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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016


Surge Protectors

What would you call a presidential candidate whose poll numbers had surged by 15 points in just 30 days? A candidate who led his opponent by anywhere from 26 to 38 points nationwide? A candidate who had a 10-point lead even on his opponent's home territory?

What would you call a candidate like that? A front-runner? A political juggernaut? A successful campaigner? A popular guy?

Well, no, of course not - not if you are a "mainstream pundit," dispensing desktop wisdom to the ignorant rabble. Instead, you'd say the candidate was "a hapless nerd," a "manic political vaudevillian," an "awkward," "artificial," "uncool" cracker who "dresses like someone seeking employment at a country music radio station," even "a feral animal." As for those muscular poll ratings, you might admit, grudgingly, that they were "inching up," or, at best, "stabilizing," but really showed that the candidate "hadn't gained much speed or credibility."

Such were the judgments pronounced last week on Al Gore, who had just finished a month of unprecedented poll success, stretching his nationwide lead over Bill Bradley to nearly 40 points in some polls, and even out-dueling him on Bradley's own stomping grounds in the northeast, Salon reports. And where did these unrelentingly hostile comments come from? Not, as you might imagine, from the Republican National Committee, the NRA or even the Christian Coalition (if indeed there is any difference between those organizations); no, we heard it from "respectable" citadels of "responsible" journalism like The Washington Post, Time Magazine, Slate, Newsweek, US News, and USA Today.

Instead of reporting on Gore's surge (but then again, why should they? That was news, not navel fluff (their specialty), the punditburo obsessed over the fact that Gore had hired - get this - a feminist writer as one of his advisers! And what's more, this little rad-lib trixie - Naomi Wolf by name, with big hair a la a certain Monica, if you catch our drift - had actually written books in which she claimed - get this - that sex was a pretty good thing! What's even more, the Republican National Committee told the pundits that Wolf was advising Gore on how to be an "Alpha male" and claw his way to the leadership of the herd. (Of course, Gore and Wolf denied this, but come on, already! Would the RNC say it if it wasn't true?)

In fact, by week's end, the pundits were so wrought up by the sexual aroma of the story that they shot off into spasms of sarcasm about how wacko and way-out this guy Gore was - plumb forgetting they'd been calling him a dull establishment nerd just a few days before.

Well, you can't expect too much consistency from these millionaire muckrakers, can you? After all, it's a tough job, punditing - all that navel fluff keeps getting up your nose.

The Friendly Skies

But while the fluffy pundits care naught for that old bore Gore, they remain quite girlishly enamored of the jaw-jutting charms of GOP presidential candidate John McCain. The Arizona senator is currently the darling of wan liberals everywhere for his fierce championing of campaign finance reform.

Even the eponymous hero of "Doonesbury" - the very avatar of Starbucks liberalism - was shown sending a campaign check to McCain and praising the candidate's courageous fiscal purity. (McCain's fierce championing of anti-abortion laws and bellicose foreign policy are conveniently forgotten - if they were ever known - in those heady political salons where mocha and latte are stylishly sipped.)

But there was a tinge of embarrassment about McCain's jaunty jaw this week after The Washington Post did some reporting (as opposed to punditing) and discovered that McCain has been conducting his nationwide anti-corruption campaign on private planes supplied by wealthy donors and powerful corporations that just happened to have important business pending before the Senate Commerce Committee - chaired by a certain John McCain.

McCain's committee holds regulatory sway over a number of corporate interests, including telecommunications and transportation. So who's supplying his planes? Friendly corporate interests like railroad giants CSX and Union Pacific, and telecommunication behemoth BellSouth Corp, among many others.

Federal law, generous to a fault - or generous to politicians, anyway - allows office-seekers, including incumbents, to use private planes for campaign purposes, as long as they pay the private company the cost of an airline ticket. McCain minions said this meant that the white knight was not nosing in the corporate trough; in fact, he was paying them.

However, skeptical observers noted that the price of a plane ticket is far, far less than the cost of actually chartering a plane, which the campaign would have to do if the disinterested corporations didn't step in to help.

Thus every flight on borrowed wings is the equivalent of several thousand dollars' worth of campaign contributions.

Still, McCain soldiers on, fighting the good fight against indirect "soft money" contributions which, he says, "are tainting the political process" by allowing monied interests to "buy access" to office-holders. He himself is untainted, nobly staying above it all - which is easy to do, of course, when you're flying high in a corporate jet.

Hatchet Job

Two ancient faiths, at war for centuries - sometimes literally so, children of Abraham spilling fratricidal blood - have now joined together in a holy crusade against their common foe, a demonic power that threatens to destroy the very foundations of God's divine order: girls.

This week, conservative Christians - led by the Vatican - joined fundamentalist Moslems in Geneva for the second World Congress of Families, The Guardian reports. Pope John Paul II sent a top aide to bless the congress, which, in the words of Moslem leader Majid Katme, is waging war on "the gang of extremist feminists who are sick and twisted in their minds" and who are responsible "for all these destructive, disease-ridden, anti-God and anti-family values" at loose in the world. "We need a battle plan to oppose and expose this filth," Katme declared.

Yes, when religions bury the hatchet, you'd better watch out: They usually bury it in someone else's back.