Pell on John Walker & Shrub’s Speech

Interesting rant from

--> by Dave Pell + 1.28.02 + Monday (an email, um, newsletter?)

Walker This Way

My scientific, math, deductive and statistical
skills hit a high point in preschool. We were
required to perform a project in which we
had two bowls - one filled with water and one
empty - and a large sponge. The challenge was
to use the sponge to transfer the water
from bowl to bowl. That was the only non-Humanities
academic moment of my entire education not
associated with a current nightmare.

But I managed to pick up enough data along the
way to realize that a lone, troubled kid leaving
his neighborhood and ending up as a member of
one of the worst regimes in modern history
really proves no theory beyond that individual
case. Unlike the sponge project described above,
it is not a repeatable act. In fact, the best
of our knowledge, John Walker is the only guy
from Marin County who has ever been accused of
training at an a Al Qaeda terrorist camp.

The fact that Walker is an isolated case (and
an individual much better suited for psychological
treatment than political or cultural debates) would
seem obvious enough to make it clear (even to the
many among today's preschoolers) that there is
no broader lesson or moral here.

But it's not clear if you have a political axe
to grind or if you are almost pre-wired to attempt
to score some kind of cultural points no matter
how childish that attempt might make you look.

Last week, (smart, young, successful, well-spoken
and almost always wrong) National Review editor
Rich Lowry said of Walker: "No jury is going to send
this guy to death because they're going to look
at him and see partly a moral cretin and partly just
a waif who was never told what was right and wrong
over in liberal Marin County." (It is interesting,
while not at all surprising, to note that Lowry
mispronounced the word Marin indicating - well
you probably know what it indicates). Having grown
up in Marin (contrary to popular opinion, my
adolescence was in a period when peacock feathers
were totally out, hot tubs were fading and the
rock group Journey was on the ropes), I thought I
would test Lowry's implication that Marin's liberalism
was somehow at the root of Walker's record-setting
number of wrong turns and bad decisions. I waited
for several hours at the county's main bus station,
checked all the schedules, and yet, was unable
to hitch a ride to Kandahar. Why? Because one
guy slipping off the deep-end by way of Yemen does
not a trend make.

Even the elder George Bush has been getting in
on the act of complaining about the Marin liberal/
terrorist feeding system. Bush even went so
far as to decry those evil hot tubs (a job for
the Navy Seals perhaps?). Of course, we all know
that Marin is a far cry from the blue collar,
mean streets of Kennebunkport, Maine.

We know why Bush(I) Republicans hate Marin County.
It is (by perception, in reality, much of it
ain't that liberal) a thorn in the side of the
theory that if people had enough dough, they'd
be smart enough to vote Republican. Marin is
extremely wealthy and still quite liberal making
it a target waiting to be hit - a flaw in the
"us wealthy people know better" philosophy.

But targeted over John Walker? Please. There is
just nothing political about the case of one
kid gone astray. When you find fifty Marin
Taliban members, let me know. Even if you
can find fifty Marinites who don't think
Walker should do hard time, you'd certainly
get my attention.

But in this era (before and after Sept. 11), the
political eye-pokes never stop and the deeper
issues come later or never. Want to ask yourself
some really hard questions about John Walker?
Try this one. Why is he such a massive story
right now? So massive that he is the topic
of Justice Department press conferences, presidential
statements and much political debate? Yes, it
is the ultimate man bites dog case and yes we
all have reason to be both angry at and confounded
by the behavior of this guy. And yes, it is one
of the few stories in this saga that doesn't require
subtitles (although the phony accent is pushing the
limit even there). But when compared to our overall
goals in this effort, does John Walker really matter
all that much (to those other than the Bill Bennett
moralists for whom he serves as some much needed
WD-40 to get their high-brow hogwash flowing freely
after months of being marginalized because we
had more important fingers to point)? Could it be
that the spoon-feeding of this story is really just
a great way to change the subject away from the fact
that we actually haven't yet nabbed too many of the folks
we set out to get? Maybe, maybe not, but it's probably
worth discussing over a bag of granola sometime.

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My take: John Walker makes a piss-poor substitute for Osama bin Laden. He's clearly nuts, and should be headed for a loony bin for some evaluation and treatment rather than Leavenworth. The stooges in the gubmint are setting up the case against him based on what HE says he did, who HE says he spoke with. Yeah, right, like hey, I had a chat with Osama, too, last time I was hallucinating. Puhleeeaase.

Listened to the commentary by Cokie and some professor on The Speech. Did we watch the same speech? I guess I shouldn't be surprised Cokie Roberts is such an ass-licker - no hard-hitting, investigative journalist she. Where are the real journalists? You know, the ones like Woodward and Bernstein, fearless, not needing an approval rating to do their job, telling the truth that people might not want to hear but need to hear ...
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