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How times have changed 

Twenty years ago, when the Metro Times was created, we lived in an entirely different world. Take politics, for example: Back then, the Democratic candidate for president was an incumbent who had largely disappointed liberals. His Republican opponent was regarded as having a more engaging personality, but there were widespread fears that he was too stupid and/or ignorant for the job.

There was a major progressive third-party candidate too, but the good guys were split on whether a vote for him was worthwhile, or a waste. Yes, we have come a long way, haven’t we? Now, we have Oprah. There are adult reporters, many of whom actually can read without moving their lips, who wrote stories analyzing the Deeper Meaning of George W.’s kissing the (sometimes) chubby talk-show host and Al Gore’s failure to do so.

Virtually all of them, however, missed the one significant moment in the Winfrey wars. Two Chicago activists — Danny Muller and Andrew Mandell — were in the studio audience. Eventually, they stood up and asked, “Mr. Bush, will you continue the Democrats’ policy on sanctions and bombing that kill 5,000 children a month in Iraq?”

Immediately, they cut to a commercial. Oprah, whose official studio biography says she was once a person of color, exclaimed, “You cannot just do that!”

She was right to be scandalized. Injecting a real issue into a presidential campaign! What an outrage! Apologizing, Muller explained he had just returned from Iraq, where he had seen children suffering from lack of food and medicine.

The Secret Service dragged them out of there, detained them briefly, and then let them go. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died. His question was stupid, however; of course the Republicans, if they regain the White House, will keep starving the innocents. We have true bipartisan consensus on that. Otherwise, the Iraqi people might get rid of Saddam Hussein, their murderous and repellent leader.

If that happened, what nation would we have available to bomb every few months, or whenever presidents need something to distract the public? There seems to be some danger the remains of Yugoslavia may actually oust its toy-poodle Hitler, Slobbo Milosevic, this week, which means we’ll need Saddam more than ever. Today’s protesters need to look at the long-term picture, damn it. Unlike Bill Clinton, that is, whose long-term view, as we long ago learned, extends about five inches. That’s certainly true when it comes to the nation’s emergency oil reserves. With oil prices high, he’s agreed to turn on the tap and release about 30 million gallons over the next month, basically to help elect Al Gore, though there is some official excuse that I haven’t bothered to remember. This is more dangerous than it might appear; it sets a bad precedent, and there is always the chance it will irritate OPEC, which might then give us something to really deplete our reserves about. But, hey. The ancient Romans always distributed free bread and circus tickets when they wanted something from the masses, and their empire turned out OK, didn’t it? Curiously, the masses seem to be smarter than given credit for; Big Al’s poll ratings took a dip right after this outrage was announced. Yes, imagining that anyone who can do simple sums would vote for Bush Minor is hard. But don’t be too sure the Democrats won’t find some way to lose this election yet; they’ve got nearly six weeks to do so.

For they are blowing the U.S. Senate race, once regarded as almost a sure thing for Debbie Stabenow, big-time. Her TV ads are wimpy and inane; she seems to have utterly failed to find any theme that connects with voters, and it now seems quite likely that our big, gooney-looking incumbent, a man who spent his first five years ignoring the state, will win going away. Last month I saw Spencer Abraham standing in line for the Ferris wheel at Comerica Park, completely ignored and unrecognized. But his vast sums of money have turned this around, particularly since Debbie seems to be running for the position of elementary school lunch lady. Let’s hope I am proven real wrong, real fast, but I don’t see much sign of it. Call Jay Leno. Please. And if that weren’t enough ... Michigan’s Democrats have belatedly discovered ... young people! So they are holding a “New Generation Leaders” conference in Royal Oak, Saturday, Oct. 7. “The conference is designed to energize Michigan politics,” by encouraging voters between 18 and 39 to get more involved,” says Gov. James J. Blanchard, Next Century Michigan chairman.

Yes, why, all my students will be quivering at the thought of giving up a Saturday to hear Blanchard speak. Or they would, except few have ever heard of him. He’s been out of power a decade, really lives in Washington now, and at 58, he’s older than their parents.

But wait! They’ve also got former State Sen. Lana Pollack, also 58, and, uh, Mark Gaffney, head of the Michigan AFL-CIO. (They also promise a “major representative of the Gore campaign.” First Mom Pauline?) To be sure, Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm, a mere 41, and the highest-ranking member of the McNamara machine, is coming, but she is not exactly a matinee idol of the piercing set. However, it does seem possible she soon will take the first steps toward defining how she will lose the governorship two years from now. So, Yoooo kids! Slick a little Brylcreem on your scalp, tuck yourself into those chinos, and come on down! It may not be your party, but you can cry if you want to, and order a box lunch for $5. Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Send comments to

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