Thursday, December 16, 2004

SIMON SAYS. I call her the Crazy Jesus Lady, and at first sight this article certainly suggests madness, conjuring images of CJL abandoning her bench and shopping bags to grab an unsuspecting Terry McAuliffe in the street and scream at him, "Confound them, Terry! Come forward with a stand. It is the stand that is the salvation, not mysterious words or codes or magic messages."

But I have come to think that Peggy Noonan is only mad north-northwest, and that there is a canny method to her suggestion that the Democratic Party take a strong, public stand on Christmas (in favor, in case you wondered). One of the advantages of feigned insanity is that you can say and do things the mentally intact could never dare; a sham loon need not concern herself with appearances, and so is free to rail and gibber toward the end making normal people like the Democratic Chairman very uncomfortable.

Thus McAuliffe is told to "announce that from here on in the Democratic Party is on the side of those who want religion in the public square, and the Ten Commandments on the courthouse wall for that matter. Then he should put up a big sign that says 'Merry Christmas' on the sidewalk in front of the Democratic National Committee Headquarters on South Capitol Street. The Democratic Party should put itself on the side of Christmas, and Hanukkah, and the fact of transcendent faith." And what can the poor man do? To decree publicly that, as Noonan declares, "the Constitution does not say it is wrong or impolite to say 'Merry Christmas'" would be tantamount to insisting that kittens are cute or that ice cream is tasty. I assume (indeed hope) that McAuliffe is willing, in his quest for votes, to play the fool -- but to imitate a clear and present fool would be disastrous.

To announce that the Democratic Party supports Christmas is not a first step toward consensus-building, but a step (and it wouldn't be the Dems' first, alas) in a ridiculous game of Simon Says that would be followed in short order by patriotic declarations of faith in baseball, clean living, microwavable popcorn, and better-tasting calcium supplements for women -- while outside the field of play, wars rage and the economy collapses. The Democrats would always be a step behind in this game, as their opponents are calling the shots, and would become ever more worried and insecure at the prospect of doing something that Simon didn't Say. Hell, a lot of them already are.

It's a neat trick she's pulled, and suggests that our Crazy Jesus Lady is only putting on her antic disposition. In a way that's reassuring, as it alleviates somewhat the nagging feeling that our national debate is led by the clinically insane. But then you have to worry about the people who listen to her.

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