Convention Dispatches August 2004

The Signs They Carried

Bush's detractors take to the streets with pithy eloquence

The signs carried by the thousands protesting the Republican National Convention in New York on Sunday trenchantly told the story of the Bush presidency; and, watching this river of citizens flowing past the C-Span cameras on 7th Avenue carrying, chanting, shouting, and wearing their opinions, I realized how commentators hostile to Bush—myself included—consistently bury the truth in facts. Eight-hundred words would only dissipate the charge of, "BUSH LIED. 972 SOLDIERS DIED," "QUAGMIRE ACCOMPLISHED," or "GEORGE BUSH HIJACKED OUR GRIEF AND FLEW IT INTO IRAQ." As for "DICK CHENEY BEFORE HE DICKS YOU," "PULL OUT, PULL OUT, PULL OUT LIKE YOUR DADDY SHOULD'VE," "LICK BUSH," and the Biblical "BUSH IS A TUSH," they recalled Alexander Pope's line on the hallmark of poetry: "What oft was thought/ but ne'er so well expressed."

In the anti-war demonstrations I went to in the 1960s, as well as in the 1972 march on Washington to protest Nixon's inauguration, some of the signs—"VICTORY TO THE NLF," for example—made many of us wish we weren't there. And, especially at the "STOP THE WAR" rallies, it was easy to resent signs calling attention to marginal-seeming causes; easy to grow spastic with boredom at the sectarian harangues given from the platform by their adherents. But the hatred of Bush among left-wing sectarians is such that, in Sunday's march at any rate, the few marchers who fit that description rose above monomania. Only one sign brought back a twinge of the old '60s pique: "U.S. OUT OF THE PHILLIPINES." A great idea, but not the first place we should get out of. And "COMMUNISTS FOR KERRY" had to have been a GOP plant.

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Jack Beatty is a senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly and the editor of Colossus: How the Corporation Changed America, which was named one of the top ten books of 2001 by Business Week. His previous books are The World According to Peter Drucker (1998) and The Rascal King: The Life and Times of James Michael Curley (1992). More

Jack Beatty"The Atlantic Monthly is an American tradition; since 1857 it has helped to shape the American mind and conscience," senior editor Jack Beatty explains. "We are proud of that tradition. It is the tradition of excellence for which we were awarded the National Magazine Award for General Excellence. It is the tie that binds us to our past. It is a standard we won't betray."

Beatty joined The Atlantic Monthly as a senior editor in September of 1983, having previously worked as a book reviewer at Newsweek and as the literary editor of The New Republic.

Born, raised, and educated in Boston, Beatty wrote a best-selling biography of James Michael Curley, the Massachusetts congressman and governor and Boston mayor, which Addison-Wesley published in 1992 to enthusiastic reviews. The Washington Post said, "The Rascal King is an exemplary political biography. It is thorough, balanced, reflective, and gracefully written." The Chicago Sun-Times called it a ". . . beautifully written, richly detailed, vibrant biography." The book was nominated for a National Book Critics' Circle award.

His 1993 contribution to The Atlantic Monthly's Travel pages, "The Bounteous Berkshires," earned these words of praise from The Washington Post: "The best travel writers make you want to travel with them. I, for instance, would like to travel somewhere with Jack Beatty, having read his superb account of a cultural journey to the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts." Beatty is also the author of The World According to Peter Drucker, published in 1998 by The Free Press and called "a fine intellectual portrait" by Michael Lewis in the New York Times Book Review.

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