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The Guilfoile-Warner Papers

A Week Away

In 2001 Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner lampooned the new president in their book, My First Presidentiary. Now, with the real possibility of four more Bush years, they discuss the issues facing today’s voters. This week: the possible effects of such last-minute topics as lesbians, pejoratives, and conservatives vs. conservatives.

Oct. 20, 2004


Just under two weeks to go as I write this, and to me, the election looks like one of those old Battle of the Network Stars tug-of-war competitions where each side would be intractably dug into the sand and the little ribbon in the middle would move only a couple of inches one way or another for hours while we were treated to close-ups of Farrah Fawcett’s trembling cleavage and Gavin MacLeod’s sweat-coated brow.

While this election is proving to be somewhat more interesting than watching Gabe Kaplan and Hal Linden face off in the 100-meter hurdles while wearing full snorkeling gear, barring something more unexpected than the Red Sox comeback against the Yankees or Alan Alda’s return to episodic television on The West Wing as a Republican, I think that ribbon is going to be inching back and forth until Election Day, and maybe even for the days and weeks after.

So I thought I’d look at some recent events and see if I could figure out how they’re impacting the race.

1. Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter

If, as so many conservative commentators have alleged, Kerry outed Mary Cheney, why did we know it in 2000 and use it in My First Presidentiary? Do you remember being a Washington insider at the time? I thought you worked in advertising, and I in the porn industry.

One would think that the party that supports institutionalizing discrimination against gays and lesbians in the Constitution itself would be vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy given that the vice president’s daughter is indeed out and in a committed relationship, but apparently John Kerry is the bad guy for even bringing it up.

Of course, believing that Kerry was out of bounds requires one to think that being gay is inherently shameful, like being a Yanni fan or something, but no, they object to a violation of her privacy.

Interestingly, I haven’t heard a peep out of the Cheneys regarding Alan Keyes’s lunatic proclamations over the evil of homosexuality. I predict that before the end of the election season, Keyes will assert that lesbians are seeking to convert the entire heterosexual population to their godless hedonist ways in an effort to choke off the procreation of the species. According to Keyes, as the meteor was to the dinosaurs, Rosie O’Donnell is to the human race.

Effect on race: positive for Bush

2. Jon Stewart calling Tucker Carlson a “dick”

I’ve thought that Tucker Carlson was a dick for years, but I was pleased to see someone say it to his face on national television. Since we’ve broken that ice, here are other one-word names for the current crop of political hacks:

Sean Hannity: Creep

Alan Colmes: Milquetoast

Paul Begala: Munchkin

Pat Buchannan: Creep

Michelle Malkin: Creep

Ann Coulter: Harpy

James Carville: Creepy creep

Terry McAuliffe: Oily creep

Ed Gillespie: Chinless creep

Karl Rove: Evil (duh)

Effect on race: neutral

3. Ron Suskind’s lengthy Bush profile in the New York Times

The hottest bit to get picked up was Bush’s apparent pledge to supporters to privatize Social Security (which he’s publicly denied), but I was most struck by this quote from a Bush aide:

“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

This is the sort of quote that enrages Bush haters, but it reinforces his base, so while I firmly believe the quote is scarier than the first time Michael Jordan retired, it won’t do Bush any harm.

But since they can control reality, let me put in a request for granting my dogs the ability to poop gold nuggets.

Effect on race: neutral

4. Pat Robertson criticizes Bush war planning

I’ve never thought of Pat Robertson as a member of the “reality-based” world, but even he foresaw a more difficult struggle in Iraq than President Bush. Apparently Robertson was receiving different messages from above than the president. Could it be possible that we would have been better off with a Robertson presidency?

Effect on race: Hurts my head to think about it, but probably positive for Bush. If Reagan was Teflon, Bush is rubber and Kerry glue. Remember how the guy who stepped up and volunteered to serve in a combat zone is the pussy and the other guy who used connections to get into the Air National Guard and then not even show up after a while is a warrior?

This is like that.

5. Shortage of flu vaccine

Bad planning and lack of foresight look to be the culprits here, kind of like when I thought it wouldn’t be a problem to climb up and over that 18-foot fence topped with barbed wire when I was looking for a shortcut on the way home after a lengthy college happy hour.

I can’t really lay this directly at the president’s feet, but it is his government, so it’s hard to see how he’s going to turn this on Kerry, though it’s possible the GOP will accuse him of causing the contamination by hawking a loogie into the vaccine at the manufacturing plant.

Effect on race: neutral. Though if I catch the flu from some un-inoculated kid or senior, there’ll be serious hell to pay.



* * *

Oct. 21, 2004


God, if this campaign only afforded us glimpses of Gabe Kaplan’s wit and Farrah Fawcett’s cleavage. Or even vice-versa.

Following your lead, I will take your topics one at a time.

1. Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter

Considering the only male role model in the house, the real story as far as I’m concerned is that Dick Cheney has a straight daughter.

I don’t remember who our source was on Mary Cheney’s lesbianism back in 2000, but we must have had someone on the inside because we also were the only ones who knew ahead of time about Bush’s plans for a moon-based death ray.

2. Jon Stewart calling Tucker Carlson a “dick”

I have said many times what a fan I am of Jon Stewart, but I thought the Crossfire episode was bizarre. Call me old-fashioned, but if Stewart’s point was that Crossfire’s shouting-match format demeans intelligent debate, then I don’t understand how that point is served by going on the show and calling Tucker Carlson a dick. Also, Stewart told a brazen lie on the program. Challenging Begala’s contention that Crossfire is a “debate show,” Stewart said: “No, that would be great. I would love to see a debate show.” The truth is Jon Stewart would never watch a show in which a pair of policy wonks engaged in civil discussion about pertinent issues of the day. Nobody would watch that show, and I have over 50 years of Nielsen ratings to prove it.

In any event, Carlson was right about one thing. If you mock Regis and Kelly for asking inane questions of John Kerry on their show (as Stewart did) and then ask equally inane questions of John Kerry when he appears on your show (as Stewart did), you shouldn’t be surprised that no one takes you seriously when you go on Crossfire (where Kerry won’t appear for fear of being asked an uncomfortable question) and lecture them on their “responsibility to the public discourse.” I have no problem with Jon Stewart doing any of those things individually, but it’s difficult to get away with all three.

And I do think Stewart longs to be taken seriously. On The Daily Show, his energy and attention are heightened considerably when he plays host to a serious guest like John McCain or Chuck Schumer. On Crossfire, however, Stewart looked tired and frustrated. Frustrated with the media and frustrated with his own role in it. George Bush’s moon-based death ray aside, I’m no good at making predictions, but I’m going to attempt one here: A year from now, Jon Stewart will no longer be hosting The Daily Show. He will move on to another forum where he doesn’t have to grin his way through interviews with the cast of The OC and suck up to politicians in ways that undermine him when he thinks he has something important to say. I hope I’m wrong, but to paraphrase Stewart’s response when a Homer Simpson-like Carlson demanded he be more funny, I don’t think Jon Stewart wants to be our monkey anymore.

3. Ron Suskind’s lengthy Bush profile in the New York Times

I used to shrug off worries about Bush’s fundamentalist leanings because I never really thought his born-again religiosity was sincere. I sort of thought of him as a Reagan Protestant—a man with loads of scripted Christian rhetoric who nevertheless every Sunday barely gets out of his PJs before the one o’clock NFL kickoff on Fox. I’m not so sure anymore. His beliefs might not have been acquired in a serious or intellectual fashion, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t sincere. As you put it, that Times piece was seriously scary.

Years ago, you and I were hawking our book in Philadelphia and we made a bold proposal to the audience. As an alternative to the administration’s faith-based initiatives, we suggested “Faith Hill-based initiatives.” Instead of giving tax dollars to religious charities to do good works, we thought it would be more efficient (not to mention constitutional) to give tax dollars to celebrities, and have them do good works. Since I’ve been home with my son I’ve been watching a lot of Oprah, and given the state of things right now I would be really comfortable with Oprah at the head of some sort of benevolent monarchy. Think about it: “YOU get health insurance! YOU get health insurance! YOU get health insurance! EV-ER-Y-BO-DY GETS HEALTH IN-SUR-ANCE!” Of course, her staff would check you out first to make sure you really need it and you’re not some layabout trying to defraud the system.

Another day, Sharon and Arafat would come to Camp David and Arafat would admit to Oprah that he’s a closet Neil Diamond fan. Then, suddenly Neil would emerge from behind a curtain: From everywhere around the world, they’re coming to America! Sharon and Arafat would jump to their feet, clinging to one another, shrieking OH! MY! GOD! And in that instant they would realize that Yahweh and Allah are one in the same, the God of Abraham, and he sings to them through this remarkable jewel-encrusted performer. Done deal.

I really don’t see any flaws in it.

4. Pat Robertson criticizes Bush war planning

This is a man who believes he can control the weather, who thinks hurricanes are caused by gay people, and who once suggested it would be a good thing for America if everyone in the State Department were murdered in a nuclear explosion. Now he says something critical of George Bush and suddenly liberals think he has all kinds of credibility. The only disturbing thing about this story is that Pat Robertson gets to talk to the leader of the free world at all.

5. Shortage of flu vaccine

News leaked out last week that flu shots were made available to all Bears players and front-office employees, even though the team really couldn’t be any worse if a few offensive linemen went down with the sniffles. This issue is all about self-interest, and as far as I’m concerned it’s every granny and toddler for him or herself. My son got the first half of his flu shot a month ago and he’s scheduled for the second half next month. If he doesn’t get it I’m going on a Sigourney-Weaver-in-Aliens-type rampage through the Department of Health and Human Services.

Except, you know, without the gun and probably over the phone.


TMN Contributing Writer John Warner is the author of the preeminent guide to winning the race for the Oval Office, So You Want to Be President?, and is Chief Creative Czar of TOW Books. He teaches at the College of Charleston.

TMN Contributing Writer Kevin Guilfoile’s debut thriller, Cast of Shadows, was named one of the Best Books of 2005 by the Chicago Tribune and the Kansas City Star. His humor has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Maxim, and The New Republic. More by Kevin Guilfoile & John Warner