Left Field

The Bush Beat, Dirty Hairy, Love Boat


Ever since Ronald Reagan started pointing up into the House gallery during his State of the Union speeches–to use some Everyman to define a particular issue–politicians have used people as visual aids. Al Gore does it, when he asks some Iowa farmer to stand up, and then reminds a debate audience that Bill Bradley voted against the emergency funding that would have provided this poor guy with flood relief.

As does Governor Bush. He gave us Tillie Burgin (“one drill sergeant in the Army of Compassion”) in his 1999 State of the State address. And almost exactly a year later he gives us the McCormicks–a working-class couple he might have described as “two foot soldiers in the Army of Lowered Expectations.” In introducing his tax reform plan designed to “knock down the tollbooth to the middle class,” Bush used Kevin and Glenda McCormick of Nashua, New Hampshire, to help sell his tax cuts.

Kevin works for White Pine Software. And Glenda works for Bruce Transportation. Together they earn $50,000 a year, which makes their tax bill $3,920. Under the Bush tax cut plan they would receive a $1,722 reduction in their tax bill. Okay, but from there things get a little fuzzy. According to the Bush campaign press release, and remarks the Governor made at a press conference in Concord, New Hampshire, that $1,722 break will “save enough money for Glenda to stop working and return to being a full-time mom.”

Well, not exactly. In a telephone interview, Glenda said the $1,722, “or maybe even a little more, will give me the option to stay at home, or at least not to have to work every day.” Glenda McCormick drives a school bus, and her children, who are home-schooled, ride along with her. “I’d like to cut back,” she said.

Much of Bush’s tax plan is aimed at the middle class:

doubling the child tax credit from $500 to $1,000;allowing parents to contribute $5,000 a year per child to tax-free education savings accounts;slashing the marriage penalty;allowing taxpayers who do not itemize to deduct their charitable contributions; andeliminating the earning limit so the elderly can work without losing their Social Security.

But the real big item in the Bush plan is the last one listed: the “death tax.”

“Live Free or Die,” reads the New Hampshire state motto, and sooner or later we all do.

Eliminating the death tax (less melodramatically known as the inheritance tax) will someday save Bush himself far more than the $1,722 tax cut he’s offering the McCormicks–even if it does allow Glenda to remain at home. At Bruce Transportation Glenda earns $10,000 a year driving a school bus. The G.W. Bushes paid $3.7 million in taxes last year, on income of $18 million. Inheritance taxes–and they always come due–won’t cost the McCormicks’ estate nearly as much as they would cost the descendants of GWB.

Hair Terror in Plano

You might think that after the Oklahoma City bombing fiasco–when instantaneous (and entirely false) rumors about “Arab-looking” suspects generated nationwide hysteria and attacks on Arab-American citizens–the authorities and the media might have learned their lessons. Instead, because of Y2K panic and the F.B.I.’s institutional paranoia, the end of the millennium saw a host of absurd raids and arrests for no particular reason, other than the targets were either Arab immigrants or of Arab descent. “During December,” reports the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, “dozens of Arabs and Arab Americans arrested or detained on minor charges were accused of being part of one terrorist plot or another.”

The nuttier busts included:

In New York, an Arab-American airline pilot was charged with making a “terrorist threat”–because he tried to get the baggage inspectors to do their jobs. He reportedly said, “You have to remove my bags. They could have a bomb. You don’t know. I’m a pilot, I know the rules.”In Massachusetts, police exploded a “suspicious” parcel from Germany–destroying a box of chocolates and a music box.Police and F.B.I. agents in Washington, D.C., undertook a fruitless two-day search for a blue Mitsubishi van. Reasonable cause?: a gas-station attendant reported the vehicle was being driven by people who appeared to look Middle Eastern.

But as loyal Left Fielders might suspect, our favorite police-state excess took place in Texas. On December 18 in Plano–that well-known hotbed of militant insurrectionism–more than a dozen plainclothes federal agents and local police stormed an apartment in search of a suspected ring of Arab terrorists. What did they find? Three Lebanese hairdressers and an electronic parts salesman. Kassem El-Ajami, his brother Khalid El-Ajami, Ahmad Rabaa, and Ibrahim Kais, were duly interrogated by the F.B.I. and I.N.S. And while the men weren’t quite terrorists, North Texas can rest a little easier knowing that they were all arrested and scheduled for deportation anyway. They had exceeded the time limits on their U.S. visas and were working without I.N.S. permission.

The authorities insist that they were only doing their jobs, on a “heightened stage of alert” in light of the pending New Year, when “international terrorists” might be planning spectacular crimes. But the nature of the official “investigation” makes understandable the protests from Arab-American organizations. “The first thing they asked me is if I was a Muslim,” Kassem El-Ajami told The Dallas Morning News. Then the questions turned even more professional: Did they “know that guy in Seattle” (apparently referring to Ahmed Ressam, the Algerian arrested December 14 near Seattle for allegedly trying to enter the U.S. with explosives in his car). Or had they “attended any religious or political meetings during their stay in Dallas?” The arrested men responded that they worked every day, and had no time for politics. They might also have pointed out that Algeria and Lebanon are different countries, containing large numbers of citizens who don’t know each other–but such fine distinctions are generally lost on employees of the F.B.I.

Except for the four poor gentlemen who will be duly returned to their home country for the crime of trying to earn a living–and the thousands of Arab-American citizens who now have one more reason to fear their government–thus ends another minor chapter in the vigilant history of those noble G-Men once known as The Untouchables.

Let no one mock them because they went in search of terrorists, and found only hairdressers. Indeed, perhaps the entire F.B.I. “terrorism” rationale was nothing but a sophisticated cover for a more important operation: protecting Dallas-area hairdos from baleful foreign infiltration by Lebanese sophistication. Indeed, it’s well known that the French influence in Lebanon remains all too strong. Who knows what might happen to Big D’s Best-Dressed List if these barbarous and scissored interlopers were allowed to operate without fear of intervention?

The Love Boat

Some days Paula Corbin Jones must feel like she’s in The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy’s tornado-assisted ride from a Kansas farmhouse to a mystical land is no more unlikely than Jones’ long strange trip from an Arkansas trailer to her current position of celebrity in the bizarre world of the Clinton-haters. Jones’ allegations that the President crassly propositioned her catapulted her into social circles of conservative intellectuals and big-money Republican politics. She is the beneficiary of more than partisan rancor; she has directly profited from a subculture that goes beyond disagreeing with the President to seeking his personal destruction.

And now, her whirlwind tour lands her on a cruise ship bound for the South Pacific. Best of all: you can join her. Yes, you. It’s a seminar cruise–sort of like The Nation’s, but with Paula Jones and some of her right-wing friends, including “journalists” Dolly Kyle Browning, Blanquita Cullum, Chris Ruddy, Joe Farrah, and Ed Timperlake–as well as the folks who run Judicial Watch, which is sponsoring the whole thing.

According to Judicial Watch’s website, Judicial Watch, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit conservative foundation based in Washington, D.C., was established to serve as an ethical and legal “watchdog” over our government and judicial systems “to promote needed political and legal reform.” When these guys talk about reform, they’re not talking about campaign finance, and when they say conservative, they mean people who make Pat Buchanan look like a moderate. The Judicial Watch website is an archive full of anti-Clinton propaganda, from lawsuits the Judicial Watchers are sponsoring (including one against Hillary Clinton, George Stephanopoulos, and James Carville for libeling Gennifer Flowers) to arcane documents on FileGate and TravelGate, the nomenclature they use to elevate these minor flaps to newsworthy scandals.

In a sentence, Judicial Watch is best summed up by its literature promoting the cruise: it identifies Paula Jones as, simply, “Heroine.” How often do you get to spend an entire week with a genuine heroine? But you’d better get on board now, because they’re lifting the gangplank February 27. Fork over your seminar tuition–anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000, depending on where you want to sleep–and get on board. You’ll sleep well, too, knowing that you’re helping to pay Judicial Watch’s bills from the Jones suit, and you’ll get to meet the heroine herself, in the flesh. No wonder it’s billed as “The Cruise to Clean Up Corruption.”

If you sit close enough, and listen real carefully, as you steam into Cabo San Lucas or Puerto Vallarta, maybe you’ll hear Paula Jones say, “I don’t think we’s in Arkansas no more, Toto.”