Dispatches > The Buzz


The Top 5 Stories

Issue: "Capitol stampede in Texas," Aug. 9, 2003
the bush doctrine(s)
Full-fledged news conferences are rare in the Bush White House, so they almost always generate news. One day after a news conference last week, only the ninth of his presidency, Mr. Bush generated not only news, but perhaps action. He reiterated his demand that Liberian strongman Charles Taylor step down before he would commit any U.S. troops to a peacekeeping mission there, and less than 24 hours later West African leaders produced a blueprint for Mr. Taylor's departure. Mr. Bush also touched on the hunt for Saddam Hussein (How close? "Closer than we were yesterday. "); on whether National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is in trouble over the State of the Union flap ("America is lucky to have her service. Period. "); and on the impasse with North Korea's Kim Jong-il over his regime's nuclear program (he reported progress that he said would lead to "attitudinal change" on Mr. Kim's part). The Bush administration stepped up pressure on Mr. Kim last week. Washington's top arms-control official, John Bolton, blasted the North Korean dictator in a speech in South Korea's capital. Mr. Kim subjects his people to a "hellish nightmare" while he lives "like royalty in Pyongyang, " Mr. Bolton said. A Wall Street Journal analysis of the Bolton appearance suggested that the administration wants to "make a distinction between the man ... and the rest of North Korea's government and citizenry, and to tacitly raise the possibility of regime change as a way of ending the current nuclear standoff."
specks, logs & marriage
President Bush launched a theological debate last week-and a gay advocacy group demanded an exception to the president's exegesis of the Apostle Paul's declaration that "all have sinned. " Asked by a reporter about gay marriage, the president prefaced his remarks with his understanding "that we're all sinners. And I caution those who may try to take a speck out of their neighbor's eye when they've got a log in their own. " Mr. Bush then said that doesn't mean "somebody like me needs to compromise on an issue such as marriage. " He said he's put his lawyers to work on what Washington could do to protect marriage by codifying that it is meant as the union of "a man and a woman" only. Gay activist Matt Foreman of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force was appalled. The president has a right to his religious views, he said, but "it is unbecoming of the president of the United States to characterize same-sex couples as 'sinners.' " The president's remarks give new impetus to the effort to approve a marriage amendment to the constitution. The effort has gained momentum since the Supreme Court overturned the Texas anti-sodomy law on a legal theory that some constitutional experts fear would lead to judicially imposed gay marriages. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll released last week shows that since the high court decision, pro-gay sentiment actually slipped. In less than three months, according to the poll, the number of Americans who think homosexual relations should be legal dropped-from 60 percent in May to 48 percent last week.
'a line of black'
Sometimes it's best to fight fire with fire. That's the theory firefighters employed near West Glacier, Mont., last week as they set backfires along 2- and 3-mile stretches of land in order to deny fuel to three forest fires that together had engulfed more than 50,000 acres in Glacier National Park. The hope is that the main fire will draw the backfires to it, and that when they meet, none of them will have more fuel to burn. "It's doing exactly what we wanted it to, " fire information officer Jack Butler said, in the Missoulian, of a 2,500-acre backfire near the town of West Glacier. "It's creating a line of black between the homes and the fire. " As more than 2,000 firefighters took on the Glacier blazes, another 1,000 fought a 71,570-acre fire in the Pasayten Wilderness in north-central Washington state.
a hope-less industry
Bob Hope's death made the front page of The New York Times, which gave the universally beloved entertainer "above the fold" treatment. Below the fold, at the bottom of the same page, the Times ran another entertainment-related article, "Gay-themed TV gains wider audience, " featuring a color photo of two men from the Queer as Folk television show kissing. Thus the contrast between Bob Hope's brand of entertainment and what has taken its place. Mr. Hope was patriotic, pro-family, respectful of religion, and he never used bad language in his routines. This did not prevent him from being very, very funny. He could lampoon politicians to their face, but his sense of humor was so good-natured that the targets of his satire laughed along with him. Today's stand-up comics, in contrast, make a strenuous effort to be lewd and crude. Their personas tend to be angry, cynical, and hostile to every value they can find. George Carlin, one of the first anti-Hopes, became famous in 1972 for a schtick in which he did nothing more than utter "the seven words you can't say on TV. " Now that you can, in fact, hear all of those words and more on cable TV, comedians keep trying to find lines they can cross and taboos they can break. But few are as funny as was Bob Hope. In classical literature, comedy was the most moral of dramatic forms because it entailed ridiculing vice. The old comedies often portrayed vice, but they presented it as foolish, laughing it to scorn. The assumption was that people would not want to imitate behavior that was being made fun of. Bob Hope was in this tradition, using humor constructively. Many of today's comedians, instead of ridiculing vice, ridicule virtue. But even when his style of humor had become passé, Americans of all ages and political persuasions could not help but appreciate Bob Hope. It is doubtful whether Queer as Folk and the stars of The Man Show will inspire as much affection.

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