National Divides -- Jan. 16, 2005

A weekly feature on This Week.


For all of you who are tired of all that talk about red and blue America, here's P.J. O'Rourke from The Atlantic magazine with his take on our country's real divides.

P.J. O'Rourke: "The source of America's strength is diversity, but we can't have diversity without divisions. And we are a divided nation. We all know it. I mean, we have just been through the bitterest, most hard-fought, most divisive contests in modern times. And I as a lone Yankee fan in New England can attest to the passions involved.

"Now, I was looking, naturally, like any good former sociology student from the '60s would, at the relationships between crime and poverty. What was amazing on these maps is that they aren't there. But there are lots of poorer areas -- areas in Arizona, areas in the extreme northern states, areas in backwoods, and areas in Virginia and Arkansas and Missouri, who are very poor and also very low crime rates. We should always remember that the people who are talking about this probably haven't got any idea about either poverty or crime.

"Now again, I was looking for a correlation between poverty and mobile homes. It seems so natural. We think of trailer trash. There isn't any. In fact the only thing that I could figure out about concentrations of mobile homes was that they seem to be concentrated in places where you wouldn't want a mobile home. There are a lot of them in Florida where they're vulnerable to hurricanes. A lot in areas like Georgia vulnerable to tornadoes. And a lot out in the desert in the West where anybody in a mobile home would be fried like a chicken wing.

"Another thing I looked at, or looked for in these maps, was virtue. It turns out that the best, the sweetest, the most decent part of America is North and South Dakota, and northern Nebraska. Now, this is not an area of America that anybody pays any attention to. In fact, it's an area of America in which nobody wants to live. It kind of tells me that maybe virtue is not really what makes America the great country that it is.

"And looking at these maps it became very clear to me that America is a strange sort of bologna: Any way you slice it, it is full of -- perhaps I shouldn't say bologna. It's one of those more colorful lunch meats [with] all sorts of pimentos, and lots of fats and strange things in them. And any way you cut America, any way you look at America, we are full of amazing divisions."


In the Sunday "Funnies," we see how the late-night comedians heralded the return of Congress.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno:

Leno: Well folks, it's official: We've officially stopped the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and as you know we didn't find any. Well thank God we found that out before we did anything crazy. Imagine if we had gone in there? What a mess that would have turned into.

The Late Show with David Letterman:

Letterman: Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. But Bush says there is strong evidence that Saddam had an illegal nanny.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

Stewart: Now that we are sure that we didn't go to Iraq for the weapons of mass destruction, justify this war again for me.

Scott McClellan, White House spokesman [on tape]:"Saddam Hussein was pursuing an aggressive strategy to undermine the U.N. oil-for-food program.

Stewart: OK. That's all right. Doesn't have quite the same ring as ...

President Bush [on pre-Iraq invasion tape]: ... with horrible poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons.

Stewart: That's got pizzazz! That's got oompf! That's a war!