What Now?

Developments, encouraging and otherwise

In diplomacy, too, the new way is blunt, fearless, damn the torpedoes. "I have nothing but hatred in my heart for him," the former American President George H.W. Bush said of the man who tried to blow him up, Saddam Hussein. "I haven't seen him for a long time," French President Jacques Chirac said of the man he once called his "personal friend," Saddam Hussein, to whom he provided a nuclear reactor that he could never have guessed might be subverted to provide the Iraqi regime with the fissile material required in its very nearly successful effort to build a nuclear bomb. "He's probably changed since; so have I," added the fearless Frenchman, in what The New York Times called "a striking departure," although without saying from what, exactly.

In a related striking departure, and in today's spirit of truth-telling and self-awareness, North Korean officials acknowledged (after U.S. diplomats confronted the officials with powerful evidence, and after a no doubt merely reflexive spasm of denying everything) that, actually, North Korea, Iraq's personal axis-of-evil friend, was in fact—and not entirely in keeping with its assertions to the contrary under the 1994 agreement with the United States to abandon all nuclear weapons in exchange for light-water nuclear reactors and some fuel oil—conducting a major nuclear-weapons program. You might say that this development suggests North Korea is not, alas, perfect—but (and this is what counts) North Korea knows this about itself. And it is not afraid to admit it. The heart thrills to live in such a time.

The new truth is everywhere in politics. In an unusually candid expression of its views, the Democratic National Committee put on its Web site an animated cartoon in which George W. Bush, saying "Trust me," shoves two people (one an old lady) in wheelchairs down a jagged slope meant to symbolize the falling stock market. Leading Republicans asserted, candidly, that they found this depiction of the President to be tasteless. The DNC spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri explained, with equal candor, "It wasn't tasteless. It was amusing." You will notice that Ms. Palmieri made no claim that the cartoon was perfect—perfectly fair, perfectly fitting, perfectly appropriate, perfectly conducive to that climate of enlightened inquiry that Ms. Palmieri joins all political professionals in striving to foster. Ms. Palmieri admits, as we all do, the truth implied by the poet Baraka: politics is not perfect, alas. But if it is amusing, isn't that enough? When did we become such an unforgiving people?

"Why do [White House reporters] have to have everything spoon-fed ahead of time?" said the White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, in a moment of exemplary honesty that will surely be forgiven by a press corps that is always the first to admit its imperfections. "There's a tendency by reporters to wildly exaggerate the trauma they go through so they have better excuses for their editors for why they don't have a story."

George W. Bush has "a natural poise, like a ballet dancer," said an openly admiring Norman Mailer, who wrote a novel called Tough Guys Don't Dance, but who in the new spirit of the age is not afraid to honestly address his more intimate feelings for men in leotards. "Never before have I seen an American President who moves so gracefully before TV cameras. Everything he does seems to have been choreographed, even when he feeds his dog."

Bush as ballet dancer, Mailer as ballet critic, Fleischer as media critic, Torricelli as conscience of a nation, Baraka as state poet. Why, it is all perfect. And with 100 percent of the vote in Iraq counted, Saddam Hussein has won with 100 percent of the vote. Perfect.

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