Fashion Week in Baghdad; Buttonholing Joe Lieberman

By Daniel Meltzer

The following arrived from an anonymous correspondent:

“I had something to do with it, but it is not my fault. I was walking with Lieberman after shul during Chanukah and we got onto the subject of Iraq, about which he has, as you know, somewhat controversial opinions within his own party. Myself, I am not political, and on the war we have often disagreed, although I regard him as an honorable man with respectable, if perhaps a bit too conservative, taste in suits.

“Like everybody, I am concerned about the war. If you ask my opinion, which he never does, I think it’s a big waste and maybe causing more trouble than they said it would prevent in the first place. Still, what I know about foreign affairs and military matters you could fit into a thimble and still darn a sock, if you know what I mean.

“A tailor by profession, what I care about most is that people should look good, up with the times; things should fit, they should hang right, they should be right for the wearer and right for the occasion. Clinton was a little over the top, maybe, with those lapels and the shoulder pads. Carter’s cardigans were interesting and appropriate, I thought. Bush was born in New England and grew up in Texas, so what can you expect? Cowboy boots with a gray flannel; you get the picture. On certain subjects, as I have said, I generally keep my opinion to myself.

“So we are walking, making the usual small talk. The weather is unseasonably mild; more like summer up here in Connecticut than December. Global warming is another subject I avoid with him for obvious reasons. I am on my way to my car, Joe’s got the limo, naturally, and his — what do you call it — his ‘entourage.’

“I had heard on the news they wanted to do something about Baghdad, that it had gotten out of hand (although when it was ever in hand I’d like to know), that too many were getting killed, and that Bush was going to announce a new strategy. Or something.

“Everyone wants to help. It’s a human thing. You see suffering, you want to at least say something.

“So, there I am, a custom tailor by trade with a decent clientele and an excellent reputation. I know Lieberman talks to Bush, and maybe I could put in my own two shekels, so to speak, plant something in his ear, what could it hurt?

“So, picturing in my head our soldiers schvitzing over there in the desert, scaring the living daylights out of the poor Iraqis with the weapons and that horrible desert camouflage, looking like something that stepped out of a video game or worse, I get this sudden inspiration and from my brain to my lips before I can stop it, I hear myself say to him:

“Joe, you catch more bees with honey than with vinegar, you know?

Those uniforms they wear. What is this love affair with the ferkockda khaki camouflage? It’s democracy we’re pushing, not Rambo number whatever. What would it hurt we send them over there in suits? I think a banker’s gray tropical worsted, or a seersucker, maybe even a blue serge would send a much more positive message, plus getting their minds off of killing and directing them toward business. Business is what it’s all about, no?

“‘A serge?’ he says to me, and at that point, somebody comes up and whisks him into the car and the next thing I know I’m hearing on the radio how the president is going to ask for a troop surge. And nothing about suits, which I still think wouldn’t have been such a bad idea. I think next time, I’ll just keep my mouth shut.”