james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 10/4/00 REALITY CHECK

COMPASSIONATE CENSORSHIP

The concept of parenting in America is dead. The government of the United States is taking over the job. It needs to protect your children from your incompetence and allow the rest of us without children to sacrifice our freedom of choice and expression to accomplish it. Publicly funded organizations manned by non-elected officials will judge what is obscene and indecent in the films and television you watch, the music you listen to and the literature you read. It will be done with the best intentions to help protect you from yourself and save children from the increasingly large numbers of people incapable of doing the job themselves.

The entertainment industry, pejoratively referred to as Hollywood among these caring government officials, their wives, their church and whomever might want to join in, is too violent, too aggressive in promoting their product to your children, and far too lucrative in its endeavor. You do not have a clue what is out there ceaselessly pummeling your poor family and is sure to set impressionable, young dupes on a course of ultimate drug abuse, violence and godless acts of antisocial behavior.

These conscientious hard-working watchdogs of our best interest need you to know that although these efforts may cause some diminishing returns on your legal right to produce, write, create, listen, read, or god-forbid, consume this poison, it is all for the greater good. Teamed with our morally pristine government, they strongly believe we have lost the grip to decide these parameters ourselves. We lack the capacity to judge what each of us would like our children to know about this big, wide, wonderfully diversified world or what that small, but incorrigible set of demons are trying to cram down our meager throats. There are limits that have nothing to do with you or your ability to parent your offspring. This burden will be taken from you and be handled by the caring services and public officials you financially support weekly in order to take on this impossible responsibility.

Please do not be alarmed that many of these fine officials and organizations are also partially funded by the same entertainment industry they fight to the tune of millions of dollars a year. This proves they do not serve their masters. And although your hard-earned tax money, and alleged voting rights, puts them in the position to take on this glorious crusade, it is a mere droplet in an ocean of their cash and influence.

To review thus far, you give up part of your weekly pay to a government that needs to control your lifestyle in order to shelter the innocent and attack its ultimate expression, because you have no time or inclination to do it yourselves.

Here are some constants in their theory:

Television is evil. By exposing fragile minds to its brainwashing techniques there are risks to the foundation of our otherwise beautifully structured society. Our peaceful, loving planet cannot be infiltrated by the disgusting display of fictitious mayhem peddled as mere yuks to the great unwashed and poorly educated masses. Remember, you are weak and stupid and instinctively dangerous when confronted by these images and concepts. We must rely on these fine organizations led by our morally bonded government to curb this maniacal march toward certain destruction.

As bad as the insidious television gremlins are, the demons in the film industry are one hundred times worse. Movies are the bane of our republic. The minute they are curtailed the air will be sweeter, crime will diminish and a hug will be so much warmer. It’s important to understand that according to our censoring heroes, most films, especially the sex-and-violence ones, can systematically chip away at the spiritual core of this perfectly balanced country of law-abiding citizens and the honest integrity of its civil servants. The criminal element writing, directing, producing, acting, editing and distributing meaningless garbage as art are nothing more than minions of Satan diluting our natural propensity to nurture humanity while polluting our simple minds.

Doubly troubling is the apathetic theater owners and their untrained employees who will now also join our heroes in parenting your children. It will be incumbent on them to follow all minors around multiplex theaters and make sure they enter the movie they paid to see, assuming the new and improved soldiers in the army of righteousness card everyone looking to get into the theater in the first place.

Finally, there is music, especially popular culture music with its loud anti-establishment, anti-authority, free-sex, pro-violence, beat-oriented message of anarchy. If there is one reason your children cannot be controlled it is this corner of Hades. Your kids don’t care what you say or think because of it. They do not respect your responsibility to mold them into perfect robots of a society devoid of emotional problems as long as it resonates in their virgin ears. This wondrous land, with its tolerance and empathy, is being systematically punctured by distorted rock bands and hip hop lyrics. This will be a doomed generation of zombies if it continues to be exposed to this cesspool of anger and lust.

The good people running this courageous flag up the pole want you to realize that you can no longer train your children to be normal bastions of the American dream without the deconstruction of every art form available to us. They are animals and brats and aim to injure the other animals and brats with their walkmans and skateboards and loose-fitting pants, their Internet and concerts and wildly available porn. You are incapable of warning them, curbing them, explaining to them the irreversible anguish caused by professional wrestling and video games. God help us all, we need these inexhaustible champions of the vapid throngs to topple the first amendment and bring order to the chaos of this great republic before you people damage it any further.

Thank you PMRC and FCC, Empower America and the Federal Trade Commission, the Gore’s and the Lieberman’s, Lynne Chaney and Jerry Falwell. And, most of all, thank you United States government, for your discomfort with freedom is only equaled by the size of your misdirected paranoia.

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james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 9/27/00 REALITY CHECK

BOBBY KNIGHT: MACHO THUG OR STUPID BRUTE?

Nothing is worse than authority, except, of course, abusive authority, or abusive, teacher/coach, dickweed authority. And no one over the past quarter century has cornered the market on that then Bobby Knight, who used his abused players to win a ton of basketball games and three National Championships for him. Now his employer over the length of this unprecedented reign of atavistic terror, Indiana University, has finally seen fit to fire his sorry ass.

As laughable as that may sound, a university allowing a man to physically and emotionally wreak havoc on officials, NCAA employees, players, students, faculty and the media, while lauding him as a font of society, it is all sadly true. Even in sacking him, members of the board could not bring themselves to revisit the details of Knight’s latest grabbing and berating of a student for not referring to him as “Mr. Knight.” Instead they watered down this predictable ugliness by pointing out in excruciatingly long and tiresome fashion that he didn’t respect fundraisers, the board of trustees or professors. These infractions were, of course, all fine and dandy when the man was winning, but he hasn’t been doing much of that lately, with early exits in the national tournament.

The truth is Knight should have been bounced the second these overpaid pedantic jokers saw video of this cretin choking a player on May 15. That wasn’t enough. They needed a four-month review of his chair-throwing, head-butting, expletive-laced tirades, many on video and well documented, for over two decades. Then they took the onus off themselves and put it on this nut by imposing on him impossible guidelines under the heading of a “no-tolerance policy.” They were still working on the parameters of this mess when Knight accosted the kid.

Before the hammer came down, Knight pathetically performed an impromptu discussion session with reporters, complete with visuals and reenactments, in order to deflect what he surely knew would be his swansong. Throughout, he used the same smug tone that turned every other one of his boorish acts of savage lunacy into something akin to the late Mother Teresa coddling the starving children of Calcutta. His cushy place in denial-land continued during a live interview on ESPN days after the firing when he seriously wondered why no one explained what “zero-tolerance” meant.

To say the very least, university president, Myles Brand dropped the ball on this one. For years he, and the legacy of cash-bloated basketball pimps at Indiana, chose to look the other way as Knight piled up an embarrassing litany of belligerent violence wrapped up nicely under the guise of discipline and leadership. Turns out their fat coach/god was having trouble disciplining himself.

Indiana University’s hypocrisy notwithstanding, Bobby Knight is everything wrong with the always-prevalent jock mentality in sports. Everyone reading this, especially us rough and tumble male types who played any sport, can remember having some sick oaf screaming or ranting at them. This used to pass for hard-edged teaching in an age of stupidity that had the expression of any emotion beyond anger as sissy, fag stuff to be ridiculed and suppressed. Bobby Knight is its product, a small, but annoying mutation spanning centuries of macho bloodletting.

Knight started this psycho garbage at the home office for berating, West Point. This agenda is all fun and frolic in the secret society of the U.S. Army because these victims of mental anguish reside outside the structure of American culture. This is the reason that when one of them is released from their duty they are once again considered civilians. Civility has no place in the training of men to rip, roar and kill, but playing a sport at a major college for millions of dollars a year pumped into a voracious system is another story.

The saddest part of the Bob Knight story, and its endless parade of fiascos dancing along side it, is that he survived every incident with the respect reserved for conquering heroes. Didn’t we call him “the general” with a smirk, waiting impatiently for that moment when his head would explode in a vein-popping crimson globe during every game? How we chuckled at his constant derision of officials. After all, we would like to be the ones nearly strangling the dumb fucks for not calling a foul on that last play. We need to win these games so much we turn into maniacs at the sight of a human mistake. Somehow Knight’s blow-ups became an extension of our own tired act.

So now the crazies on the Indiana campus scream and yell for Brand’s head on a platter and burn likenesses of Knight’s latest victim in effigy. They threaten to kill and pillage for their hero. They love their basketball and their icons and paint Knight as a martyr for the glory of the game.

Many of Knight’s defenders cite his clean NCAA record. He never broke any recruiting rules and made sure his players went to class and at least attempted to graduate. But that is the same logic that has abusive fathers and husbands passing muster because they pay the bills and tuck the kids into bed.

Bobby Knight has many psychological problems. These problems have been excused by being defining as old-fashioned values and stringent methods. You know, back in the day when screaming, belittling, choking and pushing was a sign of love and authority.

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THE NEW GORE RULES – Political satirist, James Campion’scoverage of the 2000 presidential race

Aquarian Weekly 9/20/00 REALITY CHECK

Campaign 2000THE NEW GORE RULES

Before Jerry Lewis was done blubbering through “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, young members of the Al Gore for President Committee, California chapter, were popping several corks of $12 champagne and sending condolences to the George W. Bush camp. Labor Day is the dead line for making a race of presidential campaigns and the vice president is back from the dead. Suddenly this is shaping up to be the closest run since 1960 when Dick Nixon considered shutting down the government for a recount.

Autumn looks to be good business for the Democrats. An underdog winter gave way to a summer slide in poll numbers, but that was history by September 1 when their boy had come from resembling a robot politician to some hipster Gandhi looking to topple all evils. Transformation # 346 has pulled Promise Boy into a statistical dead-heat with Bush careening towards those ugly weeks when his daddy turned a steady 1992 lead into a Clinton ass whupping. And for the first time since John McCain stole New Hampshire, Captain Shoe-In needs to get serious.

At press time, Bush has survived countless months in this process NOT being Al Gore. First he was NOT Bill Clinton, then NOT John McCain, but now NOT being Al Gore isn’t enough. Gore took care of that with a PT Barnumesque extravaganza in Los Angeles, complete with dramatic films, a make-out session with his wife and a line of world-class populist rhetoric aimed at every human sucking air. It was a brilliant slice of bull dung worthy of his predecessor and G.W. has had no answer.

It wasn’t long ago that Bush had Gore on many personal issues from blatantly lying about campaign finance infractions to calling an impeached president the “greatest ever.” Gore pulled out of that donnybrook and started another. He did it to Bill Bradley. He is doing it to Bush.

NOT being Al Gore is no longer working because Gore took himself right out of that equation by drawing issue lines in the sand and painting the Republican Party as corporate-subjugating power mongers. This worked for his buddy, Big Bill in ’95 against the Republican Revolution and has all-but neutered Bush’s clever “Compassionate Conservatism” slogan. Gore has redefined the fight. Now the question is: What is the Bush camp going to do about it?

Bush, a man who has set tones all the way to his own fantasyland convention, has suddenly been left at the corner of morality and integrity with a weak explanation for tax cuts and a wild challenge to restructure every government program since the New Deal. Gore put him there, a place in which he is quite obviously uncomfortable. It wasn’t long ago that Bush had Gore on many personal issues from blatantly lying about campaign finance infractions to calling an impeached president the “greatest ever.” Gore pulled out of that donnybrook and started another. He did it to Bill Bradley. He is doing it to Bush. This is the kind of fight this space has maintained a junkyard dog like McCain would have been effective winning, but popular GOP think tanks of their imbecilic masses put the kibosh on that, so Bush is what they get.

Another key question at the GOP headquarters since New Year’s has been: Can a Golden Boy with an open lane to the White House handle the big hit? McCain derailed that free ride, but when things got tough Bush leaned on the power brokers of the party, as did Gore in his primary battle with Bradley. McCain turned out to be a more difficult fish to fry. Bush was supposedly toughened up by the experience, but not nearly enough to fend off a national collapse in his numbers. Now all there remains is the general voting public and a bloodied Bush doesn’t seem so insulated anymore.

Gore’s comeback is miraculous only when considering Bush’s lack of rebuttal. Gore has been able to effectively sell the idea that he has been part of an administration that deserves to have a second act while outlining a myriad of horribly demented government programs that need rectifying. A man who has been one heart beat from the presidency and the deciding vote in the senate for eight years has ingeniously cornered Bush’s outsider market. Junior has responded to this latest political magic show by smiling like a dipshit and calling a NY Times reporter an asshole.

Don’t be fooled, the Bush people figured on a cushion before the debates. Gore is overrated as a debater, but Bush has problems explaining agenda to reporters. This is why the Bush camp has refused to acquiesce to formal debates where Gore can hammer away at long-form, uninterrupted hyperbole in two-minute increments. In this arena, he will skin Bush alive. Consequently, Bush recently tried to rope Gore into an informal, close nit battle with Tim Russert. This is a fight the Bush people think their man is more likely to win.

Not forgotten in the grand scheme of polls and trends are the bare-bones facts of bagged electoral votes. Each candidate has already a third of them wrapped up by voting history and party prevalence alone. Gore will not lose New York or California and Bush cannot lose Texas or Florida and hope to win. Many of the key battleground states are still vacillating, but the Bush people know full well the states that put Reagan and Bush sr. in the White House, and were wrested away by Clinton in two consecutive elections, are not sweeping to Gore. There has yet to be a poll invented that can figure how Michigan will go.

Labor Day numbers are fickle. In the last week of August 1976, Jimmy Carter was coming off Watergate and the pardoning of Nixon, and lead Gerald Ford by 38 points. With three weeks to go it was 15, then 10 by Halloween. Carter won by a mere 57 electoral votes. In 1992 Ross Perot had thrown the whole thing into a tizzy and Bush sr. was sitting on Pennsylvania Avenue planning his victory gala. He was trounced by 212.

Anything spoken or polled before September in a presidential campaign is bull cookies. This is what the junkies at the office pool over at U.S. News & World Report call “go time.” Gore gets this. Bush needs to.

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PHIL SIMMS A MAN FOR ONE SEASON

Genesis Magazine 9/00

CBS Sports number one NFL analyst dissects Instant Replay, defends parody and puts the big money fishbowl of pro football into persepective…

For 15 grueling seasons Phil Simms played quarterback for the New York Giants. In that time he was sacked more than any other signal caller and heard the jeers of fans who expected him to be the next Y.A. Tittle. Even after leading the franchise to its first play-off birth in 18 seasons, he felt the sting of reports that someone somowhere could do a better job.

That all changed in 1986 when his Giants won a Super Bowl highlighted by his MVP performance. Simms completed a record 22-25 on a day he has admitted time and again was destined to be his. Four years later Simms had the Giants at 10-1 before suffering a season-ending foot injury and missing the team’s second triumph in the big game.

But when he retired in 1994 Simms’ left behind a resume that put him in the pantheon of Giants greats that has his name bandied about in Hall Of Fame discussions. During his tenure behind center those who swore he’d be missed once he was gone were proven right. Since his last game the Giants have had a host of starting QB’s with little to no success.

When Simms headed for the broadcast booth a few years later he became NBC’s fastest rising analyst. Calling Super Bowls and even Olympic events he combines an honest, no-nonsense style that speaks to fans aboove the din of professional sports hyperbole. When the network lost its football package, rival CBS scooped up the talented Simms and made him its lead anylist.

Mostly, Simms is anything but shy when discussing the game he’s loved for most of his life, a game he cites as a daily lesson learned everyday he slipped on a helmet. He doesn’t appologize for defending the National Football League, but he sees its faults and potential greatness better than most.

As the league enters the 21st century the man many have called a “thowback” sees both sides clearly. From Instant Replay to Free Agency, Salary Caps and a wide open run for the Super Bowl each year, Phil Simms still views the game as both beauty and grit, talent and effort, and most of all, a 60 minute drama filled with subplots and heroes played out over frigid Sundays of grandeur.

It was a tough year for the NFL, with the Ray Lewis trial, the Ray Caruth incident down in Carolina and the death of Derrick Thomas. Most of the off-season news has been negative for the league.

I’m not going to let a couple of incidences destroy everything the league is all about. Yes, there has been some very bad publicity. It has been extremely unfortunate, but does that change the way that I personally look at the NFL? No, it does not. I still view it as a great league, great entertainment and I always say this — it is made up of a lot of outstanding people. That’s from owners on down to the players. Most of the players.

I have high regard for the way many of the players go about their business on and off the field, the way they play and the way they live their lives. There’s always going to be trouble. Now, these are extraordinary cases this past off-season. What happened to Derrick Thomas is an incredible tragedy. But there is always going to be some trouble when you’re playing in the spotlight of the NFL. You’re a high profile athlete with so many people involved peripherally. There’s going to be trouble always. You and I both know that in that spotlight, it’s always going to be a big deal. Everyone is looking.

Certainly, three bad stories are always more interesting than hundreds of good ones.

C’mon, people really don’t care about those. They want to read about bad stuff. They want to hear about accidents and crime on television. That’s what sells. And I’m not saying that has anything to do with what happened this past off-season. I’m not apologizing for Ray Carruth. Derrick Thomas? He did a lot of good things in Kansas City. Was he a saint? By no means, he was not. He’s like a lot of young people. He liked to have fun. He made mistakes in his life. He also took time out to share his good fortune with a lot of kids. Athletes need to be commended for a lot of the good things too. He should be remembered for that.

I think we do forget that these are young men maturing in the limelight.

That is a wonderful point. You’ve got young men who play in a sport with tremendous high visibility and all of a sudden you have fame and money that most men their ages, or any age for that matter, will ever have. And that allows you to do so much more, but also puts you in different atmospheres and environments when you’re doing it. And you’ve got to be careful.

That’s the one thing that upsets me about players in the league. You’ve just got to know that people are watching all the time. You’ve got a different set of standards to live by. That’s the way it is. Deal with it. You better know that when you mess up it’s going to be big news.

Big news last year was the return of Instant Replay. Are you a proponent of it, and, if so, do you think it was used correctly this time around?

Wasn’t a big deal either way. That play at the end of the Tennesee-Buffalo play-off game. What did that replay tell you? If someone says to me it was definitely a forward pass I’d have to say get a life! How many times can you look at it? It was inconclusive.

That drives everyone nuts.

But it was inconclusive! Is replay perfect? No. Is it useful? Absolutely. It stops the really big-time errors like the Vinnie Testerverde non-touchdown in 1998. It eliminates a lot of the controversy a high percentage of the time. I don’t think people, writers, announcers and many fans know the rules with replay. It leads to further confusion. It has to be conclusive to overturn a play. It has to be clear cut, otherwise there is no point. All replay can do is take the pressure off the officials and put it on the coaches. That’s the way the NFL wants it. One thing is for sure, it’s here to stay.

Parity is the big word around the league now.

That’s because nobody can come up with something else, so they just throw this “parity” around. (sing-song) Parity! Parity! “Who’s gonna win the Super Bowl this year?” I honestly don’t know. “Parity!”

You have to admit though that in the past two seasons you had four completely different teams in the championship games. Two seasons ago the Atlanta Falcons went worst to first. Then last season it was first to worst. Who could’ve predicted the St. Louis Rams winning the Super Bowl after going 3-13 the year before?

Listen, parity is happening in every sport. It’s in college sports too. Take the college basketball now. Even though you have Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and all those programs that can have a tremendous advantage, who can go out an basically hand-pick who they want, still does not guarantee them winning the tournament.

There are just more talented players available to more teams. A program can only recruit a certain number of players. There are much more out there for other programs. And how that correlates to the National Football League is that there are so many more talented football players available than anytime before.

But the league has set it up where with the way the draft is conducted from worst record selecting first to best picking last, and the fifth place schedule being easier than the first place schedules. This was the late Pete Rozell’s dream, to have it truly be “on any given Sunday.”

It’s true. The gap between the top athlete to the bottom athlete in all sports has changed dramatically. That’s the main difference in the league today to when I played. The mid-level player is better. The level of play between the superstar and the role player is no longer as glaring. Of course, the system helps. Worst team drafting first and free agency keeps the talent pool spread out.

Would you say that free agency has been the biggest change in the league in the last few decades?

I always say — and I never hear anyone agreeing with me either — the biggest change in the league is coaching! Coaching has gotten so much better. It’s hard for coaches to go out on a Sunday and out-coach the other team. Winning because you’re a better coach is not as much a factor now.

When I was playing back in the mid-eighties to the late-eighties we had three or four games a year that I knew we couldn’t lose because the coach on the other sideline wasn’t going to let us lose. He was going to mess it up eventually. You can’t say that as much anymore. The coaching today is more aggressive and highly inventive, and it’s nearly impossible for a team to gain an edge with the X’s and O’s like we did in the past.

Speaking about a coach who gained an edge on your sideline when you played, Bill Parcells has called it quits after a very successful career. You guys have remained friends over the years. You did the New York Jets pre-game shows the past two years. But you two are inseparable not only as legendary coach and quarterback. You had your acrimony and mutual respect, an almost father/son battle.

I was giving a talk in front of a group recently and somebody raised their hand and asked if I was a general manager, what kind of coach would I look for, and told him I want a guy like Bill Parcells every time. Does he have to put off the persona Bill does? Does he have to be media savvy? Not at all. I want a guy who can stand up there and inspire people. And I don’t mean some speech before the game, “Let’s go win!” Nobody cares by then. Can he inspire people to make them work harder –physically and mentally– than they want to without alienating them? You have to somehow find a way to relate to the players on about 20 different levels, because that’s what you have in that locker room.

You can hire coaches to do X’s and O’s for you, but to create a working atmosphere that will allow people to excel, that’s the trick. There are a lot of coaches out there who can make it look good on the blackboard, but can you make those people do all the little extra things during the off-season and during the week that make them excel on Sunday. That’s what a great boss does. That was Bill Parcells when he coached.

Did you ever consider coaching?

People asked me that all the time, and that was my goal in life. I wanted to play and then try the coaching thing. It does fulfill a lot of things I love like teaching. But it’s too late for me. I’ve been out of the game too long. The game is progressing so fast. I’ve forgotten a lot of the little finer things.

No kidding?

To run the ball off tackle takes tremendous work. Just designing one play to block 40 different fronts and all these defensive looks. I don’t have the time. I’m 45 years-old. By the time I put in my five years of work I’d be in my mid-fifites before I could take on the job of head coach. I’m not that patient and I don’t think I’m tough enough anymore. I couldn’t go in there at six every morning and work until ten, eleven every night of the week. I’ve gotten spoiled doing what I do. I’m just trying to hang onto this job.

You’re one of the top analysts in the game now. How hard was it making the transition from the guy who has to deflect the media, to the objective journalist getting the story and reporting on it live?

Anytime you change jobs it’s tough. The one thing I had going for me is I really love the sport. I love talking about football at any level. It intrigues me. It was getting down the mechanics of the business that took time. Taking the expressions in the locker room that may take awhile to translate and getting it across in under a minute on television. Then, it’s… “can you do the same thing in 20 seconds because a minute is way too long.”

It’s a lot like playing. I say this all the time — if you really like what you’re doing it will work. If you’re doing it for some other reason, forget it. If I was broadcasting NFL games strictly for the money, I think it would show in the work. It’s like a professional athlete getting to that level because they love the work. The money comes as a result of that. Sometimes the money gets in the way, but the first thing is the love of it. And the first time I’m not loving it anymore you’ll say, “You know, he’s not as good as he used to be.”

John Madden has his thing. Now you have Phil Simm’s All-Iron Team. What would be the number one credential to making the squad?

The player’s just gotta be eaten up with it. He’s gotta be obsessed with trying to do his best. Does he have to be the best player? No necessarily. You’ve just got to live and die the game. It has to be part of you. Mostly it’s the second tier guy that gets in. Hey, even though I’m an ex-quarterback I don’t have a lot of sympathy for them. They have a chance to be stars. I’m looking for guys who are really out there working and no one is paying attention to them when they should be.

Last year we gave a truck to fullback, Sam Gash because he’s out there making the play develop while nobody is noticing him at all. Anytime the skill people are out there having great games it’s because someone else is busting it and allowing them to excel on the football field.

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Democratic National Convention 2000 – Political satirist, James Campion exposes populist bullshit.

Aquarian Weekly 8/30/00 REALITY CHECK

Democratic National Convention 2000TINSLETOWN LOONEY TOONS

The call of equal opportunity, two-party system insurrection rears its putrid head. So, we plow ahead and dip below the machinations of the Democratic Party’s showcase for renewed morality and heralded economic prosperity with one who makes this dreary mess his home, my number one Dem insider, Dibbs.

jc: It doesn’t bode well for the party when there are highly publicized riots in the streets during a Democratic convention. Last time that happened was in ’68, and an eight year Democratic run ended.

DB: And we were stuck with Nixon.

jc: Whose bright idea was it to have Rage Against the Machine play in the parking lot, and then have the always dumbfounded LAPD shut down the lights and tell the crazies to go home?

DB: Maybe it has something to do with the mayor of Los Angeles being a Republican.

jc: Vast right wing conspiracy?

DB: Hilarious. Where were the reports decrying that fiction the Republicans were peddling in their ridiculous television promo of a convention. All that crap about “inclusion” and medicare, healthcare and social security revisions that we’ve been trying to pass through that damn GOP-ruled congress for the past six years. Are they kidding with that junk? Bush has the nerve to drone on for over an hour about how the Clinton administration has dropped the ball on these issues. And then these goons on the FOX channel and Robert Novak tell us that the only reason the economy has been roaring for the entire stretch of Clinton’s term is because of the Contract of America? What the hell is that if not blatant hypocrisy and taking credit away from those who are due it?

There is still a solid contigent here who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about Gore or any of those people wanting to hang onto the White House at any cost.

jc: Granted, Clinton’s speech was on the level of “old soldier’s never die”, but between that film of him doing everything but pulling a baby from a burning wreck, his pro wrestling entrance, and 50 minutes into the thing without ever mentioning the vice president, how does that exactly help Gore.

DB: He is quite simply the best public orator this country has produced in over a century. Setting the record straight is more important to Gore than reinventing himself.

jc: Was there much flack from the White House on the “first-night-and-out” demands from the Gore camp?

DB: At first I think the president was looking at this from the standpoint of paybacks. In the end Gore implored him to go out his way, but do it fast and early.

jc: Regarding Lieberman’s speech, how do you think morality boy sleeps when he u-turns on school vouchers, eliminating affirmative action, privatizing social security and glossing over attacking pop culture to appease the convention’s liberal wing?

DB: You can’t bash Lieberman.

jc: Too late.

DB: It was a gutsy pick. Before this convention there was defenitely a sense that the liberal wing of the party had been luke warm on Gore, especially with how he went after Bradley in the primaries and choosing Lieberman to balance the ticket, but they pulled up the reigns and came full force by Tuesday night. I was with Ted Kennedy and a bunch of his Massachusetts people before he came out to speak, and all of Caroline’s “new frontier” references had him stoked. No one I talked to had seen him that pumped in some time. I was frankly surpised. That night, with Bradley et al, it became the liberal contingent’s attempt at equal time.

jc: But doesn’t Lieberman’s subjigation make your skin crawl?

DB: There was never any love-loss between Clinton’s centrist ’92 run and the party big boys, but who cares? Bush’s move to the center alienated all those conservatives who couldn’t get to speak while Colin Powell and John McCain were gumming up the works in Philly. There is still a solid contigent here who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about Gore or any of those people wanting to hang onto the White House at any cost. There were times this past week when I felt like this was Reagan’s last stand back in ’88 when half the GOP wanted to string George Bush up, but couldn’t stomach the thought of giving up the strings. Things were alot more divided around here until the GOP convention started looking like new democrats revisited.

jc: You were talking tough back in March.

DB: It looked like McCain wasn’t backing down. Christ, I thought the man was going to demand recounts. We had him pegged as some crazed Perot guy who would jetison all the independents who hated the Gingrich dupes to Gore. Never happened.

jc: Gore is down 42% with independents.

DB: The debates will change that.

jc: How do you define these entertainment geeks like Cher, Ron Howard, Sean Penn and the Balwins coming out full force for a ticket with two humps who’ve painted Hollywood as jesters for Caligula?

DB: The alternative is damaging tax cuts and a stranglehold on women’s rights.

jc: The rich love tax cuts.

DB: All the more reason why those people should be commended for backing the right horse.

jc: Who was more stiff at the podium, Hillary or Karenna Gore Schiff?

DB: We all felt bad for that poor girl.

jc: Her daddy makes toast.

DB: No comment. I thought Hillary was fair.

jc: About Gore’s acceptance speech…

DB: Saved the day.

jc: A grade-A populace speech in the grand tradition of Harry Truman. The man promised everything but a cure for cancer and free beer.

DB: Gore is a policy wonk. He knows it and so does Bush. That is why the Republicans are jamming everything but ideas and policy down our throats. Gore spread a system of government out that was real and sober.

jc: That’s funny. I used the words, “phony” and “surreal”.

DB: It signified the strength of this ticket; working America against corporate interest.

jc: A man who stands before me on the strength of tobacco money crying about special interests and large corporations is unconscionable.

DB: We expect to cut halfway into this paper lead and take that empty-headed goon, Bush apart in the debates.

jc: If you’re not within 10 points by Labor Day you’re going to need a Bush screw-up.

DB: We’ve already factored that in.

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The VP Factor & Other Boring Summer Political Tales – Political satirist, James Campion attempts to explain Dick Chaney.

Aquarian Weekly 8/9/00 REALITY CHECK

THE VP FACTOR & OTHER BORING POLITICAL SUMMER TALES

By Tuesday morning of the last week in July, and one week before the shiny happy ones congregate in the City of Brotherly Love to coronate a man they’ve been calling Captain Shoe-In for 15 months, the word came over the wire that George W. Bush had completed the Republican ticket for the 2000 run.

It was a 59 year-old Washington stalwart named Dick Cheney, whom the opposition will certainly remind the public served under the first, under whelming Bush administration, and voted to protect every kill machine known to modern man as Congressman deluxe for the enlightened state of Wyoming, but the home team will sell as a moderate, sober and eminently capable statesman.

Realistically, it is a sane frontrunner choice. Mid-summer polls still show Bush running four to five points ahead of the current vice president with a healthy 10-point bulge among registered types.

Strangely, and perhaps this is because the Gore camp hasn’t come up with a serviceable strategy or their candidate has yet to warm up the attack engines, Bush possesses the best of both worlds. He is the outsider, a champion of change and honor in the reeking fumes of scandal and distrust, while simultaneously acting as favorite. This is an interesting problem for the man trying to take credit for the best U.S. economy ever witnessed without the benefit of a major war.

Although many in the party leaned heavy for what they thought would be the final nail in Gore’s coffin, the majority simply hates McCain. If Bush was behind and needed a jolt, that move makes sense. But he is not behind.

Enter Cheney, innocuous and safe, with hardly a controversial bone in his body. Unlike Colin Powell, an African American with no political experience, Libby Dole, a woman with no political experience, Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Ridge, a stringent pro-choice voter, or the revolutionary loose-lipped John McCain, who leaked his name into the VP ring last week, Cheney is a non-story.

In a win-win move that still has massive independent voter base rumblings, the Arizona Senator slyly put the onus on Bush to wipe clean their messy party-splitting primary battle. If Bush chooses McCain it makes an advertised maverick look like a team player, and if not, the McCain camp gets to see where their candidate stands for the future by studying the fall-out.

But, alas, there will be no fallout. No one with half a brain in the Republican Party wants to screw with a summer lead by reminding anyone of John McCain. Bush had been extremely careful until McCain stole New Hampshire and made the golden boy fight. He has survived nicely, and key advisors thought putting a madman like McCain on the ticket would only pose more questions. Although many in the party leaned heavy for what they thought would be the final nail in Gore’s coffin, the majority simply hates McCain. If Bush was behind and needed a jolt, that move makes sense. But he is not behind.

And that is why the recent history of GOP running mates have made the old boys tremble over the past few weeks.

There is still not one person who was alive to stop it who can explain how the hell confusion could have been a good enough excuse for the 1952 convention to straddle Dwight D. Eisenhower with Richard Nixon, other than the young Senator’s willingness to do everything Ike wanted no part of, like ugly campaigning and hard-nosed governing. The untouchable general almost paid dearly until Nixon chucked any chance for a legacy of respect and humility with his desperate “Checkers Speech”, forcing the would-be president to be chained to this decision for eight long years. The party eventually paid an even larger price for Nixon’s sins.

Before Nixon was done dismantling the U.S. government as it was designed, he chose Spiro Agnew to serve as vice president. Agnew was sent packing under mounds of illegal campaign funds. When the man who succeeded him, Gerald Ford tried running with the pardoning of Nixon around his neck, he was faced with the churning specter of Ronald Reagan in an nasty primary that put Ford at the then California governor’s mercy. Reagan had other plans, so Ford ran a spirited, but doomed campaign with the only Washington Republican left standing, Bob Dole. Four years later Reagan, smelling failure, tucked the man he called a “wimp”, George Bush Sr. under his considerable wing and returned the party back to a crossover-winning proposition.

And then there was Dan Quayle…

But with Dick Chaney, all those terrible nightmares are history. The Cheney pick solidifies the Bush comeback from the primary mess. His man is vanilla squared. Despite being Chief of Staff for the silly Ford administration and a major cog in the now-remembered farce known as Desert Storm as acting Defense Secretary for G.W.’s dad, Cheney helps to allay the fears that Bush is some kind of frat house party animal with a rudimentary grasp of foreign affairs.

Other than a few minor tremors about a supposed social moderate truly being a staunch conservative on key GOP hush-hush issues like abortion and guns, or his record number of heart attacks, no one paid to listen for earthquakes see any reason to believe Cheney will help or hinder Bush. Again, he is in the lead, and due to the fact that his party holds its convention first, he had to come with a name that didn’t rock the boat. The choosing of a vice president without a major voice or key state to carry come November is one way to carefully nurture the momentum.

Now it’s onto the convention to parade the rest of the gang before CNN and go about not losing to Al Gore.

NEXT WEEK – GEORGETOWN REPORTS FROM THE CONVENTION

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BLAZO!! – The “Never” Solution & Other Bizarre Revelations – gonzo author James Campion probes the inner sanctum of mysterious cyber crazies.

Aquarian Weekly 8/2/00 REALITY CHECK

THE “NEVER” SOLUTION& OTHER BIZARRE REVELATIONS ABOUT BLAZO!! PART II – (read part I)

The room became eerily quiet, the way it would in an old-time movie when the stoic captain addresses a ship of doomed men. That’s when Mighty Chief Wonka leaned forward, closing his left eye, and poked his cane in my direction. “Einstein never slept,” he began. “The man dressed in the same goddamn suit everyday, subsisted on an inordinate amount of fish and collapsed in a heap on more than one occasion!”

More silence.

“But in the end,” he continued. “Someone was better off for it! That is what we aspire to here in the hub of grandeur, the glowing talisman of hope, the graduation of wit and art! That is what it means to loyal BLAZOists worldwide!”

It went on like that for over 20 excruciating minutes, complete with obtuse references to defunct civilizations, vague Angus Young memories and a list of women Picasso turned down. Completing the diatribe with a deep breath, the Chief intertwined reasons for the death of television as we know it. Not that it meant actually killing anyone at the major networks, but after it was done, it was hard for me to tell the difference between literal and figurative death.

Looking on with rapt attention were those making up the BLAZO!! inner circle; two well-attired dwarfs, a manic middle-aged grump called Bart Francis and the pacing spectre of Kaptain Karl. These were men that Chief Wonka referred to on several occasions as the “chosen ones”, capable of understanding every detail of this kinetic hyperbole.

Of course, even that snapshot of circus maximus seemed ordinary in the shadow of the gentleman who entered the room next. He was over six-foot and wide-bodied in an intimidating, but fun-soaked way, with a wild tuft of jet-black curls swaying atop a deeply carved, but round face, interrupted by penetrating dark eyes. His brightly multi-colored Hawaiian shirt billowed as he strode through the group, his bushy eyebrows raised in pulsing anticipation.

The Chief spread his arms, and with a powerful grin, shouted, “It is Beautiful Chaz, the walking quintessence of the word…LOVE!!”

Beautiful Chaz engulfed the sizable Chief Wonka in his gripping hug, then spun around with surprising swiftness and pointed in my direction. “Don’t tell me who this is…” he hissed, hesitating and then bending into a crouch to commence a awkward duck walk across the room toward me. “Is this that friggin’ loooon, Campion,” he spit out, laughing maniacally. “Let me show the boy where we’re at!” And that is exactly what Beautiful Chaz did.

And as I followed him throughout the operation, laid out like a maze in separate parts of the BLAZO!! castle, my pen was moving rapidly upon a small pad hidden in my oversized shirt. With every journalistic instinct I could muster amidst the unfolding circumstances, these are the actual notes I scribbled down:

Strange staircases…winding, stone pillars. A large room filled with hunched artists scratching out crude, but amusing figures. Angry animators punching monitor screens and baying like wolves in heat. A chamber beyond with hollowed walls filled with candy and a sizable soda fountain (literally a fountain as in a park). Here several men in navy blue suits communicate to each other via long bullhorns with the words…TAKE NO PRISONERS posted on them. A twenty-foot mural of Chief Wonka looms behind them with one word written in script…SMILE.

A short ride in an elevator decorated in plaid wallpaper (very ill, almost woozy from the ride) up to an attic lair for writers – horribly mutated men and women with sunglasses lurching back from the shifting light in the room. Beautiful Chaz, laughing wildly, slips me a blue pill. “Right you up,” he says. I am reticent, but tired of the spins, so I swallow it. One dwarf hands me back the mini-tape recorder he’d stolen from my jacket and tells me to press play. Twisted melody chimes from the tiny speaker. La-la-la-la-la-la. Over and over. Walls moving. Chaz’s head getting larger and larger. I’m blacking…

Wake up in a massive media room with hundreds of television screens playing one thing: A man dressed in a business suit with a monitor for a head is dancing around a lime green hallway. His face pulses different messages…Never ask you to conform…Never ask you to kill for a pair of Nikes…. Never ask you to shave your head, wear a sheet, hang in airports…Never ask you to drink the kool aid, carve images into your forehead, move to Montana…Never ask you to listen to the Beatles White Album backwards…

Suffice to say, no man should have to endure such cryptic lunacy, but this was something I should’ve decided before putting my name on a contract beneath the BLAZO!! logo. Nothing else I remember about the evening made the type of sense sufficient for a cohesive story. This has always been the legacy of this space from politics to showbiz and back. Even an afternoon with the mutants running the Hillary campaign was less harrowing than what goes on behind the walls of BLAZO!!

As a postscript, and before my visit ended, I structured the utter silliness I’d witnessed into what amounts to a rambling manifesto that currently sits on the Internet at blazo.com, all the while Chief Wonka peering over my shoulder and whispering key phrases and clever aphorisms. But he never asked for blood, and for that I’m more than grateful, because every revolution has its casualties, and as close as I came to this one, I’m glad to not be counted.

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BLAZO!! Friend of The Different – author James Campion probes mysterious cyber loons

Aquarian Weekly 7/26/00 REALITY CHECK

FRIEND OF THE DIFFERENT – The Horrible Truth About BLAZO!!

At the tip of Northern Jersey sits a rustic castle with streams of ivy climbing up its thick, stone walls. Ghosts of shifty A & R men and their java-soaked secretaries chasing unsuspecting child singers reverberate through its cavernous halls. The demons and vampires that slither along the corridors of network television are shunned here. This is the place where the entertainment world, as we know it, has come to die.

Deep in its bowels, sitting in a multi-colored room behind a giant oak desk is the mysterious Mighty Chief Wonka, a man who has graced this space and many songs and stories of some repute. His is an imposing shadow looming over an operation that has seen fit to carve a slice of the Internet pie with little regard for things like press announcements and pedantic fanfare. I had been summoned to this strange joint to get a handle of what is going on at the main hub of BLAZO!!, the “web company” which bravely acts as publisher for my second book, Fear No Art – Observations on the Death of the American Century. Of course, after several meetings with legitimate publishers, I began to realize how brave this publication truly is for printing this blather every week, and how insane the Chief had become since our initial meeting in a back booth at Kenny’s Castaways in the West Village last Christmas.

That night the Chief sat across from me, flanked by two rather large Russian men wearing fluorescent Tiaras, pounding the table with a thin wooden cane and chipping the surface with its gold handle. “You’re a genius Campion!” he bellowed above the blaring music. “We want to put out your ramblings with a healthy advance check.” I heard nothing else for the entire night, but the words “advance check” floating in the smoky air, and something about meeting a Kaptain Von Karl who was BLAZO!!’s “Minister of Propaganda” sometime in early February in an abandoned warehouse in Bayonne.

The Chief trickled out cryptic clues about what the hell he was doing in his castle on the banks of the roaring Hudson River, but I knew it couldn’t be anything resembling real. There was something cartoonish, but lovable, about the Chief when he began roaring on about the “broken concepts of freedom” and a manifesto I should write that would explain what it is to “praise the child in you and allow for the brat to flourish and the imp to sing the high notes!”

But it served nothing in the way of preparing me for Kaptain Von Karl, a bizarre combination of Alice Cooper and Henny Youngman wrapped up in a diminutive package of trembling lunacy. When I met him in the “abandoned warehouse”, which was more like a vacuous playhouse carpeted in plush orange shag with deep blue walls, he was pacing beneath a naked light bulb and running a stream-of-consciousness rant worthy of Kerouac. He unnerved my signing of the contract with the occasional blurt and twist of his syntax, pondering ways to “spread the disease” and “join the new religion” while incessantly repeating “Do!” to no one in particular. But I’d come for a check, and as the good Chief explained earlier between several cocktails at Kenny’s, the Kaptain was a guru of promotion and once convinced a full convent of nuns to join him in a mosh pit at the old L’Amours rock club in Brooklyn.

But, alas, I deviate from the late afternoon visit to the BLAZO!! castle. Chief Wonka’s bearded dwarves met me at the huge oak doors offering a glass of Pessac-Leognan. Before I had accepted, the two of them had rifled through my jacket for proof that I was a “journalist friend” and not just another “cheap hood” from the Wall Street Journal come to perform anal audits on everything BLAZO!! when all they wanted was “a good time.” The Chief apologized for their behavior, citing the shock treatments they’d been “enjoying during lengthy lunch breaks in the dungeon.”

“Everyone needs his or her brains melted once in a while,” he smirked. But I was distracted by his unusually tall, lavender stovepipe hat that perched precariously on his long mane of black hair.

Once in his office, the Chief plunged into a sizable brown, leather chair behind his desk and let out a thunderous sigh. “What do you need to know from us that Simon & Schuster wasn’t willing to tell you?” he began. “I have yet to speak to the boys and girls at The Aquarian, but from what I gather from that twisted Reality Check gibberish you pen weekly, they have a rather long rope in which to hang themselves.”

“Exactly how do you mean?” I asked.

“I’m a fan of your work, but I also hate your work,” he said.

Strangely, I had dreamed of hearing such duplicity from a publisher. But there was no kidding in the Chief’s voice. He was damn serious.

And so, apparently, was the vice president of BLAZO!!, a rather ornery soul called Bart Francis. Seemingly, his one job was to sit on the phone all day and confuse telemarketers and advertising agents who pummel the BLAZO!! comfort zone by the minute. “Go!” he screamed into the receiver seconds after answering the ring, and then looked quizzically toward the dial tone wafting from the speaker. “Damn lightweights don’t know a thing about negotiations,” he whispered to himself. “Haven’t you ever see a man so in control of his karma that it hurts?” he asked.

And then Chief Wonka explained things.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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Republican National Convention – Political satirist, James Campion’s wise-ass Philly excursion.

Aquarian Weekly 7/26/00 REALITY CHECK

Republican National Convention 2000GEORGETOWNON THE FLOOR

For the first time in 52 years, the Republican Party held its convention in the City of Brotherly love in order to anoint George W. Bush its 2000 presidential candidate. Due to a glut of parking infractions and incidents stemming from one peculiar night in 1982 whilst attending a Muddy Waters show, the Reality Check News & Information Desk was unable to be properly represented. But our primary GOP source, the always gregarious, Georgetown did attend, and although he despises journalists, somewhere between cocktail hours and gratuitous speeches, here is a synopsis of his nightly inside report.

jc: I’m going to come right out and ask this. Did you beat a Texan named Bubba with pom poms?

GT: During the first roll call Monday, some asswipe from Austin stepped on my fucking foot and started screaming “Keyes! Keyes! Death to Tyrants!” This went on for the 20 minutes it took for Texas Lt. Gov. Rick Perry to ask for his state’s delegates to cast their vote. So we beat that red neck with pom poms until security escorted him into the lobby.

jc: How big were these pom poms?

GT: I don’t remember, but the guy came back three hours later with this goofy smile on his face and about thirty or forty Bush/Chaney buttons plastered all over him. But it wasn’t just me.

Nobody was crazy about Powell’s “Affirmative Action” stuff. I thought it was ballsy.

jc: Where were you when the final tally came in at about 10:03 Wednesday night?

GT: Right in the middle of that friggin’ Ralph Nader insurrection We heard a CSPAN intern gave him a press credential and he started having an anti-Bush conference right in the middle of the floor. Meanwhile, that moron from Wyoming kept going on and on bashing Clinton and they’re flashing live shots of George and Laura all over the joint. It was chaos.

jc: Was that the week’s biggest noise on the floor?

GT: Nah. A platform committee for “Pro-choice” Republicans motioned to the floor for a debate on incest and wound up dealing with Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Ridge who told them in no uncertain terms that it was nice of them to attend but it was time to come to grips with the fact that “this party can no sooner bend on ‘pro-life’ than jamming half-assed gun laws down the collective throat of three-quarters of this country’s taxpayers.” Then he went home to meet Bush and do a live hook-up from Eisenhower’s office in Gettysburg. That’s how tight a barge we were running, son.

jc: Conspicuously absent from the proceedings were Dan Quayle, Pat Robertson, Newt Gingrich and Christine Todd Whitman.

GT: No one needs to see Danny Boy. Ford and Dole were enough fuck-up reminders. I wanted to kill someone if they mentioned one more time in that documentary that Ford brought the country out of the darkness. And there’s a new rule that Robertson is not allowed near any televised party shindigs until after November 7.Bible is out, military is in. Gingrich? He’s a talking head now and Whitman is pro-choice. Next.

jc: No bad-vibe Gingrich tough guys.

GT: We’re getting elected this time around.

jc: We heard Ford’s stroke Tuesday night was caused by someone whispering in his ear that his tribute was going to celebrate the pardoning of Nixon.

GT: Funny. The man is 87, and we heard it was a sinus attack. Now they say he had two strokes. Poor bastard. And by the way, you forgot to mention that Lazio wasn’t present. Good move. He’s bucking the national spotlight for his constituency. Hillary has to go to their convention and, once again, looks like the carpetbagger she is. I was at the meeting for that one.

jc: What is this bullshit about delegates bowing their heads when Arizona congressman, Jim Kolbe gave his speech Tuesday night?

GT: The gay thing? Listen, inclusion is one issue, and his presence speaks to that, but we were not getting into anti-platform agendas. Did you hear those hoots emanating from the Log Cabin Republicans about gay rights and appointments to the cabinet? Probably not, since they were squelched by the University of Temple marching band cranking a dead-on original version of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. It was so moving Jeff Greenfield stopped drinking for a minute to listen.

jc: Your assessment of the media coverage?

GT: Tight as a battle ship, baby. The networks didn’t get a crack at anyone not cleared by the Bush people. Fuck Peter Jennings and that sap, Russert. I know you like Koppel, but he’s another cheap lapper. He spent a half an hour one night reminding G.W. that his father was president. What a crank. This was our house, and not one of these media outlets had a goddamn clue what was really going on. Got Nancy Reagan in and out without a whisper. NBC blew the shot of her exiting and they were pissed.

jc: Let’s get to the speakers. Anyone do the job?

GT: Nobody was crazy about Powell’s “Affirmative Action” stuff. I thought it was ballsy. Schwarzkopf from the USS New Jersey listing military drop-offs under the Clinton Administration was humorous. But not nearly as humorous as The Rock. What a fucking goon. Someone got canned over that idea. Three quarters of his fans are too young to vote.

jc: What about Cheney?

GT: No one was too disappointed in Cheney. He’s a block of wood, but he reminds everyone that this is George Sr.’s revenge. And that’s funny because the conservative wing of this party wanted to murder Bush from ’87 on. Why do you think Buchanan sabotaged the ’92 convention with that insane “culture war” speech that cost us 10 points in 24 hours? Not one of us talked Bush into fighting Clinton harder. We gave up on him and now we’re fighting with their lives to elect his son.

jc: Grade Bush’s speech.

GT: Fair. The transcript was fantastic. I thought he tried too hard not to smirk.

jc: Most moderate Republican speech in history.

GT: The guy is no politician. Reagan he will never be, but he pulled the agenda to the left just enough to leave all that primary stuff in the dust. We have the utmost confidence that this will boost his numbers and prepare him for the debates. That’s the final hurdle.

jc: Did this vanilla, non-political convention present a kindler, gentler GOP?

GT: You give us the White House and Capitol Hill and we’ll eat your young.

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Joseph Lieberman & The Great Leap Of Faith – Political satriist, James Campion deconstructs a demogogue VP choice.

Aquarian Weekly 7/26/00 REALITY CHECK

JOSEPH LIEBERMAN & THE GREAT LEAP OF FAITH

The GOP Fan Fest was barely done sweeping up the graffiti tonnage when the phones started to jangle in Nashville. The Gore Camp was fluttering with reaction to the first Republican Convention ripe with minorities and touchy-feely types and an absence of NRA, religious right or impeach-crazed congressmen. An eight-point deficit sunk to a 17-point chasm and the comfort of the front runner and his snoozer running mate brought one answer: SPLASH.

And by firing back with vice presidential candidate, Connecticut Senator, Joseph Lieberman, the current VP has made a big one. The name immediately cut hard into the gaudy Bush numbers, yanking the stunned interns from their seats over at Gallup. By the first full week in August, Al Gore had pulled within 2 lousy points of Captain Shoe-in with a bombast convention of his own pending.

But why did Joseph Lieberman make sense to the panicking democratic minions?

When the day is done, Joseph Lieberman is no different than Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell in the righteous, religious-judgment two-step and had William F. Buckley so juiced a few years back he endorsed him over a Republican candidate for senate.

Firstly, Lieberman is no Dick Cheney. He was the frontrunner’s opening gesture to the conservative wing of the party before the moderate convention, but a bland pick when considering the other, more courageous choices. Lieberman is truly the “wild card” name predicted by anyone willing to go on record after Bush named Cheney.

Gore needed a buzz and Lieberman resonates like an angry wasp’s nest.

Lieberman is a devout Orthodox Jew and a democratic legislator with an arms-length conservative, moralist voting record. And although no one in Washington will offer anything but “honorable” to describe the man, another word lingers inside the beltway, “enigma.” He is a purveyor of moral conduct and religious purity, yet he is a divorcee with an overwhelmingly “pro-choice” voting record.

Moreover, Lieberman secures many liberal circles while standing glaringly on the side of such conservative issues as school vouchers and Bill Bennett’s fascist Empower America crusade against pop culture. He supported George Bush’s Gulf War and was the first democrat to describe the Monica Lewinsky scandal as “immoral and harmful”, but on fiscal concerns he will back Gore’s fears of a GOP controlled congress buoyed by one of their own.

Then again, the Dems have had a history of “wild card” VP candidates from the mentally unstable Tom Eagleton and a woman, Geraldine Ferraro to presidential liabilities like the Catholic Jack Kennedy and the morally bankrupt William Jefferson Clinton. But as the VP’s had a way of killing a ticket, luck has followed the main draws.

If there was one salvo the GOP unloaded on the present administration during its televised centrist show, it was its lack of trustworthiness and moral structure. Lieberman answers that in spades. He is a morality nut and steps right in line with Gore’s corpulent shill of a wife and a PMRC past dripping with condescending “save the children” rhetoric.

But Gore’s attempt here is to seem more caring and less corruptible, and despite the predictable chicken littles moaning about mid-America’s disdain for East Coast Liberal Jews having little to no shot, it is hard to argue that Lieberman isn’t at least a news-making choice.

As discussed in this space for the last year, Al Gore has two main problems.

The first, and most damaging, is that people don’t like him. They don’t want to give him credit for the economy, blindly accept his alleged pristine record with ecology, embrace his repeated denials about campaign finance misappropriations or beam at whatever earth tones he happens to model while canoeing up a man-made creek. The majority of voting types see him as a Washington dupe and a disingenuous lout who would tell anyone anything they wanted to hear to be elected dogcatcher.

This brings us to problem number two: His opponent has brilliantly crafted an image of the one man Gore is trying to separate himself from: Bill Clinton.

Junior’s speech at the convention broke many seemingly unattainable Clinton records for moderate hyperbole. From saving Social Security and Medicare to even mentioning single mothers and inner city children, Bush laid out liberal agenda with a slice of “compassionate conservatism”, going as far as complimenting the president if not for his silly peccadilloes. Everything from his strained attempt at not smiling to avoid the “wise ass smirk” to the passionate call for change reeks of Big Bill at his most eerily phony moments.

Cut through all the polished speech-gunk and George Bush jr. told the nation that he knows what you liked about Bill Clinton and he can provide that and then some, without all the embarrassing perjury aftertaste. New and improved mouthwash in a handy mess-free bottle.

If Gore was the least bit likable, or faced with another stuffed-shirt conservative beast, then Joseph Lieberman is still serving the good people of Connecticut. He certainly isn’t balancing the ticket on battle lines drawn by the GOP convention.

Bush has set the tone thus far. That will change in a presidential campaign. Gore’s flow with the momentum is very reminiscent of Big Bill as well. But this worked with Clinton because he went in knowing he would get a pass by anyone he could entertain for four minutes. The Gore people know that if their man spends half that time with an independent voter he is likely to queer the deal.

When the day is done, Joseph Lieberman is no different than Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell in the righteous, religious-judgment two-step and had William F. Buckley so juiced a few years back he endorsed him over a Republican candidate for senate. But he is Gore’s lightening-in-a-bottle to balance a ticket wherein the presidential candidate has a problem separating ethics with business as usual.

NEXT WEEK: DIBBS BACKSTAGE AT THE CONVENTION

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