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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Reality Check + Readers Responses

Dinosaurs on Sixth Avenue
James Campion
Recording The Death Rattle Of Karl Rove & James Carville

For me, the notion of 'teenage wasteland' is about waste. It's not about getting wasted, it's about waste; wasted life, wasted opportunity, wasted years. And I take full responsibility for the fact that my generation complained about the state of the planet and did nothing to change it.
- Pete Townshend

Politics is the art of controlling your environment.
- Hunter S. Thompson

This, I told myself, was not going to be pleasant. A rainy, windswept late-spring evening on Manhattan Island ruined by a dismal assignment to "cover" the final brain flatus of two dying breeds, Karl Rove and James Carville, once giants in a field still very much inhabited by similar groaning creatures but the likes of which will rarely be seen again. Two middle-aged southern white men, whose claim to legacy is the achievement of other men's dreams and, in weird unexplainable ways, doomed ideologies of bygone eras.

"Mach Shau!" my friend and colleague for the evening, Master Buzz exclaimed before we entered the main room of the still gloriously stunning Radio City Music Hall. This immediately lightened my mood, for I knew it as the clarion call of soused German audiences along the grimy stages of the Reeperbahn in early-sixties Hamburg.
Make Show.

Yes, and what of this "show"; a debate series of political misfits hurled at New York audiences for a price. It bordered on the obscene: Paying to see what is widely available from all ends 24/7 online and on cable television? It was not unlike those insidious live events staged with cartoon characters to pry the last dollars from guilty parents.
Entitled "Strategies, Alliances and Policy" and moderated by PBS's Charlie Rose, the ruse unfurled a symposium air; properly attired set of comfortable chairs, dotted with bottles of designer water and a floral arrangement.

By all outward appearances it was to be an educational evening of interesting anecdotes shared between celebrated rivals, but it was Buzz who noticed right away a terrible kind of misty funk about the place. I could only describe it as the scent of death. No one around us could smell it, but it was there; a rancid pall which might emanate from discarded carcasses left to rot in the midday sun. It was distracting but also strikingly clear. Rot, I told myself, don't forget to tell the readers about the rot.

Soon Rose was behind the podium at stage right butchering what little notes he'd taken for the evening's proceedings. He began strongly enough, but soon looked like a man stricken by confusion. We were sure the powerful odor had taken control of his senses, cracking his otherwise impenetrable professional facade. He tried to soldier on, but soon gave up, simply announcing the names of the men he was to moderate, hoping to Jesus the onerous stench would abate and allow him to conduct the business at hand.

Rove and Carville then emerged from the wings together, smiling and waving as if geeks in a traveling carnival. I winced at the sight. Buzz had to cover his face to keep from retching. I wanted to poke the gray-haired couple in front of us to see if what we were experiencing was also giving them this inexplicable bout of inertia. When I finally did, the woman's head slumped forward, dangling awkwardly on the end of her spinal column. A young bearded man across from us gasped. I could tell he was not prepared for what was to come next.

I can only say that it was odd to see these men paraded out this way. I had been in the room with both of them before, watching Carville from afar at a Bill Bradley media junket in the summer of 1999 and almost a year later crammed in a hotel bar in Florida with the man behind our 43rd president, George W. Bush. That night Rove sported the impish grin of bloated cat with a tummy full of canary. Eight years before, Carville never looked unsure of his place in Americana while he was ramrodding Bill Clinton into the White House. But they now appeared sad, captured in a desperate plea to be loved, and finding only disdain.

Apparently unaware of the horrors unfolding around them, the crowd cheered.

Half-expecting a hooded executioner brandishing a battle-axe to follow them to center stage, I kept thinking; Why would they do such a thing? Hasn't everything both of them hold dear on The Right & The Left been shattered by the political events of the past year? Carville's beloved Clinton Machine beaten severely by the process and rejected outright with no hint of honor and Rove's eight-year reign summarily mocked, debased, and sent out of the Big Town riding high on the dreaded rail?

Shit, Rove re-invented Republicanism by politicizing the entire executive branch of the federal government, while Carville orchestrated a series of improbable comebacks for a morally bankrupt sociopath. Both are pundit darlings now; Rove guests on FOXNEWS and pens a predictably smarmy column for the Wall Street Journal, Carville squeaks in when he can on CNN and MSNBC, taking cab fare and cheap bottles of wine for speaking engagements.

Only four minutes into the exercise told us the answer. Rove, dressed like an actuary in a gleaming power-suit and clutching a thick notebook of charts, graphs and stats, he immediately began defending his president's unmatched series of incomprehensible mishaps, while Carville laughed in his barely coherent Cajun style, throwing his hands up and yawping spastically. Rove became obsessed with "protecting the country after 9/11", and Carville equally obsessed with two terms of "peace and prosperity". Rove crowed on about the "shifting trends" of the opening century and Carville whined incessantly about Katrina.

None of the subjects, save Rose's blithe inclusion of the new nominee for the Supreme Court, which had been rolled out only hours before, concentrated on the present. With the exception of one segment, when both guests, reeling from the terrible realization that they'd both passed their effectiveness as human beings, began to assess the Youth Vote for the next generation.

When faced with having stayed at the circus too long, Carville stammered on about how neither Barack Obama's electric campaign nor the internet had as much to do with the now Golden Age of Liberalism as the failure of Republicans or a Democratic Party imprimatur. Rove did nothing to explain how his plan to rule Washington for decades turned into a terminal dismantling of the modern Republican Party.

It was a pathetic display on all counts and spoke volumes about these men and what they do and what they stand for in the grand scheme of America or its voting public. It was never about "the economy stupid" or "compassionate conservativism", "supporting the troops" or "mounting a defense against a Vast Right Wing conspiracy". It was about looking like the winner, no matter the circumstance. It was, as it will always be for the powerbroker: What did I sweat and bleed for? Was it worth it? Was it what I wanted? And was it ever going to be any better for me again?

By the time protests began to rage in the audience, it all seemed staged and predictable, as if the former vice president were suddenly a media darling trying in vein to appear relevant again.
At least someone still thinks these men matter.
© James Campion May 29th 2009


You've just displayed the most flagrant ignorance of the entire situation. (LAST WORDS ON THE UNITED STATES OF TORTURE - Issue: 4/29/09) You actually have no idea whatsoever what you are talking about. You obviously have not researched the topic. You are, to put it bluntly, talking out of your ass. These suicide bombers (like moronic Christians who like to deny science) are not dying FOR heaven, they're DESPERATE. Miserable, destitute, devoid of hope. What's condescending is someone who has no idea what it's like to live in Afghanistan (for example) and live at the MERCY of every idiot with an AK-47 or an M-16 babbling on as if he's omniscient.

Please, please, please watch OSAMA--it's about a little girl, not bin Laden. Watch PARADISE NOW, a film about two suicide bombers. You'll like them both, I bet. Informative too. But you have to put up with subtitles. And the answer isn't blowin' in the wind; I'm going to give it to you in short: Give them something to LIVE for instead of to die for. It's not as hard as you think. The VAST majority of suicide bombers are guys with no money no hope and nothin' to live for. If conditions improve--and we can certainly help with that--the sources of recruits for these mullahs dry up. IN fact, we ARE helping with that. We're putting almost a BILLION dollars to help rebuild Gaza. Boy are you wet behind the ears on this one.
Vincent Czyz

Finally, someone telling it like it is. Who are we defending here? What ridiculous fantasy of a country are we supposed to be? Does anyone with half a brain beyond bleeding heart pansies who make whiney excuses for religious fanatic militant savages think this is some kind of game? And do they think we just got in this game? No sir, we're just an extension of the British and every other Western Devil that has run roughshod over these people for years and torturing their most heinous monsters is the least of it. Thank you for your continued brilliance in the face of difficult subjects to broach. I praise your courage and your brutal honesty.
Ernest Simon

Holy shit was that a frank and horrifying depiction of this god-forsaken planet of ours. Perhaps I'll just go off and kill myself now. However, before I do, I want give props to this column for putting those who think they own life and death into proper perspective. This is a cruel and disgusting run of shit we're in and most of it is religious and some of it is cultural and a good deal is monetary, but it is all just a terrible commentary on the state of humanity. And I agree with you, James, that sometimes people trade in their place in humanity and all that is humane coming to them when they give their very existence over to violent, relentless extremism. If psychopaths want to die, who are we to stop their suicide mission?
Tracey F.

Very interesting discussion that skirts the unending question of Who We Are (as a nation) and goes right for the sucker punch: Who They Are.
I agree that extremists of any kind--from the likes of the Taliban and al-Qaeda to more familiar types like Amway Distributors or Southern Baptists--are insatiable when it comes to victory. It's not so much that they're like kidnappers for whom ransom isn't really what's wanted. As you point out, it really does seem as though these people want the pain and suffering and things of this nature more than they want to achieve any realistic goals.
Let's be fair in our assessments, though. Without the clearly defined hopes and aspirations that we enjoy in the post-modern Western world--as provided over neo-traditional broadcast media by behemoth multi-national corporations--our fellow human beings in the Middle East just don't have the same sense of completeness that we do. Notice that the two more familiar groups I mention above encourage their followers to avoid television.
I'm left wondering who it is that really has something to lose in a worldwide jihad, and the only answer I get, over and over, is the corporations. I agree with your comparison of torture with infantile bullying tactics, but who is the bully here? A man unfulfilled--or a faceless organization with unfulfilled men at the helm?
What really sucks about torture is realizing that your tax dollars paid for it.
Brad Morrison

I am embarrassed to be an American now. I only hope this new administration and our better standing in the world, especially the Middle East, will save our children from being considered the offspring of murderous, torturous tyrants.
Stew Banardo

OMG, we hear from the faithful. The Kool-Aid quaffing subservient. (THE CENTURY MARK -- Issue: 5/6/09)
The One's first 100 days has consisted of;
A fly-over of Ground Zero by Air Force One with an F-16 in tow reminiscent of some freakin' Tom Clancy novel.
A tax cheat heading our treasury department
A State gift to British leaders consisting of Circuit City clearance items
A tripling of the national debt
A "No New Taxes" pledge broken on the poor with the hiking of the tobacco tax
A "no lobbyists in my Administration" pledge broken on Inauguration Day.
A first time a U.S President has bowed before a king of ANY kind (not sure if Nixon bowed to Elvis, though)
An escalation of 21,000 troops into Afghanistan reminiscent of LBJ's Vietnam escalation.
A request for more assistance in Afghanistan that got all but laughed at by European leaders
A launch by North Korea of a missile over Japan that is capable of holding a warhead
A total snub by Iran in regards to their nuke program
A smackdown by Russia in regards to missile defense and their support of Iran.
If this is a great 100 days, must be easily pleased.
Bill Roberts

The problem with choosing who leads this country from the top down is like American Idol - it's unfortunately in the hands of mass idiots that at times leaves us Simon Cowels of the country shaking our heads and wishing we could get off this insane tv show of our own making. Hey look, Hitler had a great first 100 days and look what happened to him. The true laugh in this is that John McCain wouldn't have done much different - the stimulus was no masterstroke. It was a forced hand by Keynesian Economics followers both of which Obama and McCain subscribe, and instead of now being mired in Afghanistan we'd still be mired in Iraq. The coverage of McCain's first 100 days would be much different because people were WILLING to put on the rose-colored glasses for Obama, not for anyone in the Republican party. The day will come when the majority of us will see through the BS haze the leaders of our country love to hide behind, no matter what party they belong to, and we'll stop being puppets and become the puppet masters. Until then American Idol goes on....
Ken Eustace

This guy is on fire. It seems like he has his hands in everything. There is no doubt that the effects of what unfolds over the next three years will rest solely on the decisions made by this man. If the over all state of the nation improves, then Obama will gain the status of Savior. If everything crashes, then the finger of shame and disgrace will point solely at him alone. Tough shoes James... Tough shoes indeed.
Pete Saveskie

The Sins of Pakistan
James Campion
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