Random thoughts on the Republican Convention, Abu Ghraib and John McCain

The incomparably surreal Republican Convention was upon us last week, affecting my mind to the point where I can only remember bits and pieces: the Bush twins reading jokes off the TelePrompTer (the Kerry girls, they're not); Laura Bush standing by her man (quite lifelike, I felt); Bush rather surprisingly telling Matt Lauer that the fight against terrorism cannot be won, thereby giving up his most effective weapon against the weak-minded of America--exact. repetition. of. manly. declarative. statements; and then Arnold Schwarzenegger as the centerpiece of "compassion" night. I like the guy fine, but that's just weird.

Another highlight was Rudy Giuliani ending his opening-night speech with a call to vote for Bush so that the deaths of the Sept. 11 victims will not have been in vain. (What do you think? Is there any further way in which this administration could insult the families, or has Giuliani finally exhausted the possibilities?) Meanwhile, Purple Heart Band-Aids were handed out on the convention floor by zealous supporters of a couple of rich-boy draft dodgers. Yes, folks, the chickenhawks of America have made the Purple Heart a badge of shame. Tons of vets out there have got to appreciate that.

To my mind, that was right up there with the guy who wrote in to the Star a few weeks ago saying that Sen. John McCain's denunciation of the Swift Boat attack-ads was meaningless, because McCain wouldn't know a thing about what happened on Kerry's boat. He was sitting in a Viet Cong prison while others were out there "doing the real work."

We all seem to be stuck in the same evil dream--a nightmare in which facts disappear into a logic that flows like warm taffy. It's as if we've all agreed to listen respectfully to the mess inside the minds of all the mean, crazy people in the world. When did this happen?

I know a Vietnam combat vet who was recently trapped by an ardent Republican who insisted on giving him the party line about how Kerry's talk about atrocities in Nam was a traitorous, gook-loving lie. He kept his gorge down with focused deep breathing, but said that the effect was like listening to a Holocaust-denier: nausea, horror and disbelief in equal parts.

And, speaking of atrocities never, ever committed by miscreant members of the U.S. armed forces, where are the rest of the photos from Abu Ghraib? We were warned that there'd be more, and that they'd be harder to take than the first batch. Not that we're longing to see them. Did you know that the silhouette of the guy in the hood has become an instant anti-American icon understood around the world? One more crushing blow to terrorist recruiters.

Anyway, due to my Republican-induced state of mental fragmentation, I have no point. Naturally, I do have a few random thoughts.

· Are we overpaying our elected officials? I ask because we've been watching for months while both a senator and the actual president of the United States have been running around campaigning their heads off. If you look up Bush's campaign schedule online (which you can), you wonder how a person could do all that--hopping from Pennsylvania to Ohio to Michigan in a single day, with a couple events at each stop. But to have a full-time job, too! Now, I know that these people are not traveling the way you and I do, and no one without lots of energy becomes a successful politician, but you've got to wonder how much time it actually takes to be president. We're told that it's a heroic, nerve-wracking, all-consuming job, and yet Bush takes off every other day to stump, and apparently will do so until Election Day. Same thing with Kerry. So, under normal circumstances, what kind of hours do they put in? I'm wondering if we could knock them all down to part-time. Think what we'd save on benefits.

· I take back everything good I've ever said about John McCain. The hugging and kissing last month was too much. Could whatever McCain plans to extract from the Republican Party for services rendered be worth embracing George Bush? Evidently, it is. Oh, John.

Besides, it's so gross--men being "affectionate" in public. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't think the youth of America needs to see their role-models doing that sort of thing. Rent a room, fellas.

· When will Kerry sue the Swift Boat people for libel? I assume he doesn't want to keep stirring that mud bath for now, but he's got a bomb-proof case. And if he gets elected, he might be able to win it, even in Texas.

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