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Time to Start Finishing
by Peter Kurth
October 5, 2004

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ďIt's incredibly hard work.Ē

                                  Ė- George W. Bush

ďI know what you mean. I do it twice a month.Ē

                               -- Peter L. Kurth

No, donít ask about the ďdebate.Ē

I mean it Ė I wonít answer if you do. Iíll stamp my foot and say, ďIím cross!Ē Iíll hold my breath until Iím blue. Iíll roll my eyes and pucker my lips and demand another pill, either the ďWake upĒ one or the ďNighty-NightĒ one -- I donít care which, so long as we can get this over with quick. I mean, quick.

Trust me: Ninety minutes on television is nothing next to 930 words every other week. Itís hard work. Itís very hard work. This is what folks donít understand. And if I were to ever say, this is the wrong column at the wrong time at the wrong place, the media would wonder, how can I follow this guy? And who would blame them? Because thereís a group of folks out there who hate us.

I think what is misleading is to say you can write a column twice a month and succeed if you keep changing positions. I think itís important that writers not be distracted by grand diversions. You canít change the dynamics on the ground if youíve criticized your editors. And I think that by speaking clearly and doing what we say and not sending mixed messages, weíve affected the world of journalism in a positive way.

For example: Lots and lots of the Iraqi people have been killed and died just since I started writing this. Thatís important. Thatís hard work. And thatís amazing, when you think about the minutes it took me to write these words and the same minutes it took for a lot of Iraqi women and children to be blown to pieces, because they werenít willing to stay in their homes, as we told them to, when we said they should do that. They should have just stayed in their homes.

Listen to me Ė donít interrupt. You cannot write if you send mixed messages. Mixed messages send the wrong signal Ė not just to our troops, but to all of Saddamís Ė that is, Bin Ladenís Ė Madhi insurgents. No, itís Saddamís, or al Sadrís, or whatever he calls himself Ė I know that. And anyway mixed messages send the wrong signals. And thatís my biggest concern. Because I know how the world works. And thatís not my job.

See, there are too many things going on right now to worry about who busted who in Coral Gables. That ought to be ďwhomĒ Ė I know that Ė but I know weíre not going to achieve our objective if we send mixed signals. And thatís why I was brought to fructation. You know, itís like oranges in Florida Ė they just hang on the tree until, you know, they fall off.

The way to make sure we succeed is to send consistent, sound messages. And thatís my job. But I wonít be answering questions about the debate because, well, by speaking clearly and doing what we say, sending messages that we mean what we say and not sending mixed messages, as the politics change, thatís not how a columnist acts.

I donít see how you can be a columnist in this country if you say wrong column, wrong time, wrong place. What message does that send to our troops? What message does that send to our allies? Who are our allies, anyway?

Other columnists at one time said, well, get me published, Iíll have them off the page in six months. You canít do that and expect to keep published. I know how these people think. I deal with them all the time. Theyíre not going to follow somebody who says this is the wrong column at the wrong place at the wrong time.

You cannot write a column if you do not honor the contributions of people who are with you. They call them ďcoerced and the bribed.Ē Thatís not how you bring people together. Thatís my job. And I know weíre not going to achieve our objective if we send mixed signals to our readers, our friends, our troops, the coerced. Because theyíre not going to follow somebody who says wrong column, wrong place, wrong time, etc.

Frankly, what time is it?

Other columnists say that help is on the way, but what kind of message does it say to our troops in harmís way, wrong column, wrong place, wrong time? Not a message a columnist gives, or this is a great diversion. So, whatís the message going to be? Please join us in columnizing? Weíre a grand diversion? Join us for a column that is the wrong column at the wrong place at the wrong time?

Yes, I understand what it means to be a columnist. And if I were to ever say Ö well, this is just a grand diversion. And thatís my biggest concern. Thatís my job. Itís hard, hard work.

And donít forget Poland. Poland. Because Vladimir is a good friend of mine. And itís important that we do have a good relation, because that enables me to better comment as a columnist. I sit down with these people all the time. I talk to them on the phone. And what objective can we have together if someone says this is the wrong phone call, wrong wire, wrong time?

What the hell time is it, God damn it!? Itís incredibly hard work.

But weíre making progress. I donít appreciate other columnists saying Ö thatís absurd Ö I donít believe itís going to happen. Thatís my job.


Peter Kurth is the author of international bestselling books including Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, Isadora: A Sensational Life, and a biography of the anti-fascist journalist Dorothy Thompson, American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson. His essays have appeared in Salon, Vanity Fair, New York Times Book Review, and many others. Peter lives in Burlington, Vermont. He can be reached at: Visit his website at:


Other Articles by Peter Kurth


* Pass the Ammunition!
* Keep Petting That Goat!
* Religion in the News
* Beam Me Up, Mrs. Williams
* Such Emptiness! Such Depth of ďPreparedness!Ē
* Absent on AIDS
* King James and King George

* Beheadings
* F--k this, Dick!
* Reagan Idiosis
* Chickenhawk Chic
* Letter to Mars
* Robbing "Defeat" to Pay "Appall"
* Standing Small
* Bible Time
* One Man's Flip Is Another Man's Flop
* Kee-reist is More Like It
* Star Wars
* The Breast That Ate Pittsburgh
* Monkey See, Monkey Do
* Crank Call
* A Cynic's Guide to the Top Stories of 2003
* Talking Turkey
* Let Them Drink Coke
* The Gang that Couldnít Talk Straight On Iraq
* Party Rules