I don't remember too many elementary school homework assignments, but I've never forgotten the afternoon in sixth grade when Miss Schadenfreude suddenly assigned the lovely Lora Whiting (who happened to be my girl) and me to debate... Mold. Miss Schadenfreude was given to the occasional melodramatic gesture and--more rarely--a three-quarter-force effort to tear some misbehaving boy's arm out of its socket. She was a large, robust woman in her late-2os; looking back I think it's possible she was going through a Rough Patch, but of course that sort of thing doesn't occur to you at age twelve.
Anyway, out of the blue she assigns my girlfriend and me to debate Whether We'd Be Better Off Without Mold. I believe it was the first time something said to me caused my jaw to drop. We were studying neither Molds nor Debate, nor was either upcoming, and even absent any knowledge of either I suspected it was a stupid idea. To this day I suspect that either our budding romance had reminded Miss Schadenfreude of some painful personal episode (we were, as I recall it, the first and only item in the class) or she had envisioned a weekly Boy vs Girl face-off on the issues confronting both modern science and the conscientious homemaker. I shot a glance at the dewy Lora, who seemed as dumbfounded as I, and asked the teacher for clarification. All I recall was that my young crush was to take the position that we'd be better off without Mold, and I was to argue the opposite, with the bout set for two days' hence.
Our school had no library. An itinerant peddler had talked my parents into buying The World Book Encyclopedia a couple years earlier, and from this I learned that mold, though the scourge of pre-sliced bread, was also the source of penicillin and some varieties of cheese too exotic for the Midwest. This was all news to me; I did not have any responsibilities toward the larder at home. I figured I now had the answer: a moldless world would be subject to increased risk of bacterial infections and reduced cheese selection. QED.
Meanwhile my sweetheart had discovered that if you ate enough of the wrong sort of mold it could have a deleterious effect on your health, and she took this as The Answer. In the event I scoffed at this, and still do, but we basically just hurled the same two sentences back and forth at each other for two minutes until Miss Schadenfruede roared at us to get back to our seats. The weekly debate program--if any--died right there, though I still maintain I won, and later that year she dumped me for Greg Hedges. I hope he gave her VD.
And speaking of mold, Helene Cooper, who last month disclosed her hope that if President Bush's new plan for Iraq succeeded we might be looking at, say, a Spanish Civil War instead of, perhaps, a combination of the Thirty Years' War and six years of Ron Popeil infomercials, is back this month with the idea that We've All Grown Weary of the Congressional Fingerpointing on Iraq. I'm not sure if her teacher assigned the article without giving it proper consideration, but she might as well have.
I mean, we are all tired of this, right? Those politicians? And their finger-pointing? Because the Democrats are pointing fingers at Republicans, and the Republicans are pointing fingers at the Democrats, and that, of course, means that everybody must be wrong.
This tactic has gone from being a quarter-pound of pure laziness on a faux-balance bun to a five-course all you can eat bullshit buffet. There's paragraph three, which confuses an undigested kernel for a pearl of wisdom:
“Self-righteous finger-wagging will not make Iraq any more secure,” lectured Representative Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican, during a House hearing in which his colleagues tore apart L. Paul Bremer III , the former United States point man in Baghdad after the war.
Although, famously, neither did L. Paul Bremer; maybe we should have tried them in reverse order. Next paragraph:
No one can say with certainty that Iraq is lost; it is too early to say whether President Bush’s new strategy to increase the number of American troops in Baghdad and Anbar by 21,500 won’t work. But, a continent and an ocean away, Washington is already positioning to lay blame if the worst happens. After all, history books are being written right now.
Not to mention crappy columns. One thing you've gotta say for the war's die-hard (from a continent and an ocean away) supporters: in just four short years they've figured out metaphysical certainty doesn't work. And just in time. Say, how's paragraph six shaping up?
Blame the Democrats.
Back when the Republicans were in control of the House and the Senate, they didn’t venture far toward an examination of President Bush’s Iraq strategy. Newly empowered, the Democrats have hauled in everyone but the kitchen sink: from Henry Kissinger to President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Say it again: is there any reason whatever to listen to a pundit whose lapses in logic would be unacceptable coming from the counterman at Frostee Freeze?
The real gem is saved for last, as the last page is halfway given over to a graphic designed to show omnidirectional finger-pointing, but which is reduced to using disgraced professional weasel Dinesh D'Souza in order to work in Bill Clinton's throbbing gristle. I'll let Cooper try to explain this herself; I'm not sure I could:
The conservative author argues in his recent book, “The Enemy at Home,” that President Carter’s withdrawal of support for the shah of Iran helped Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ’s regime gain power in Iran, thus giving radical Islamists control. Mr. D’Souza also says that President Clinton failed to respond to Islamic attacks and thus emboldened Osama bin Laden into thinking he could get away with the Sept. 11 attacks. Therefore, Mr. D’Souza says, American liberals are to blame for the rise of radical Islam and Muslim anger at America.
O.K., this isn’t technically an Iraq finger-point, but it seemed to capture the moment.
"Capture the moment"? Maybe she meant to say, "Rekindle the magic".