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Highway to the danger zone - Justin Reedy

One could practically hear the theme music from "Top Gun" playing over the video footage as it was repeated ad infinitum on CNN and Fox News.

President Bush, resplendent in his flight suit, pilot's helmet clutched perfectly under his crooked arm, did his best Maverick impression as he sauntered across the tarmac of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, snapping a perfect salute to the officer of the deck.

A more fitting cinematic reference, perhaps, would be "Independence Day," the sci-fi flick in which the prez has to recall his days as a fighter pilot and suit up to beat the big, bad, faceless, evil, etc. aliens.

Given Bush's protracted worldview, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if he identifies with such juvenile fantasies, which is a little bit sad, but obviously his prerogative. But it takes a turn for the nefarious when Bush Administration mastermind Karl Rove throws the president's background out the window (records indicate Bush disappeared from his national guard unit for a year), turns him into a military man and prances him in front of news cameras for a glorified photo op disguised as a major policy speech.

The publicity stunt was so transparently meant to identify Bush with the military flying high from victory in Iraq that my long-deceased Democrat relatives sniffed it out through a half-inch of pine and six feet of earth. Unfortunately, much of the Bush constituency seems incapable of abstract, critical thought, which would lead them to question the president's motives in such a move. (Many in this same group, you might recall, believed that Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for 9/11, a claim not even Bush was reckless enough to make.)

For as sickening and patronizing as the "Top Gun" PR move was, though, it was only enough to give Bush's approval rating a nudge n it seems Rove has saved his masterstroke for just before next November's election.

He and other GOP leaders are pushing to have the Republican National Convention moved to later in the year n early September, to be precise, setting up what could be the latest nominating convention in party history. Why would they be pushing the convention back so late? Simple: the RNC is holding it in New York City this time around.

In the ultimate attempt at political gamesmanship, Rove no doubt plans to have Bush give his acceptance speech a stone's throw away from the area devastated by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, profiting from the sympathy evoked by the thousands of people killed that day. Only eight weeks removed from the election, if our spineless national media gives Bush a free pass on the shameless move it will likely seal his re-election, ensuring four more years of not "misunderestimating" our chief executive as he wages war on anyone he views as evil, regardless of international opinion.

Don't get me wrong, though. I know Democrats are just as capable of political grandstanding n recall, for instance, Al Gore's misguided attempts to reference "real people" who would be helped by his programs, only to have those personalities later revealed as manufactured.

But right now, the Democratic Party's political moves seem more centered on utilizing parliamentary procedure and legislative rules to prevent actions they view as wrong.

Much has been made of Democrats successfully blocking the appointments of some of Bush's more conservative judicial nominees by filibustering in Congress, and some Republicans have even gone so far as to denounce their opponents as reckless lawbreakers bent on gridlocking the government. (Pay no attention to the fact that Bill Clinton had to carefully select his judicial nominees lest they run into opposition because they're too liberal.)

Democrats in Texas, not to be outdone by their Washington, D.C. counterparts, have used that state legislature's rules to block Congressional redistricting by Republicans, who now control the statehouse. The Democratic state legislators left the capitol (some of them are holed up in neighboring Oklahoma), leaving the legislature without a quorum and preventing a vote on redistricting.

Though such a move could prevent the state from addressing other important issues during this legislative session, the Democratic caucus sees this as a way to use the rules of their legislative body to prevent the Republican Party from turning their small majority into a political stranglehold.

There's a big difference between using the rules to your advantage and capitalizing on the deaths of thousands for political gain.

Justin Reedy covers county government for the News Daily. His column appears on Thursdays. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 281 or via e-mail at jreedy@news-daily.com.