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Oct 21, 2017

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Wag the Dog
by Dawn Yun
Magazine Issue: U.S. Vol. 5.5
Al Franken

With the country at war, the economy in the toilet and the presidential election just months away, it seems appropriate to review a couple of hot political best-sellers.

Lies And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken is inventively written and extremely funny. Franken digs up some of the far right’s most absurd lies and then provides facts to prove that these people are, well, liars. He gleefully takes on the country’s leading conservatives. Bill O’Reilly may be the Fox Network’s number one star, but under Franken’s pen he’s revealed as boorish, “bluster, bullying and belittling.” As well as a very, very big liar.

Under the chapter entitled Bill O’Reilly: Lying, Splotchy Bully, Franken writes: See, O’Reilly always likes to crow about his hardscrabble childhood in working-class Levittown, Long Island. As he once told the New York Observer, “You don’t come from any lower than I came from on an economic scale.”

Trouble is, an inside source (O’Reilly’s mother) tells a different story. Mrs. O’Reilly proudly told the Washington Post that the family regularly took vacations in Florida, and that little Billy attended private school, a private college and that their home was in the affluent suburb of Westbury, not blue-collar Levittown.


Then there’s the chapter on Ann Coulter: Nutcase. Really, Al, be more specific. We’re not getting any sense of how you actually feel about her. Perhaps the phrase “nonstop rabid frothing,” which is what Franken uses when referring to Coulter’s books, may give us a hint. He refers to Coulter as “the reigning diva of the hysterical right. Or rather, the hysterical diva of the reigning right.”

No, Franken doesn’t seem to like her very much. He confirms this in his very next chapter: You Know Who I Don’t Like? Ann Coulter. One of his many issues with Coulter is her inconsistency and unfairness regarding liberals versus conservatives. In her view “Liberals hate America. Democrats actually hate working-class people. Democrats... will destroy anyone who stands in their way. All that matters to them is power.”

Hmmm? That last one sounds awfully Republican, doesn’t it? Coulter doesn’t have very nice things to say about a lot of people. She called Jim Jeffords, the Vermont senator who defected from the Republican Party, a “half-wit.”

And what really burns Coulter is that in the fawning liberal media, Jeffords’s degree from Yale cannot be cited often enough. (And consider that Jeffords got into Yale long before the terrorizing regime of the SATs, back when admission to the Ivy Leagues turned on social class rather than on standardized tests.)

Franken responds, “Quick. Yale, low SATs, social class? You thinking about who I’m thinking about?”

How does Coulter answer people who think our president may not be the brightest star in the firmament? Why, he “graduated from Yale College and Harvard Business School.”

Hypocrite, indeed.

From the pan into the roaring fire, Franken grills conservative hottie Sean Hannity, co-host and major kahuna of the Fox News Channel’s left/right debate show, Hannity and Colmes.

Alan Colmes is the moderate in the equation, but Franken says he’s a shallow liberal and, frankly, a wienie. So whenever you read the name Colmes it’s always in smaller type, like this: Hannity and Colmes.

But back to hunky Hannity, Franken thinks he’s not very bright, a bully and — keeping with the book’s theme — a liar. Hannity blames American Taliban John Walker Lindh’s skewed views on the fact that he was raised in liberal Marin County, California. What? And his Taliban dirt road was likely paved for him at birth because he was named after John Lennon. Corrects Franken, “No, actually, he was named after John the Baptist.”


If you’ve ever wondered how the far right gets away with the lies they tell, read this book to learn their methods. And be afraid. Very afraid.

Richard Clarke

You may remember Richard Clarke from his testimony during the 9/11 hearings.

He arrived with a prepared opening statement but upon seeing the relatives and friends of the 9/11 victims seated nearby, he pushed his script aside and instead spoke spontaneously from the heart. He said he was sorry he didn’t do enough to protect them, their loved ones and the country from 9/11. It wasn’t for lack of trying.

Clarke, a Republican, spent two decades as a public servant, much of it working in high-level counter-terrorism positions. Unfortunately, his was often a voice in the wilderness. His concerns about impending terror were heard as rants, and he was viewed as a bit of a madman.

Under the first president Bush, a Texas petrol man, it was, as those in the Middle East like to say, “All about the oil, stupid.”

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in a power grab for Saudi Arabian oil fields, there was no way Bush was going to allow this to happen. If he did, then Hussein would be in total control of most of the world’s oil. Hence the celebrated Gulf War. It was fast, furious and telegenic. But since Bush couldn’t get consensus from his allies to take Hussein out, America instead pulled out and Hussein was left in place.

This was an important tipping point for terrorists. Rather than the war seen as a show of strength, it was viewed as a sign of weakness in the eyes of some future famous terrorists, including one Osama bin Laden. America could be taken out.

With the elder Bush’s administration now gone and the Clinton regime having arrived, so, too, did a new position on terrorism: it became a high priority.

The Clinton people got it. They understood that terrorism kills. This was evidenced by the attacks on the World Trade Center (the first one), the USS Cole and embassy bombings. Clarke and others were able to link all the attacks back to al Qaeda and its strategist and financier: bin Laden.

Clinton approved needed monies, people and retaliations. Unfortunately, Clinton was fighting a different sort of terrorism at home in the form of political enemies intent on his demise.

With the enormity of what has taken place since, the sex scandals are but a memory and easily seen as tame, even quaint and surely stupid. Especially when we realize that while we were dealing with that, our enemies were planning something so big and so horrific that it seemed impossible to see it coming.

But Clarke and others did. That’s why by the time Dubya arrived, despite Clarke’s and Clinton’s best efforts to warn him and his people about al Qaeda and bin Laden, it seemed nobody in the second Bush administration was listening.

In January 2001, the new administration thought Clinton’s recommendation to eliminate al Qaeda be one of its priorities... well, rather odd, like so many of the Clinton administrations actions, from their perspective. Clarke laid out to Condi Rice, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell the importance of eradicating terrorism in general, and al Qaeda and bin Laden in particular.

Clarke writes, “My message was stark: al Qaeda is at war with us, it is a highly capable organization, probably with sleeper cells in the U.S., and it is clearly planning a major series of attacks against us; we must act decisively and quickly.”

“Iraq,” they said.

“Huh?” blinked Clarke.

How different things might have been if only they had listened.

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