Floating Voter / The Boobs on the Tube

If politicians are invited, and invite themselves, to television news shows to mumble about how hard it is to answer questions at "such a difficult hour," why are they even allowed into the studio? They are not willing to forgo another pathetic appearance on the boob tube, but they will happily forgo answering any questions.

Actually, that is not completely accurate: they come to the studios to say exactly what they want to say, before covering themselves in a cloak of sanctimonious silence, all in the name of Sharon's illness.

Avi Dichter - he of the Shin Bet and Kadima - gave a subdued performance on Channel 10's London and Kirschenbaum. It is neither right nor proper, he mumbled, to be speaking about the future of the region, about Iran and the Palestinians; now is the time for prayer. He turned the studio into his temple, and the poor interviewer did not know ahead of time whether he was going to be blinded by the studio lights or by the glow of the Holy Countenance.

For a moment, one could be forgiven for thinking that, before this depressing cerebral event, Dichter had something to say and that, after it, he has even more to say.

I have known Shin Bet directors, Military Intelligence chiefs and Mossad heads - as well as chiefs of staff and generals - since the establishment of the state. Most of them were described as having a quiet intelligence that runs deep. As long as they were serving in their semi-clandestine positions - positions that demand security silence and secure silence - and were able to speak where and when they chose, their sagacity and eloquence were unparalleled. And even when they deafened us with a raised eyebrow, a wrinkled brow or a shrug of the shoulder, it always seemed that they were deafening us for reasons of national security. After all, everyone knows that they realize more than anyone that loose lips sink ships, so they made damn sure that the safety catch was on their lips.

Eventually, though, they leave their positions, are released from active service and they always go into politics (and they always seem to go into "alternative politics"). Suddenly they are asked to hold forth on their wider worldview, on their views on a variety of subjects, and not just on the hush-hush world from whence they came. They are asked, but find it hard to reply. Now they have entered the days of waiting for Sharon to recover, and they swoop down not to plunder the spoils, but to blunder the spoils. At last there is an excuse for their mumbling, stuttering vacillation - and for their silence.

From now on, when we see them on our screens and they conceal their views and opinions with a veil of hypocrisy and obfuscation, we should remember that they did not say a lot because they did not have a lot to say.