If no­body lis­tens, say it louder

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

Years ago an earnest preacher of my ac­quain­tance, who made up with vol­ume what he lacked in elo­quence, bought a 15-minute slot on a ra­dio sta­tion in my home­town and pro­ceeded to ad­dress the whole world ev­ery Sun­day morn­ing.

“Hear me, Lon­don, Eng­land!” he cried. “Hear me, Paris, France. Hear me, Rome, Italy.”

No­body re­mem­bers what “the Rt. Rev. Prophet M.D. Willett, Trav­el­ing Mo­torist,” as he styled him­self, ac­tu­ally said in his Mace­do­nian call to the far cor­ners of the world. Nei­ther Lon­don­ers nor Parisians, or even Ro­mans, are likely to re­mem­ber, ei­ther, be­cause the ra­dio sta­tion was a 250-watt pow­er­house whose sig­nal might, if at­mo­spheric con­di­tions were per­fectly aligned, have reached the city lim­its. The sig­nal was rarely strong enough to get across the Arkansas River sep­a­rat­ing the two halves of the town (or even across the smaller, slower Fourche Bayou).

Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are di­rect de­scen­dants of Prophet Willett, in­tox­i­cated by imag­ined do­min­ion, ar­riv­ing in town to take over Congress and promis­ing “to take the coun­try in a new di­rec­tion.” In­deed, many of the pun­dits and the blowhards of the In­ter­net are ou­traged that the Democrats have not al- ready spiked the guns of war, brought the Is­lamists into the peace­able king­dom, im­peached Ge­orge W. and ban­ished Repub­li­cans to the fourth ring of hell. This was what the surly left­most ap­pendages of the body politic were promised. Surely a hun­dred hours have passed al­ready, even ac­count­ing for the House at­tempt to stop the clock.

Harry and Nancy are learn­ing, like the Trav­el­ing Mo­torist, that you need a big­ger mega­phone than a 250-watt sta­tion down on the bayou to chal­lenge a pres­i­dent’s author­ity. This is the les­son that Wash­ing­ton has taught gen­er­a­tions of pols, no mat­ter how much cot­ton and hay may be stuffed be­tween the ears of a speaker, a ma­jor­ity leader, or a fresh­man from East Gon­dola.

Harry Reid is still in the first stages of a ro­mance, fondling the keys to his own up­scale toi­let, and a lit­tle dis­be­liev­ing at how many more mi­cro­phones he can at­tract now when he feels the surge to say some­thing ir­re­spon­si­ble. On Jan. 11 he chan­nelled Cindy Shee­han and her claque of grannies who won’t go away. “Congress will vote in the next few weeks on the pres­i­dent’s plan,” he said. “My po­si­tion is clear: No es­ca­la­tion, no way.” He and Cindy are still work­ing on a reprise of “Hey, hey, LBJ — how many ba­bies did you kill to­day?” It’s not easy. “Hey, hey, GWB, you make me pee” doesn’t quite make it. “Bush, Bush, we’ll kick your tush” is only a lit­tle bet­ter.

Both the pres­i­dent and his crit­ics had an event­ful day. The pres­i­dent shed au­then­tic tears when he pre­sented the Medal of Honor to the fam­ily of Marine Cpl. Ja­son Dunham, who was killed in Iraq when he threw him­self on a grenade to save his pa­trol. This kind of sac­ri­fice — “greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for a friend” — gets short shrift when sen­a­tors con­vene to wres­tle each other for ink and air­time.

John Kerry — is it re­ally pos­si­ble that a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal party once nom­i­nated this man for pres­i­dent of the United States? — was his usual self, hec­tor­ing Condi Rice at a hear­ing of the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee. Per­haps shamed by the cel­e­bra­tion of Cpl. Dunham’s sac­ri­fi­cial hero­ism only a few blocks away, Mr. Kerry did not reprise his fa­mous de­scrip­tion of Amer­i­can sol­diers as rapists, mur­der­ers and de­spoil­ers of the dead.

The pres­i­dent’s prospec­tive surge of troop strength in Iraq may or may not frighten al Qaeda’s men in Iraq, but the Demo­cratic surge fright­ens some of our eas­ily fright­ened Euro­pean “al­lies.” The Bri­tish are said to have raised their se­cu­rity level from “miffed” to “peeved,” the Ital­ians from “shout with flail­ing of hands” to “elab­o­rate pos­tur­ing” but still well short of “change sides.” The Ger­mans are up from “dis­dain­ful ar­ro­gance” to “in­vade a neigh­bor.” The French raised their alert level from “run” to “hide,” two lev­els be­low “sur­ren­der” and “col­lab­o­rate.”

Blow­ing hard and loud enough to drown a pres­i­dent is work, as Harry and Nancy are learn­ing, and Prophet Wil­let could tell them they’ll need some­thing big­ger than a 250-watt trans­mit­ter to reach Lon­don, Paris, Rome or even Hy­attsville. Con­gress­men, even con­gress­women, pro­pose. Pres­i­dents dis­pose.

Wesley Pruden is ed­i­tor in chief of The Times.

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