But first Savage's stunt, which he sums up as follows: "Naked, feverish and higher than a kite on codeine aspirin," he writes, "I called the Bauer campaign and volunteered. My plan? Get close enough to Bauer to give him the flu, which, if I am successful, will lay him flat just before the New Hampshire primary. I would go to Bauer's campaign office and cough on everything?phones and pens, staplers and staffers. I even hatched a plan to infect the candidate himself. I would keep the pen in my mouth until Bauer dropped by his offices to rally the troops. And when he did, I would approach him and ask for his autograph, handing him the pen from my flu-virus incubating mouth."
The remainder of the piece describes Savage's efforts?he even sneaks around the empty campaign offices licking people's doorknobs?at accomplishing the ends adumbrated above. At article's end, he does manage to get Bauer to sign an autograph with his chewed-up pen: "He took the picture, and then I pulled the pen out of my mouth and handed it to him. Score! My bodily fluids?flu bugs and all?were all over his hand!"
How charming. And how likely to generate smug huzzahs from Savage's politically complacent colleagues in the alternative press (Savage is associate editor of The Stranger, a better-than-average Seattle weekly). Still, even more disquieting than the idea of Savage fellating people's doorknobs, or of alternative press members pulling back from bonghits to laud their colleague's profound courage, was the right-wing response to what was ultimately just a sophomoric prank.
"Where is the outrage?" New York Post's Rod Dreher asked, writing in a 1/28 column subtly headlined "Snotty, Sneaky Germ Spreads Liberals' Hate." Dreher approvingly quoted Bob Giles of the Freedom Forum, who claims Savage was "acting as a terrorist." Giles also offers this bit of gobbledygook: "This is the kind of unedited behavior that some will try on the Internet."
Brilliant. As if Salon's being published on the Net had anything to do with Savage's article. Meanwhile, Bauer's Iowa campaign director Loras Schulte sputtered: "I have no idea what he may have tried to infect us with," evoking an antigay libel that hasn't circulated for almost a decade: the idea that gays are disease carriers who can be expected to try to infect the general population.
"BTW Savage," wrote another sophisticated right-winger on Salon's own message board, "you might have exceeded your own expectations?you might have infected them with AIDS as well. Have you had a blood draw recently?"
And another: "If we find Dan Savage tied to a fence and beaten to death there will be no candlelight vigils."
And another: "Savage has done something approaching criminality. After all, people have been known to die of complications related to the flu."
Gary Bauer, RIP; dead of the same flu bug that's killed millions this season; rallying symbol for all-American Babbittry and stupidity.