by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
July 18, 2004
On The Campaign Trail
WINDER, Ga., July 17, 2004 -- The McDonald's at the corner of Hwy. 11 in Winder, Ga., seems an unlikely place to re-encounter the Old South. But here, on the inside of the men's room stall in the tiny bathroom, is evidence in the form of messages scratched into the formica some time ago. F*CK U NIGGERS, says one; F*CK WHITE TRASH MOTHER F*KERS, says another; here and there are the familiar initials KKK; in between and around those are several swastikas. Equal opportunity hate is appraently alive and well in Winder.
Out front, meanwhile, in fromt of the customers, a middle-aged white woman, apparently the manager, berates a young black cook. "You are so slow," she says contemptuously. "Are we out of meat?" The kid continues to move at a steady pace; meat only cooks so fast. You wonder if he is just biding his time; some people would surely go postal in this place.
A young man behind the counter said several customers had mentioned the messages on the men's room door, and twice workers had come to replace the door, but having read the messages, then refused.
If and when McDonald's gets around to reading this, maybe they can work on the handicapped access in the men's room stall, too. The bars on the side of the stall are mounted directly beneath the toilet-paper dispenser, so you can't get any out without tearing it off too soon.
Three hundred miles down the road miles in Lake City, Fla., the 25-ish, goateed white Steak 'n Shake cook came out for a moment to chat with the store's lone customer. Asked if he would support John Kerry in November, he replied, "Who's John Kerry?" He had never heard of the Democratic presidential candidate, so I mentioned that John Edwards was his vice-presidential running mate. "Oh, wow!" he exulted. "That's cool - he's got my vote!"
A few seconds later, it became clear he thought John Edwards was the guy who talks to the dead on "Crossing Over." Swifty, the Democratic donkey mascot that is leaving today from Georgia for the Democratic National Convention in Boston, may be better informed than some of the folks in the battleground Southern states that Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards must win if they are to defeat President George W. Bush in the fall.
The news tonight from CNN and Fox is even more evidence that President Bush may be the biggest ass of them all. The 9/11 Commission is now reporting, according to both networks, that there was evidence that one nation whose first three letters are "I-R-A" did help Al-Qaeda - and it is not Iraq. While Bush was busy whipping up a war that drove U.S. forces away from Afghanistan and the stronghold of Osama bin Laden, the Iranians were apparently fitting out some of the Saudi Arabian hijackers with false identity documents.
Not only that, but the Iranians were busy concealing a nuclear weapons program likely to threaten all its neighbors, including Israel, in years to come. And according to a Fox News report that Brit Hume aired and The American Reporter also told you about, the Iranians three months ago were also harboring Osama himself, according to high-ranking intelligence officials interviewed by Fox News' top Middle East correspondent. Long before that, shortly after the war started in 2003, in fact, The American Reporter urged the President to bring the war to Iran. But that nation apparently does not have enemies in high places in our government, as Iraq does.
As we Democrats all march to Boston, the fact that there is a convention there and that it is fundamental to all that democracy is appears to be playing second fiddle to another fact, that is "a special national security event," whether it wants to be or not. AR Correspondent Randy Holhut, who has spent several decades chronicling New England politics, warned me plainly.
"Boston is going to be the closest thing you've seen to martial law in the U.S. with the possible exception of NYC after 9/11. You won't be able to get within 8 blocks of the FleetCenter without the proper credentials -- all the streets around it will be closed from the 23rd to the 30th, as will North Station.
"As for the T [the Boston subway], it will be completely snarled. Bag searches have begun and anything larger than a briefcase won't be allowed on the trains and trolleys. The highways into Boston will be shutdown from 4 p.m. to midnight during the convention and there will be detours and lane limitations during the rest of the day. There's a 30-mile no-fly zone around the city for non-commercial aircraft. Most anything that can be canceled, moved or closed will be during that week.
"In other words, anyone who can is leaving the city that week and only conventioneers, protestors, journalists and fools are heading into Boston," Randy wrote.
The fact that Democrats are far more congenial to a peaceful resolution of the Iraq conflict - and perhaps less likely to be a target for al-Qaida - has not deterred the national security establishment from making our convention a four-day testimonal to just how far security preparations can go. Democracy is shuffled aside, security is crowned king, and politics - well, that's behind it all.
Just for the record, let me state here that I believe the next target of al-Qaida is not a national convention but an Amtrak or other train in northeastern New York, possibly Rochester or Buffalo. That's because amateur and pofessional train hobbyists have made photos available on the Internet of meticulously fashioned models of some of those those rail hubs, and a genuine al-Qaida cell also was exposed near Buffalo.
But while highways are the battleground of national security, they may also be the source of some interesting federal revenues. As I came up I-75 to I-85 towards Charlotte, N.C., where I am staying tonight, I believe I counted at least seven different "construction zones" where fines are doubled for excessive speeding but where no construction is occurring.
What happens to an impatient driver who enters a 60 m.p.h. "construction zone," sees no work or machinery, and is pulled over for doing 70? He or she pays a fine, I presume, since the posted speed limit is always enforceable. The government's share of that money, illicitly earned, may be the 2004 equivalent of the Old South's "speed traps" that nailed our parents as they traveled through small towns here in the '50s and '60s.
Editor's Note: An earlier edition of this article contained an unexpurgated four-letter word. We regret the oversight.
Joe Shea, publisher of The American Reporter and a longtime supporter of Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign, is enroute to Boston to cover the Democratic National Convention.