Judging by Robert Altman and Norman Mailer, the greatest generation wasn't perfect.

Last week, ancient Altman was mouthing off from London about how screwed up America is and how he's glad to be out of a place presided over by George W. Bush.

Well, he's a movie director. They're all nuts anyway. But now comes another ancient sage... novelist Norman Mailer.

Mailer is somewhere around eighty, and evidently getting dotty. He got over to London recently and started popping off to a reporter. It wasn't as jaw-dropping as stabbing his wife, but still...

This is what Mailer had to say:

"America has an almost obscene infatuation with itself. Has there ever been a big powerful country that is as patriotic as America?''

" America is the real religion in this country.''

"The right wing benefited so much from Sept. 11 that if I were still a conspiratorialist, I would believe they'd done it.''

So maybe the mastodon lefties, Mailer and Altman will get together for a dinner during which they'll reminisce about the glory days when bashing America was in, when it got you fawning interviews and free drugs and hippie girls. Those were the days, huh?

Those days are over, and you have to wonder if these guys — and others like them — get it?

They got Pearl Harbor half a century ago. They understood it perfectly, and fought two good wars at one time. I daresay that patriotism was a big deal then too. Maybe we were short of textiles and couldn't make a billion flags and now we can. So what?

Do these old poops think their war against fascism was good, and our war against terrorism is beneath them?

The deal with our recent hyperpatriotism is that it is what keeps a war on terror going. If you don't have that adrenaline rush, you forget about Al Qaeda and go on with life, giving the evildoers the opportunity to strike again.

Mailer and Altman are in London. They should stay there. Al Qaeda doesn't care about London. The Nazis bombed it, but to terrorists, it's irrelevant and therefore safe.

If Mailer and Altman don't understand that it's the U.S. against the world… well, the bulk of the greatest generation is with us even if those fossils aren't. We still need to press forward with what we know is the right thing to do.

That's My Word.

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