Friday, August 27, 2004

Ben Stein is one of those barely-a-celebrity who shows up on political talk shows to serve as lighter-hearted right-wing voice. Most of the time, he's simply annoying.

Read this make-you-want-to-gag piece he recently wrote for the Wall Street Journal opinion page. As he put it, an "editor asked me what I would say to make the wives feel appreciated while their husbands are in Iraq. This is what I wrote to one soldier's wife."

Here's what the NY Observer thought concerning his letter:

What twaddle. In the pose of speaking as an average American, Mr. Stein betrays his ingrown elitism: Not everyone in America can "buy whatever" they want, nor do most Americans have the good luck to "wake up to the sounds of birds"; nor do they wake up in Beverly Hills, as Mr. Stein does. He would have readers believe that the men and women overseas have made his lush life possible. In his letter, he doesn’t mention that he was raised in a wealthy Republican home, the son of the free-market economist Herbert Stein, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. His own education (Columbia and Yale Law) as well as his scattered career—speechwriter for Richard Nixon, law professor at Pepperdine University, part-time actor, advertising pitchman—also receives no mention.

Continuing his everyman’s pitch to the Army wife, Mr. Stein proceeds—apparently without irony—to tell her what the life of a military wife is like: They "go to sleep tired and lonely, wake up tired and lonely, and go through the day with a smile on their faces." Ben Stein knows that the wives go through "desperate hours when the plumbing breaks and there is no husband to fix it, and the even more desperate hours after the kids have gone to bed … and the wives realize that they will be sleeping alone—again, for the 300th night in a row." We began to gag when we saw that he’d signed the letter, "Love, and I do mean Love, Ben."

It appears Mr. Stein thinks that when military wives read his letter, they will feel comforted by the thought of Ben Stein waking up to birds chirping, and feel reaffirmed in the cause their husbands are fighting for. When the truth is, many of their husbands are dying and being horribly wounded for reasons no one in the Bush administration has been able to articulate. And one can only imagine what long-term psychological and economic impact the war will have on their husbands and families. Look at what George W. Bush’s war has done to America: We have alienated the entire world, and provided an effective recruiting tool for Al Qaeda.

But Ben Stein doesn’t want the Army wives to dwell on those unpleasant facts. Rather, they should take heart from the fact that he and his loved ones can buy whatever they want. Surely they will rush to thank him for putting it all in perspective.

I couldn't agree more.

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