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The capital of war, the new Crossfire, same old government

By Jackson Murphy
web posted April 22, 2002

"Two Capitals"
Sadly Washington D.C. is overrun with ugliness. The threat of terrorism since September 11th has changed the capital. Concrete barriers, closed roads, and security checks are all a part of what was supposed to be the new reality. But the added security, while understandable, has not really added any realistic security. A few barriers will do nothing if terrorists want to use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.

The hastiness of these precautions have led to eyesores in front of the White House, the Capital, and its surrounding office buildings. Traffic patterns have changed, but you can still drive very close to the big monuments and sites. It is hard to blame the rush to ensure security, but it so obviously provides only a feeling that these places are safe from terror.

These technical changes may have altered the landscape but it has not taken away from the spirit of the city. It is vibrant and alive, and no one seems bothered by living in target central. And this reality has not stopped the true nature of the beast. The federal government still continues to grow and grow, and well, you get the point. The city is actually the place of two wars. On the one hand the capital is the center of the war on terrorism abroad. On the other hand it is a war waged by thousands of workers (aids, advisors, and lobbyists). The latter is the true ballgame of Washington-the allocation of the resources of America. The war abroad just hasn't changed that game one bit.

I attended the new edition of CNN's "Crossfire" show last week and watching it in person gives the show a real context that doesn't come across on television. I always knew Robert Novak was grumpy, but he is delightfully so in person. He acts and talks as if he is truly annoyed and bothered by the other host (in this case Paul Begala) even being there. He exemplifies a typical rogue conservative who doesn't always buy into what the Republican administration does, but enough of it to torment guests and co-hosts alike.

When Begala opined that, "We have a president who doesn't know what in the world he's doing in the world. When you Republicans try to defend the Bush foreign policy it's like the guys who said well, the food on the Titanic was really good. That may well be. But the point of our foreign policy is to advance our interests around the world." Novak simply retorted, "There you go again, cheap demagoguery."

Begala for his part really is the democratic stooge you think he is. Although I must admit that he is pretty funny and plays his role as left wing weasel very well. He did spend every commercial break asking the audience who had won the previous segment. Proving that a political hack can rarely change spots and you can just imagine him in the Clinton White House waiting for those poll numbers to say, "They like me, they really like me." Much to his chagrin the audience was stacked with current White House interns. He claimed that the addition of James Carville and himself to the "Crossfire" would begin an era where the left would start to "kick butt." The truth is that butt kicking for the left is actually a metaphor for the trouble the modern day left is in. Rather than make a credible and interesting argument Begala goes for cheap laughs and Democratic talking points.

The other thing you miss on television is when Begala says something truly obnoxious or stupid, you rarely see Novak's reaction which is chock full of eye rolling and head shaking. You know that he must go home and wonder how he got paired up with the "garden gnome" that the cast of Saturday Night Live so lovingly portray him as during their "Hardball" skits. And it is hard to bear the one talking point Begala has - every political and current event revolves around how Bush stole the election. This nights talking points on the 2000 election: "Bush didn't win anything more than a five to four vote on a Supreme Court that his daddy helped pick." Then in response to the claim that Bush won the electoral vote: "You know, actually he didn't. Robert from Florida, he was at the scene of the crime, but we can set that aside." All in all though it was a fun evening, and encourages me to watch it over the ever deteriorating Chris Mathews.

"Hustling it"
It was with giddy pleasure that I took the news that on Capital Hill all members of congress receive a brown paper envelop every month from the mysterious Flint Publications. All members receive their complimentary copy of Larry Flint's publication "Hustler". While slim on political content I am sure that many members of congress read it only for the articles. Right!

But considering that the Capital is run by twenty year olds the perks of having the odd "dirty" magazine is the least of our worries.

Jackson Murphy is a commentator from Vancouver, Canada. He is a contributor to Enter Stage Right and the editor of "Dispatches" a website that serves up political commentary 24-7.

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