Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Bush: 'We will not fail'," Oct. 20, 2001

Healing touch or harmful propaganda?
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, First Lady Laura Bush has tried to help bring healing to the nation and reassure children. But one "healing" event threatened the picture of apolitical unity and left conservatives scratching their heads about White House political savvy. The First Lady's press office announced that on Oct. 11, Mrs. Bush would "participate in the launch of the second annual 'Close the Book on Hate' campaign" sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League and the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain. The ADL's focus on "hate" encompasses not only real hate, such as racism, anti-Semitism, and scapegoating of Arab-Americans, but also classifies as hateful those who object to the homosexual political agenda. The ADL's list of "National Allies of Close the Book on Hate" includes the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the Human Rights Campaign, and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Asked whether the First Lady's staff knew the campaign included liberal gay activists, press aide Ashleigh Adams said, "Yes. When you see the reading list, you'll see this is just what it says it is, closing the book on hate." But the ADL's reading list includes several infamous pro-homosexuality books for children (Heather Has Two Mommies, Daddy's Roommate), homosexual books for teens (Two Teenagers in Twenty: Writings by Gay and Lesbian Youth), as well as adult tomes (Overcoming Heterosexism and Homophobia). Mrs. Bush agreed to sit with schoolchildren in the Georgetown branch of Barnes & Noble and read from the children's book Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman, in which a young girl named Grace refuses to accept that she can't play Peter Pan because she's black. Noelia Rodriguez, Mrs. Bush's press secretary, insisted, "She's not trying to send a political message. She's emphasizing the need for all of us to come together as Americans to get through this terrible tragedy and heal together, especially the children." But Susan Lapin of the Jewish group Toward Tradition has criticized the Barnes & Noble/ADL effort, especially the inclusion of gay propaganda like Heather Has Two Mommies on the reading list. "By adding this tome to a list of books decrying hatred, Barnes & Noble is making a de facto statement that those who object to the premise of this book must themselves be haters." Two Americans die in Saudi Arabia
Khobar killings
A bomb blast in Saudi Arabia last week killed two Americans. Michael Gerald Martin died at the electronics store in Khobar where the explosion took place, and Juan Filin died two days later from head injuries. Another victim remained unidentified but may have been a suicide bomber. Local newspapers quoted eyewitnesses who said they saw a suspect who may have been Afghan or Pakistani die in the explosion; one report said a pedestrian threw a parcel bomb into the busy shopping area. Saudi officials claimed they had no evidence linking the explosion to last month's terrorist attacks on the United States, or the subsequent U.S. military buildup near Khobar. Five years ago, 19 U.S. servicemen died after a suicide truck bomber drove into an apartment complex in Khobar. The State Department refused to connect the blast, which came the same day U.S. military forces began an assault on Afghanistan, to Osama bin Laden or his al-Qaeda terrorist network. But chasing U.S. forces out of Saudi Arabia, home to Muslim holy sites, is one pillar of his 1998 edict ordering jihad on America. The U.S. embassy in Riyadh did send recorded messages by fax and telephone to registered U.S. citizens, urging them to check their cars, keep a low profile, and take precautions. "Expatriates have good reason to be very nervous," one U.S. citizen living in Saudi Arabia told WORLD. "Most of us have cut back on social outings, such as going out to restaurants or shopping areas." Radio host loses hearing, putting America's most popular radio program in jeopardy
Limbaugh in limbo
Whither EIB? With no advance notice, Rush Limbaugh last week announced to listeners that he is going deaf-and the future of America's most popular radio program is unclear. The host can no longer hear most sounds, including the voices of those who call his talk show. Mr. Limbaugh said he started going deaf last May and the condition continues to worsen. "I cannot hear a thing in my left ear," he said. "Hearing aids, the most powerful made, mean nothing. I have the ability to recognize sound but not identify it in my right ear." He said he had been through a number of tests, doctors, and medications and is still looking for something to help the problem. Yet Mr. Limbaugh says the show will go on. "All I've lost is my ability to hear, but it doesn't mean I've lost my ability to communicate," he told listeners, explaining that he is tinkering with his format. "I want to do this. I want to keep doing this. So the challenge is to find a way, and there are any number of ways of doing it." Mr. Limbaugh's talk show and 90-second radio commentaries reach about 20 million listeners on nearly 600 stations. He recently renewed his contract with the Premiere Radio Networks through 2009, reportedly for the highest price ever in radio syndication (reportedly as high as $250 million with a $35 million signing bonus). Some say he single-handedly saved AM radio from obsolescence. Two months ago, CNN revealed that it had discussed making Mr. Limbaugh a regular contributor; but that's likely to be tabled due to the war and Mr. Limbaugh's deafness. Should Mr. Limbaugh decide he can't continue his show, it likely means the end of the biggest radio franchise since Paul Harvey. Even though numerous possible successors may contend for his spot, the spotlight may be simply too big to fill. Group objects to patriotic song
Divisive ACLU
The ACLU demanded that an elementary school in Rocklin, Calif., remove the message "God Bless America" from its outdoor sign. It's a "hurtful, divisive message," said the liberal group in a letter to Breen Elementary School. The ACLU's problem, apparently, was with God, not America. ACLU attorney Margaret Crosby said the group does not oppose schools that are flying American flags as symbols of national unity, but religious expressions might upset atheists. But the 250 red, white, and blue-clad Rocklin residents who assembled to defend the message seemed to think it was the ACLU that was being divisive. So far school leaders have not been cowed. "We are planning on keeping up our message," principal Terry Thornton told the Sacramento Bee. Man knows not his time
Passing of an icon
The death of liberal cartoonist Herbert Block represents more than the passing of another float in the parade of American political cartooning. Herblock began his craft in the 1920s and was a dominant figure in political cartooning-and the national discourse, such as it was. In 1945, he joined The Washington Post, then neither the biggest nor most influential paper in D.C., and Herblock's role in the paper's growth was important. Previously a cartoonist of relatively pedestrian concepts, Herblock went into overdrive in the '50s, crafting an astonishing array of icons (Mr. Bomb; Richard Nixon's five-o'clock shadow; the definitive media depiction of Joe McCarthy) as well as memorable cartoons (he would win three Pulitzers). Nixon, frequently drawn climbing from a sewer, once said that he took special care each morning to keep his daughters from opening the newspaper. Herblock's prejudices and reactions were predictable, but his impact on cartooning was pervasive. After he hit his stride, virtually every political cartoonist in America aped his graphic conventions-vertical format, crayon shading, reliance on labels. After cartoonists adopted new styles, formats, and humor in the '70s, Herblock remained at his old drawing board, savaging conservatives and enabling liberals. Due in equal parts to his stylishness and the support of mainstream media, Herblock himself became as much of an icon as some of the enduring images he drew.

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