Under cover of the flag 

In the world of neoconservative pirouette PR, every day but Fitzmas (blogspeak for the day Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald announced the indictment of "Scooter" Libby in conjunction with the CIA leak case) can seem like Opposite Day. Bush is a "most brilliant man," "Brownie" was doing a heckuva job, and the mission in Iraq is accomplished and going well. And yet a slimming but substantial subset of credulous Americans still smile and nod and even applaud through it all. Who are these people?

San Francisco journalist (by which, of course, I mean "Blue State anti-American terrorist sympathizer") Harmon Leon decided to find out by infiltrating the right in Republican Like Me: Infiltrating Red-State, White-Ass and Blue-Suit America. The title is an allusion to John Howard Griffin's controversial Black Like Me, an account of the white journalist's 1959 journey through the Deep South, disguised as a black man.

Leon goes through an entire conservative costume shop of characterizations in his quest to probe the real right wing. Where Griffin was sincere in his attempt to understand a parallel world, Leon's anthropological mission to bridge the Red State-Blue State chasm is mostly a ruse. A stand-up comedian and writer for the likes of "The Howard Stern Show" and "The Jamie Kennedy Experiment," Leon is more interested in poking fun at the right wing's (and, occasionally, the left's) grand follies than in joining hands across the great divide. Not that they don't make it awfully easy on him.

Whether meeting with white supremacist recruiters at an Applebee's, gleefully shouting signature Terminator lines while volunteering for Arnold Schwarzenegger's gubernatorial campaign, or posing as a gay Christian who wants to give up his sinful lifestyle (the gay part), Leon is about as bipartisan as Bush, but a whole hell of a lot funnier. In an age of absurdity fit to make Aristophanes shoot milk through his nose, a trickster like Leon is a welcome reflection of our ridiculous reality.

Republican Like Me by Harmon Leon. $16. Prometheus Books. 240 pages.

Other Worthwhile Words

Local author Jack Pendarvis reads from his short-story collection of idiosyncratic idealists, The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure. Sun., Nov. 6, 7 p.m., at A Cappella Books, 484-C Moreland Ave. 404-681-5128. www.acappellabooks.com. Book: $21. MacAdam/Cage. 198 pages.



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