JOHN EDWARDS had one thing right: There are two Americas. But he botched the description of the line dividing these Americas--not surprising given that, after all these months and all that trial lawyer cash, he managed only to win the Democratic primary in South Carolina, which is like a Republican winning only the GOP primary in Washington, D.C.
The dividing line between Americans runs between those who are serious about the world and the nation and those who are silly on these subjects.
Silly people listen to Michael Moore. Silly people issue marriage licenses to couples ineligible to receive them because they feel that it is important to do so. Silly folks think Dick Cheney is still running Halliburton and that Halliburton is running the war. Silly people make ads for websites that feature George W. Bush morphing into Hitler. Silly people think we've got Osama bin Laden stashed away in a cave waiting for a September debut. Silly people look to Maureen Dowd for insight into the world.
Because many Americans have slipped into the silly category, the rest of us are beginning to forget that those folks are indeed silly. Some people once thought of as serious have adopted silly positions. Such as, for instance, Madeleine Albright speculating that the United States has Osama under wraps. We respect the office she once held and resist branding Albright as silly. And thus some small bit of credibility becomes attached to her bizarre thought-process.
JOHN KERRY gave an extraordinarily silly speech in the Senate on Tuesday, stating, for example that "[t]here is a gap between America's Field & Stream gun owners and the NRA's Soldier of Fortune leaders." That's an absurd, self-serving comment, and just one of many. Another quote from the speech: "There is no right to have access to the weapons of war in the streets of America, and to those who want to wield those weapons, we have a place for them. It is the United States military." Again, there is little logic in that statement, either in the idea that "weapons of war" were being debated in the Senate, or that the military welcomes gun nuts. But because we have become used to absurd statements--divorced from facts and empty of argument--we get remarks like Kerry's.
In his victory speech later that evening, Kerry struck a familiar note. "Change is coming to America," he bellowed, as though no one had noticed the extra-legal circuses in San Francisco, New York, and now Portland. Kerry shouted that he had "no illusions about the Republican attack machine" that would now turn its attentions to him--this after Terry McAuliffe's charge that Bush was AWOL, Al Gore's charge that Bush "betrayed" his country, and Wes Clark's charge that Bush wasn't patriotic. (The nominee of a party advised by James Carville and Paul Begala warning of the coming of the "Republican attack machine" isn't offensive. It's just absurd.)
SO WE ARE LAUNCHED into a showdown between serious America and absurd America. John Kerry, again from Tuesday evening, stated bluntly that George W. Bush heads the "most inept, reckless, and ideological foreign policy in the history of this country." No matter how one evaluates recent events in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya--and they look pretty good to me--they cannot seriously be compared negatively with losing a war in Vietnam, watching Iran slide into virulent Islamism, or allowing Osama bin Laden to nest and metastasize in Kabul and its precincts. Still, millions of Americans will believe Kerry's outlandish excess not because of evidence that he has presented, but because they want to.
Hugh Hewitt is the host of The Hugh Hewitt Show, a nationally syndicated radio talkshow, and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard. His new book, In, But Not Of, has just been published by Thomas Nelson.