TCS Daily

Latest Artsy Outrage: Kill the President

By James K. Glassman - July 21, 2004 12:00 AM

What passes these days for the artsy-intellectual set in America has gone completely bonkers over the prospect of George W. Bush winning a second term as president.

Current polls show that Bush continues to run neck-and-neck with John Kerry despite a slower-than-expected economic recovery, bloody setbacks in Iraq, and cheerleading for Democrats from a press corps that admits to an unprecedented identification with the left.

The proportion of national journalists calling themselves liberal, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center, has risen 50 percent since 1995. Currently, 34 percent of journalists say they are liberal, 7 percent conservative. For the general public, the results are reversed: 33 percent of Americans say they are conservatives, 20 percent liberals.

But media bias is not enough to turn the tide. Something must be done to prevent another Bush victory, and America's artistes are out to do it.

First, there was Michael Moore's movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11," a crude quasi-Marxist fantasy about the war in Iraq, filled with distortions but widely praised by reviewers. (Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper, for instance, gave it two thumbs up, with Roeper explaining, "I've been angry at Bush's arrogance and incompetence, and I've despised his policies.")

Next, there was the July 8 fundraiser for John Kerry in New York, at which Whoopi Goldberg "fired off a stream of vulgar sexual wordplays on Bush's name in a riff about female genitalia," as one newspaper put it. Paul Newman said that Bush's tax cuts were "borderline criminal."

Now, get ready for Act III. On Aug. 10, Alfred A. Knopf, America's most distinguished publishing house, is bringing out a novel by Nicholson Baker, winner of the 2002 National Book Critics Circle Award and a darling of the New York intelligentsia. Baker's bestseller, "Vox," which Monica Lewinsky gave Bill Clinton as a gift in 1998, was about phone sex between two "obsessive, yuppie masturbators," according to Kirkus Reviews.

Baker's new book, called "Checkpoint," eschews kinky sex for political murder. It is a long conversation between two men about assassinating President Bush. Yes, killing the sitting president of the United States.

One of the characters, named Jay, says of Bush, "He is beyond the beyond. What he's done with this war. The murder of the innocent. And now the prisons. It's too much. It makes me angry.... I'm going to kill the bastard.... I'm going to assassinate the president."

Jay calls Bush "an unelected [expletive deleted] drunken oilman" who is "squatting" in the White House and "muttering over his prayer book each morning." He says Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have "fought their way back up out of the peat bogs where they've been lying, and they're stumbling around with grubs scurrying out of their noses."

Jay then describes methods of murdering the president, including radio-controlled flying saws that are "ultrasharp and they're totally deadly, really nasty." Other methods: a gun and a remote-controlled boulder.

A statement from Knopf says that "Baker wrote 'Checkpoint' in response to the powerless seething fury many Americans felt when President Bush decided to take the nation to war." (Never mind that the October 2002 votes on authorizing the president to use force in Iraq were 77-23 in the Senate and 296-133 in the House.)

"I wanted to capture the specificity of that rage," said Baker. "How do you react to something that you think is hideously wrong? How do you keep it from driving you nuts?"

Well, one way might be to campaign aggressively on behalf of candidates who want to end the war, like Ralph Nader. Another might be to write cogent, rational essays. Baker has chosen a different route: write a book about killing George W. Bush.

Knopf, which expects a big initial sale, is clearly defensive. "Baker's book does not suggest violence is ever an appropriate response," says the publisher's statement. Really? Some readers will almost certainly disagree. They will find compelling Jay's hatred of Bush and his plan for resolving it -- "a murder," says Knopf, "that will change the course of history."

John Kerry may not be responsible for the rantings of the likes of Moore, Goldberg and Baker. But he could strike a blow for decency in America - and, coincidentally, help his own cause - if he would forcefully denounce the murderous hysteria in Hollywood and Manhattan. A candidate who lacks the moral integrity to take a stand against these mounting outrages doesn't deserve to be president.


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