Saturday, January 24, 2004

Iowa carcass post-mortem

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When I was a kid, I thought everybody had a Massachusetts accent. This theory was borne out by TV commercials for local furniture stores and weather reports by Art Lake, two of my main links to the world outside Fall River.

So when election season came around and national newscasters mentioned the Iowa caucuses, I thought they were saying “Iowa carcasses.” As in, “Bob Dole has defeated his opponents in the Iowa carcasses.” My imagination raced with images of blood-streaked cornfields strewn with the hacked corpses of Republicans, one goofy-looking old guy in a business suit and broadsword claiming nothing less than total victory.

I was closer than I realized to the truly brutal nature of politics in an election year.

This election season, of course, Sen. John Kerry is standing atop a pile of Iowa carcasses. He’s predicted to smite some carcasses in New Hampshire on Tuesday, as well. Not long ago, political writers were saying he’d be a carcass, and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean would be smiting him. Instead, it ended up like David and Goliath — except the really tall guy knocked down the really short guy, so no, it's not like that at all. Sorry.

As much as I like most of Dean’s politics, I just don’t think the man has electable teeth. Friends, have you paid much attention to Dean’s teeth? Veritable choppers they are. When he smiles, he bares all 32 of them, like he’s reminding you how straight and sharp they are. It’s creepy, frankly.

The scary nature of Dean’s teeth is worsened due to their frank whiteness. Don’t get me wrong — I like a leader of the free world to have clean, white teeth. But because Dean is always yelling at someone, and because his face turns a vivid cabernet purple when he yells, his teeth seem that much whiter.

I’m worried that Dean will eventually use them on a person, and that’s why I have doubts about his ability to run this country. I can clearly picture him appealing to the United Nations for help in rebuilding Iraq and biting Kofi Annan in the face.

He hinted at his overly aggressive tendencies in his bizarre war-whoop after finishing poorly in the Iowa carcasses. Dean seems to have turned off a lot of his supporters by waving his arms like a goon, his face turning a heart-attack indigo, and having a disturbingly public conniption fit. If I may quote the frighteningly fanged doctor:

“Not only are we going to New Hampshire … we’re going to South Carolina! And Oklahoma! And Arizona! And North Dakota! And New Mexico! And we’re going to California and Texas...” It continues in this vein, leaving no state unscathed, until a sweaty Dean finishes thus: “And then we’re going to Washington, D.C., to bite George W. Bush in the face! We’re gonna bite all those right-wing special interests in the face! YEE-haa!

Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina is a bit more cool-headed. He’s always got a smile for the camera — and one of those nice, human smiles, too. That’s probably why he did so well in the Iowa carcasses.

On the minus side, he looks like a 14-year-old who should be in overalls with a slingshot hanging out of his back pocket. I feel like if I ever met Edwards, I’d end up accidentally calling him “kid,” as in, “Hey, kid — what are your plans to reduce the deficit?” or, “We really need health care reform, kid,” or, “I heard Edwards is supposed to be in town. Seen him around, kid?”

I worry about Edwards’ temper, too. Politics is a vicious business. Last week, on TV’s “Face the Nation,” responding to questions of electability, Edwards said he could beat Bush “like a drum.” I may have been imagining things, but I could have sworn he then started pounding his fist into his other palm.

Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, whose Iowa carcass was buried with full honors this week, went still further in his withdrawal speech. I was a bit sleepy when I heard the story, but I thought he told reporters if he ever met Bush face-to-face, he’d “open up a six-pack of asswhup on him.”

Maybe the most egregious examples of election-year bloodletting was exhibited this week during President Bush’s State of the Union speech. He finally decided the executive branch of government had stood by long enough while professional athletes take steroids. Watch your backs, sports junkies!

It was a bold move to take on big, hulking linebackers and hockey players, instead of his competition. It was an even bolder move to take on this hot-button issue instead of, say, helping old ladies buy prescriptions. I’m not exactly sure where he was going with that idea. But I think we’re all in agreement that athletes taking drugs is a nuisance to our daily lives, kind of like the way cloudy days are a nuisance.

But perhaps it was the way that Bush brought up the topic that disturbed me so. According to a slightly drunk friend of mine who watched the State of the Union speech for me while I was out doing something else, Bush told the joint session of Congress, “And then we’re going to New Jersey to test the Giants for steroids! And then we’re going to Foxboro! And then Kansas City! And then San Francisco! And then Minnesota! And then we’re going to Houston to test the Super Bowl! YEE-haa!

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