Column: Who Can We Get to Fill Charlotte Beers's Big Shoes?

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Mr. Carpenter is working on a book about American demagoguery. He is a columnist for HNN.

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Former High Priestess of Madison Avenue and now rather obscure bureaucrat Charlotte Beers, the State Department's undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, is leaving her post around mid-March. However underreported this news has been -- having had to compete, after all, with the media's stirring and hyperpatriotic obsession about whether the world's greatest military power will level a backward desert nation in 2 minutes with Turkey's help or 10 minutes without -- the news is nonetheless most distressing and thus worthy of more space.

The cause for distress is that Ms. Beers' imposing task was, in the parlance of the New York Times, to "improve America's image among Muslim" nations. The undersecretary was well on her way to converting a Volkswagen-full of Muslims to pro-Americanism, and now that work stands at risk. An even more obscure bureaucrat, Patricia Harrison, has been named to only temporarily fill Ms. Beers's large pumps; hence her job dedication is doubtful.

A mere interim appointment is a sad sign that the usually cocksure White House and sycophantic sell-out Colin Powell have not yet a clue as to a permanent replacement for this most important, albeit low-key, position. Yet Mr. Powell himself publicly announced the job's chief requirement back in 2001, when he defended the appointment of Ms. Beers -- top-boss lady at J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather -- by saying "there is nothing wrong with getting somebody who knows how to sell something," especially pure crapola, by implication. Nothing wrong with that, indeed. Heavens, man, that happens to be the essence of the sell-only-the-sizzle Bush administration.

Still, notwithstanding its reputation for damning torpedoes without a moment's consideration of consequences, the administration, quite obviously, is stuck for names. Therefore, in hopes of building on Undersecretary Beers's groundbreaking achievements with all due speed, a privately funded, hastily organized screening committee -- Opportunists for Bush -- has composed a little-publicized list of qualified candidates. Each "knows how to sell something" of no intellectual substance whatsoever, thus each is admirably suited for an administration post and to bamboozle the bejesus out of a suspicious Muslim world. I quote directly from the committee's memorandum ….

· Billy Mays -- the ubiquitous, huckstering cable-channel Oxyclean, Ding King and Orange Glo guy. Anyone who can sell the public on pouring toxic goop on perfectly good wood could just as easily sell the idea that our carpet-bombing of innocent Iraqi Islamists is what Muslims, worldwide, really want.

· Bob Dornan -- former U.S. congressman and always-amusing psychotic. Unlike most of the right-wing commentariat, who understand and will confidentially confess after 3 martinis that White House policies are meant to benefit the 1 while devastating the 99, Bob is so out of touch with reality he'd likely infuse absolute earnesty in outrageous rhetorical silliness against sound Muslim concerns. In fact, Bob Dornan is so goofy they might even mistake his arrested development as some kind of weird genius.

· Jerry Falwell -- bigot. Be that as it may, he could busy himself for at least a year issuing insincere apologies and contorted explanations for every cretinous comment he has made about the ancient religion of Islam.

· David Copperfield -- stupendous magician. David could make those Muslim-hated U.S. airbases in Saudi Arabia disappear.

· Ann Coulter -- This lawyerly Beelzebub and darling of the demented Right could comfortably reinforce traditional Muslim prejudices about women in politics by repeatedly reiterating such inanities as "we should invade [Muslim] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."

· Kenneth Lay -- Bush good buddy and corporate swindler. Other than dodge indictments and thousands of … let us say … "disgruntled" former employees, what else has he got to do?

· David Horowitz -- unhinged historian. Since Mr. Horowitz left the Left and undertook penning right-wing revisionist screeds about his former compadres as devious monsters, dishonest demons, unconscionable villains and menacing fiends, he could, no doubt, kindly reinterpret the rocky history of U.S.-Middle East relations with equal verve and ingenuity.

And there you have it -- excellent candidates all. The committee's list may once have been deemed the stuff of the surreal, but no longer. We now reside in George W's world, where the obscene is policy, and the surreal is the norm.


© Copyright 2003 P. M. Carpenter

Mr. Carpenter's column is published weekly by History News Network and

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Barrett Archer - 3/12/2003

You forgot it's a P.M. Carpenter piece. No history necessary.

Rob Smith - 3/12/2003

wasn't there supposed to be something historical in this article? this is the history news network, right?