September 18, 2004

Get Down, John!

An Associated Press story has a formidable John Kerry accusing Bush of having a secret plan to force a bunch more people into the military ranks right after the election. "He won't tell us what congressional leaders are now saying, that this administration is planning yet another substantial call-up of reservists and guard units immediately after the election," Kerry said. "Hide it from people through the election, then make the move."

Uncharacteristically focused and unrestrained, Kerry said, "With all due respect to the president, has he turned on the evening news lately? Does he read the newspapers?" Does he really know what's happening? Is he talking about the same war that the rest of us are talking about?"

The answer to that, Bush told us himself. No, he doesn't read the papers. He relies on more direct sources he said, reliable fellows like Wolfowitz and Cheney and Rumsfeld, perhaps. Wolfowitz who combs his hair with spit and has been planning since he was in college how to turn the U.S. into a dictatorship. Cheney, the coldest, most ruthless, corrupt and greedy man to ever hold high office in America. Rumsfeld, a poisonous snake inhabiting a human form.

The AP article also quotes one of the most intelligent and poised people in Congress, Nancy Pelosi: "It's clear that this administration didn't know what it was getting into, or else they grossly misrepresented the facts to the American people. In either case, staying the course is not an option."

Yes. Time to get serious.

Let's see where this goes. If this is the face of the Kerry we'll be seeing in the last quarter of this election, then he is emerging as a very smart strategist, a very cool customer, and a powerful contender. This may be wishful thinking; it's too soon to tell anything. I'm fully prepared for the Cheneyites to nuke New York City if their hold on power seems threatened. They are always ready to push the stakes to a higher level, to introduce new rules to the game, i.e. cheat. So anything can happen.

But Kerry and his people are no doubt fully aware of what they are dealing with. Kerry knows these people going way back. He led a congressional investigation into BCCI, the money laundering vehicle of the Bush-CIA-Noriega set. He was involved in Iran Contra investigations too. The fact that he is calling the Bush administration on a major deception of the moment -- even though it's only one in an endless ongoing series of deceptions -- is encouraging. Whatever election fraud, whatever post-election brownshirt activity, whatever terrorism against American citizens the right wing may now plan, surely it will not surprise Kerry. And hopefully there are enough very powerful people now who are not willing to stand for another stolen election or another 9/11 as an excuse for Bush grabbing power, that some real opposition will be mounted. It's something to hope for anyway.

I've heard of Kerry in past elections saving his real firepower until the last portion of the campaign when people are paying attention, and it is entirely possible that this is what we are seeing. If today's charge, along with a pattern of increased aggressiveness, and increased focus of his attacks in recent days, less inclination to shy away from incenidary issues is an indicator of what we might expect to see, it may be that Kerry is ready to come out and demolish George Bush. If so, then more power to him.

I am reminded of the Ali-Foreman fight in Zaire in the 1970s. Forgive the sports metaphor, in a way I find it abhorrent because this is no game and I hate the way the newsfrauds focus on "strategy" to the absolute exclusion of discussion of the issues that make the strategy mean anything. But there are parallels with heavyweight prize fighting which are not entirely inappropriate.

So please forgive the digression and tune out here if it bores or offends. I recently saw a replay of that fight and it was more amazing to me than ever. The soundbite description of that fight was Ali's "rope a dope", the idea that he lay back on the ropes and let Foreman wear himself out flailing away. That was true to an extent, but there was quite a bit more to it, and Ali was absolutely brilliant.

It was ten years after Ali had first won the championship, he was much older. He had had to lay off for years while the government hounded him and took his right to fight away, while the boxing authorities gave his title to someone else. By the time of that fight the title had been won by George Foreman, one of the most powerful, formidable human beings to ever enter a ring, and he was at his physical prime as a boxer. Few had ever laid a glove on him before he destroyed them.

Contrary to the one-sentence description of the fight, Ali didn't just go out and lay on the ropes. The only thing that made it work was that he entered the first round with total 100% blast of all-out energy as if he was only planning to fight one round. The older man, you would think, would be more concerned with pacing himself for the 15 rounds than the younger man. Foreman was the one-round knockout guy. He destroyed virtually all the other contenders in one round before.

But in defiance of prevailing logic, Ali stormed into the ring like a crazed bantamweight in maximum attack mode. He fought a round like no one has ever seen in boxing before or since. He moved like lightning and started crashing right leads into Foreman's head. A rare punch, barely ever used in boxing, it completely confounded Foreman, both in its contradiction of boxing logic and in the physical force of a knockout right hand coming out of nowhere with the force of a truck.

It's officially an eight-round fight, but Ali really won it in the first round. Foreman was hit more in one round probably than he had been cumulatively in all his pro fights. He was hurt a little, but he was also enraged and thrown completely off his center. He spent the next few rounds turning on full firepower trying to nail the man who had humiliated him so badly in the first round. It was over 100 degree heat and Ali went into a slow, relaxed, almost yogic mode, conserving his energy, not wasting a movement, throwing only perfectly aimed punches in little flurries when he saw an opening. And that's when Foreman wore himself out, and finally in the eighth round, when Foreman could barely hold himself up anymore, Ali saw an opening, threw a rapid combination capped with a straight, hard knockout punch and it was over. He was barely winded.

Okay, we're still a good distance from the final bell in the Kerry-Bush match. And so far, Kerry has been less than impressive. He's had his moments, but with a corporate media bent on making him look like a fool, he has to be dazzling. He has to be unstoppable.

While Bush has thrown every desperate attack he could to keep Kerry on the ropes, to keep him from ever getting any momentum, Kerry has not thrown many of the major bombs that are possible, given Bush's massive vulnerability on nearly every issue. But he and we know that now is the only time the mass starts to pay attention. The memory span is short. The Swift Boat Slimers did an alarming amount of damage, considering the lack of substance of the charges. But the public has absorbed it and moved on to other things. Some of the damage has been sustained, but according to polls not that much. Now if Kerry begins to bring out the legitimate complaints about Bush that he has seemed to be too polite to bring forth in the past, they could have more effect on the final result than if he'd blown them last May, or even August.

The guy is smart. And he's courageous and focused. Kerry has handlers and advisors, but he still seems to be in charge, not the other way around as in the case of Bush. The Bush-Rove slander politics is remarkably effective over and over, as if citizens were born yesterday and have no sense of history even going back four, eight, twelve years. But Bush is a one-trick pony and this technique could dullen after such a liberal use up to this point. If Kerry gets tough and throws everything he has in the final rounds, he could emerge with a brilliant victory. (And it has to be a landslide, because a close election will go to Bush, even if Kerry really gets more votes. The voting machines are corruptible and controlled by Republicans, to a significant degree.)

This possible scenario is not based just on the respective political skills of the men, but also their relative positions. The fact is, Bush is a catastrophic failure as a president. So the truth, the facts, are stacked steeply against him. The corporate powers that control the media are deeply stacked in favor of Bush. But a strong message can overcome even media control, on occasion, if Kerry can mount an effective attack. Let's see what happens.

One of Ali's maxims was you always win the first round and the last round. And the last round is the most important.

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