PJ O'Rourke: You Ask The Questions

Who do you think is winning in the battle of the candidates' wives? And is Tony Blair George W Bush's puppet, poodle or fig leaf?
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The Independent Online

The right-wing satirist PJ (Patrick Jake) O'Rourke, 57, was born the son of a car salesman in Toledo, Ohio. He studied English at Miami University, before moving to New York in 1973 to join the satirical magazine National Lampoon. After leaving the Lampoon in 1981, he became a freelance writer, working for Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Playboy. In 1987, his collection of essays entitled Republican Party Reptile became a worldwide bestseller, and since then he has written 10 books, including Give War a Chance, Eat the Rich and Holidays in Hell. He lives in New Hampshire with his second wife and three young children.

The right-wing satirist PJ (Patrick Jake) O'Rourke, 57, was born the son of a car salesman in Toledo, Ohio. He studied English at Miami University, before moving to New York in 1973 to join the satirical magazine National Lampoon. After leaving the Lampoon in 1981, he became a freelance writer, working for Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Playboy. In 1987, his collection of essays entitled Republican Party Reptile became a worldwide bestseller, and since then he has written 10 books, including Give War a Chance, Eat the Rich and Holidays in Hell. He lives in New Hampshire with his second wife and three young children.

Which country should the United States invade next, and why?
Ben Swain, by e-mail

Canada. It's close at hand. We're used to the weather. And, although we don't know much about internal Canadian politics, I think we're better informed about them than we were about the situation in Iraq. Plus, they have a nice ethnic conflict between the English- and French-speakers, which we could expect to erupt after an invasion.

Who has the greatest chance of one day becoming President of America: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hillary Clinton, Michael Moore or Oprah Winfrey?
Bruce Clarke. Cambridge

Oprah Winfrey - she can afford it.

Is George W Bush stupid?
Anthea Holden, Birmingham

No. He went to Harvard Business School and that is a meritocracy. You cannot get through it with money and family connections. But there is very little to be gained from asking whether a politician is stupid. The question should be: "Are they wise?" Reagan was perhaps not too bright, but he was very wise. Time will tell how wise Bush is, but my gut instinct is, not particularly.

France is a great country, whose leaders are brave and principled, and whose culture and society are beacons to the world. Discuss.
Catherine Price, Northampton

Every moral compass needs a butt end. Whichever way the French are pointing, we can go in the opposite direction with a quiet conscience.

If elected, can John Kerry live up to the expectations of left-wing Europeans?
Elaine Sumner, London

If Stalin couldn't, I don't think Kerry's going to be able to. Certainly, expectations in Europe are far too high. Kerry is just an American politician. The likelihood that he'll do anything different from Bush is extremely small. Kerry would sign Kyoto, but that doesn't mean the air's going to get any cleaner: the treaty is full of empty promises. Maybe he would scold Israel a little more, but in the past, Republicans have been better at that, because, after all, the Jewish-American vote goes to the Democrats. And when it comes to Iraq, everyone's open to new ideas. I just haven't heard any - certainly not from Kerry.

Defend Ann Coulter.
Penelope Osborn, London

Oh, I don't think I have to do that. Ann seems fully capable of defending herself. I just want to reassure members of the left that she scares me, too.

Money can't buy you love, but can it buy you the Presidency of the United States?
Andy Howard, by e-mail

No. You can't buy the Presidency, but you can rent it for four years - sometimes eight. But what are you going to do about it? It would be nice to take money out of politics. It would be nice to take money out of love and, indeed, life. But it's not going to happen.

Who is winning in the battle of the candidates' wives?
Julia Scott, Neasden

Laura Bush - it's not much of a contest. Teresa Heinz Kerry may not be mad, but she gives a pretty good impression of it. Laura is a good, solid Methodist helpmate. She is a fine wife and mother; polite and well-mannered. Being First Lady is a thankless goddam task, unless you're Jackie Kennedy - and who is? Laura handles the dreadful job with grace. It's hard to imagine someone such as Teresa, who has a great deal of energy and resources but not a lot of common sense, dealing with it.

America seems to reserve special contempt for the UN, and has refused to sign up to the new International Criminal Court. Why does it believe that it is above international law?
Peta Smith, Manchester

In the first place, there is no international law. Law means nothing if there are no means to enforce it, and there are no means to enforce international law. It may be written down, but many things that aren't true are written down - look at that Hogwarts stuff. The UN is a lovely organisation for providing vaccines and helping refugees, but it is no more capable of affecting wider world issues than my old Aunt Gladys.

If you were President of the United States, how would you have handled Iraq? Would you have done a better job than George W Bush?
Kieran Gallagher, Belfast

As George Bush is a man of deeply average intelligence and so am I, I think I would have done just as badly. I wouldn't have put Iraq as high up the agenda as he did, although, having covered the first Iraq war and seeing what the Iraqis did to Kuwait, it certainly would have been on my mind to wipe them out.

You've written about holidays in hell. Where, for you, is a holiday in paradise?
Ali Lister, Newark

At home with the wife, the kiddies, the dogs and a big stiff drink.

Is Tony Blair Bush's puppet, poodle or fig leaf?
Sasha Green, by e-mail

Tony Blair is your Bush, or Clinton, or Kerry. He is your first really American politician: he has a great facility for baffle-gab; he gets intrigued with all sorts of complex ideas without really thinking them through; and he attempts to be all things to all people at all times. I think George does care what Tony thinks. They are the only two people on the same page about international intervention by Western powers. There's a bad lot out there: the Islamicists, the people who want Talibanworld. They hate us - and I mean all of us, even France. And no one else, except for Britain and the US, seems to be willing to do anything about it.

Who is going to win on 2 November?
Gary Marks, by e-mail

If I had to guess, I'd say Bush, because people normally stick with the devil they know, and Kerry is currently unknowable. But then, I'm usually wrong.

P J O'Rourke's new book, 'Peace Kills: America's Fun New Imperialism', is published this week by Atlantic Books

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