Thursday, December 02, 2004

Sign of the Beast; Strange Ramblings from Marshall Lucky

sign of the beast
Ah ... Terrorists; that word again. It was a heavy word to get around in the bizarre world of campaign punditry this year - like the "misery index" during the last days of Jimmy Carter, and "It's the Economy, Stupid" with Bubba in 1992.

2005 figures to be a rather boring media year for politics. The 911 Commission has managed, with reason, to crush every living thing from the Administration on down to the Capitol Police ... and every once in a while a senator or congressman manages to get a moment of air time for beating on the frayed wooden door that serves as a barrier between the barbarians on the hill and the Chimperor who has become suddenly curious about countries other than Iraq and Iran, but looking more and more like a senile ACC football coach out on a recruitment trip for psychotic tackling machines because the Viagra had finally kicked in.

Lost in the spastic procession of cabinet and other political appointments being rustled like rampaging cattle banging into an electrified fence, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge bought himself a glare of momentary affection from the news cameras to quickly announce that his department - the White House committee to entrap Muslims, erode civil liberties and enrich Home Depot's all across America through the pointless sale of duct tape and clear plastic sheeting - would continue in its mission to alert and scare the public long after he leaves public service, on or about February 1st.

"There will always be more to do, but today, America is significantly stronger and safer than ever before," he said in his resignation letter. "The president has given me an extraordinary opportunity to serve my country in this incredible period since September 11th, 2001."

"I think we've accomplished a great deal in a short period of time," Ridge said. "We have to be right a billion-plus times a year. ... The terrorists only have to be right once."

Someday the story of Tom "Marshall Lucky" Ridge will be a gripping tale of stupidity gone insane, and perhaps the most interesting thing that can be said about him is that he made no sense, not even to a true-blood believer willing to sell the rest of the water cooler crowd that he was needed in the first place. But who could possibly believe it anyhow? There he was - sworn in as the nation's chief security guard over 22 government agencies including ports, immigration and customs, along with the deep pockets of the US Treasury, in the wake of the most terrible attack on American soil since 1945 - and the best thing that he could do was produce a pedomorphic color chart that was quickly adopted by USA Today and Fox News like sugar-crazed kids being handed the candy corn plate at church ... but somehow, with the fallout still settling in high gear as the suspicions grew amongst the long shadows of an administration rudely interrupted from its year-long Jim Beam and golf tournament, Secretary Ridge would appear all Inspector Gadget-like each time the Rethug National Committee needed a few more votes out in Dairyland or Klansville, replacing the word "soccer" with "security" for moms - from amber waves of grain, to purple mountains and right into alabaster cities gleam - and the best he can do is arrest Cat Stevens after his plane was diverted in mid-flight from London, having changed half of his name to "Islam" and looking all wild-eyed for the inconvenience. Not even Barney Fife could have missed that one.

The caption under the Ridge photo the next day said, "The Cat Stevens incident has its origins in a spelling mistake." The only ugly face on the page was that of the Secretary himself: He seemed like a sweet potato with an extreme case of mange - it happened to be the face of a bureaucrat who saw nothing wrong with telling the world just how irrelevant this American system had become and proceeded to rile up the viewing public like a gang of thugs with bullhorns and seemed determined to kick the living shit out of anyone stupid enough to laugh while the cameras were rolling - and it was clear right then that Marshall Lucky would retreat to the backwoods "T" of Pennsylvania, in that little cozy place of the state between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, which James Carville once called "Alabama."

Incredible as it seemed then, Herr Sekretary and his keystone security cops raised the color to light bronze in celebration of capturing Yusuf Islam before he could break into the jihadist stylings of Moonshadow, because of activities that could "potentially be related to terrorism," which was at least twice removed from actually knowing a terrorist or even sympathizing with a cause, and left the media talking heads wondering if this idea of a Homeland Security Department was making anyone actually safer.

That was several months ago, before the post-election depression crept in and began crashing around the preznut - and the country - into a senseless rage, destroying everything that the Homeland Security Department touched. First it was secret terrorist cells, then demonstrators in NYC, and finally into the brink of chasing three year old intelligence at Citibank building, just to be sure that the IT department wasn't manufacturing a thermo-nuclear device ... and it was right about that time when the rest of the Crawford Crime Family of Good Ole Boys decided to take a good hard look at Rudi Guilliani to see if he could do better than Marshall Lucky. He wasn't much more than an asshole; but like the Stone Hawks used to say about Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein in the clandestine candy factory at Langley, at least he's our asshole.

* * *

In 1994, Ridge ran for governor of Pennsylvania, winning the election as a Republican. He was reelected in 1998, serving until his resignation to become Secretary of Homeland Security in 2001. As governor, he promoted "law-and-order" policies, supporting a three-strikes law and a faster death penalty process. He signed more than two hundred execution warrants, five times the number signed over a 25-year period by the two previous governors. On social issues, he opposed gay marriage, and, despite being a Roman Catholic, supported abortion rights.

Any administration that can't cough up something better than a menacing brain-damaged old baboon like Marshall Lucky - for all intents and purposes - deserves every savage beating it gets. The political machine doesn't make them loyal to a fault any more - but just to be sure that Ridge never makes a grand appearance in Iowa looking for a few caucus votes, he should be castrated with garden shears as soon as the Gulfstream touches down in Philadelphia.

It will be a very narrow escape, of course. Because even Rethugs know that a wounded animal can be dangerous, so it's best to be sure about these things, and there aren't enough bullets in the gun currently working its way around the CIA. And it was not until he posted his resignation in The Washington Post and his soon-to-be-ex-staffers felt free enough to speak that I discovered that working for Marshall Lucky was like being locked in a circus tent with a furious 300-pound gorilla. A few of his capable consiglieri regard him as a deranged lunatic. He had several personalities that could be flipped on and off like a light switch, they offered, and there was no matrix that helped the unprepared deal with the day on which they would be visited by Fletcher Christian, Bobcat Goldthwaite, Spiro Agnew, Hamlet, or SpongeBob Square Pants.

There are many strange Marshall Lucky tales for the naked city, but right now is not a time to get into them. Maybe after the inauguration, when the reality of another four years amongst the doomed finally subsides - even though that is not so certain, right now: The Administration is weird and getting crazier by the minute.

The game will get harsh sometimes, and there are no teas leaves in politics. You don't want to go off putting the squeeze on insiders unless you're free of sleaze. Disappear the skeletons, Carlo Gambino used to warn his capos, and no secret vices that we don't approve of ... because if your political longevity is important and the price is steep, the fixer-shark will have already punched your ticket by the time he offers to buy you a place at the table. If you visited a mosque five years ago to get a couple more votes out of the precinct, the shark will surface suddenly to confront you with FBI photos of the handshake shot that has been edited to show a thick envelope of cash changing hands.

There are other versions of the long con: the staged hit-and-run with you at the wheel, tiny plastic bags found in your hotel room by the paid-off maid, whisked off the streets by corrupt policemen for "repeatedly touching" a teenage girl that you never met before ...

If that ever happens to a candidate, it's over. The gas tank is empty, and the party spokesperson comes on Meet the Press to declare that you "no longer have a decision making role" in party policy.

Citing a desire to devote more time to his family - which government type people always say when they are weighing their options - Marshall Lucky announced, "After more than 22 consecutive years of public service, it is time to give personal and family matters a higher priority."

By the time 2008 comes rolling around, we should be able to close the books on Ridge - one way or another we'll finally know what exactly he did as Secretary of Homeland Security. He certainly didn't make us any safer, after all. Odds, currently at 5 to 2, say: he was building a dossier and taking names.


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