best ways to reach the 18-to-22-year-old market — for a small consulting fee, of course,” one suggests. Another proposes forming “an inner-city outreach program — to convince more 18-to-22-year-old poor people to enlist.” (“We could explain to them about patriotism and stuff.”) These interns and their real-life models are children of the chicken hawks, people like Dick Cheney, patriotic only at someone else’s expense. If one is white, rich and shame-proof, he can pull it off. We used to read the comics for amusement. Now we go there for serious political commentary, too. They’re still funny, but in a painful sort of way.

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