The Breakfast Table

Talking Trash


I long ago stopped watching morning television–two words: Al Roker–so I had to read about George Bush the elder’s appearance on the Today show yesterday. In essence, if I understand Frank Bruni’s story in the Times, the former president threatened to go medieval on the current one if he didn’t lay off his sonny boy. Never mind that Bill Clinton’s exact words didn’t even rise to the level of NBA trash-talking (“The message of the Bush campaign is … ‘How bad could I be? I was governor of Texas, and my daddy was president’”). Doesn’t Big Bush realize what kind of a message he’s sending? It’s already undeniably the case, fair or not, that many voters in the 45 to 50 percent of the electorate who don’t care for W. see him as a kid, a pisher, the candidate in short pants, a young, inexperienced someone in this to reclaim his birthright and his family’s good name. The extent to which H.W. seems to have been involved with the veep selection, and the fact that Cheney was one of his contemporaries, a leftover from his administration, fuels that sense. Now we have him fighting W.’s battles for him. What, he didn’t pick up the phone and call the other boy’s father? This is soooooo country-club-bravado Bush-like. Remember the ex-prez muttering something about “kicking a little ass” in his debate with Gerry Ferraro? Or Mrs. Bush saying Ferraro was a “rhymes with rich”? Anyway, the Gore campaign must be loving this. I’m repeating myself, but in the last two weeks, the story line has subtly shifted to past vs. future, and there’s an opportunity here–if the Dems don’t blow it.

A quick word on that: Did you see the New Republic’s story this week on John Kerry? Among other things, it makes hay of the fact that he once supported a nuclear freeze. A lot of people I’ve talked to think that’s the silver bullet that kills his potential veepdom; and below the surface, there’s a feeling that Marty Peretz is either a) doing Gore’s vetting for him, or b) pulling a Gepetto number on his former student, pulling strings and yanking chains and generally telling him he’d better pick someone else, or else it’s Singer Sewing Machine money time for Ralph Nader. What do you think? (And did your wife support the nuclear freeze? I’m also doing Gore’s vetting.)

One more bit of campaign detritus before I head off to work, also courtesy of a Times story. At the convention yesterday, Jim Kolbe, the openly gay congressman from Arizona, gave a speech on international trade. I didn’t see it, but here’s what the paper said: “During his remarks, several members of the Texas delegation protested by taking off their cowboy hats and bowing their heads in prayer.” I presume they were protesting his stance on NAFTA? Seriously, the fact that delegates to the GOP convention can’t even muster up borderline respect for an openly gay member of their own party in the year 2000–what will they say about Cheney’s lesbian daughter, for heaven’s sake?–shows how much Bush and Powell have their work cut out for them. And how much Texans have too: Is it any wonder the national media thinks we’re all a bunch of dumbasses?