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Vote for W, increase your …

Andy Stone

I wrote a column last week, teasing George W. Bush’s leadership style by imagining him as the head of a driving school. His primary driving advice: Steering is for sissies. Never change direction – even if you’re going over a cliff.I got a quick e-mail response from one outraged reader who pointed out – accurately, no doubt – that my column was “disgraceful and distasteful.”This person – who signed the letter only as “A Loyal and Patriotic American” – also said, “Obviously you cannot promote Mr. Kerry by his merits so you must take cheap shots at our President.”Actually, given what they pay me to write this column, any shots I take are, by definition, “cheap.” On the other hand, I found it amusing that the e-mail arrived the morning after Zell Miller and Dick Cheney addressed the Republican Convention – proving, with their speeches, the letter writer’s point that people who can’t support their own candidate on his merits are stuck “taking cheap shots” at his opponent.Miller’s speech probably was the real prize-winner: more lies per second than an 8-year-old explaining who broke Grandmother’s Ming vase. Not that Cheney was any slouch either when it came to twisting the truth.Actually, what Miller and Cheney mostly did was distort the truth, rather than flat-out lie. But at some point, a distortion is so grievous it might as well be a lie. When? OK, the Mafia hit man has encased your feet in cement, taken you 10 miles off shore and, as he throws you overboard, he calls out, “Don’t worry! Water’s H2O – it’s one-third oxygen!”Is he lying? Not exactly. Does the fact that he’s only distorting the truth make any difference as you sink? Not really. Is he better educated than most Mafia hit men? Perhaps.(I don’t want to get sidetracked here with details – those pesky facts, I hate ’em as much as any Republican does – but for you fact freaks, let me suggest you take a quick look at “Lies, Damned Lies and Convention Speeches” by Fred Kaplan in the online magazine Slate. You can find it at http://slate.msn.com/id/2106119/.)Anyway, I found myself wondering how the Bush campaign could get away with such outrageous lies – on a continuous basis. (Nothing new, by the way, check out what Bush did to John McCain in the South Carolina Primary in 2000.)Then I turned back to my e-mail and saw that, in the few minutes I’d been pondering Loyal and Patriotic American’s message, another dozen “spam” e-mails had arrived.Suddenly, it all made sense.Every day, I get about a hundred spam e-mails. They offer to enhance my manhood, fix my bad credit rating, introduce me to “horny housewives.” I don’t even open them. I glance at the In Box listing and delete them all.Sometimes I wonder why they keep coming. I never respond – and it’s hard to believe anyone else does. Are we really a nation so obsessed with the size of our genitals, with our bad credit, with the possibility that someone has “a crush” on us?The answer, of course, is yes – that’s exactly who we are.The spam may be unbelievable, bizarre, even offensive – but it keeps coming because people respond. They send those lying e-mails because they make money doing it.And I suddenly realized, the Republican Party is running a spam campaign. They are flooding our mental In Boxes with an endless stream of lies because they know there’s a profit to be made.The Republicans like to call themselves “The Party of Abraham Lincoln” – but now I realize they are really the party of H.L. Mencken.Who?Henry Louis Mencken was a brilliant, savagely cynical newspaperman who wrote for the Baltimore Sun in the early 1900s.He wrote things today’s Republicans might love – such as, “I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.” (Sounds like Newt Gingrich, doesn’t it?)On the other hand, Mencken also said things that Republicans would hate – including, “In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for. As for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.”But what Mencken said that cleared up my confusion about the strategy of the Bush campaign was this:”No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people – nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”Sounds like Mencken had the Republican strategy dead to rights. And the Republicans have America dead to rights.The Party of Mencken. The Politics of Spam.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is andy@aspentimes.com.


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