John Leo
Mr. Answer Man, I see in the newspapers that Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones complained “George Bush doesn’t listen to us.” What does he mean by that?

I think he means that despite their tremendous body of work, singing all those songs of youthful rebellion for more than four decades (a gas, gas, gas, in my opinion), the Stones are still not consulted on political and military policy. Nobody in Washington even wants to know their opinion of CAFTA. It must be galling.

I bet it is. I’m sure that if President Bush had just come out of his ranch house in Crawford, Texas, and said a few words of comfort to the Stones, this new “Sweet Neo Con” song of theirs wouldn’t have ballooned into the giant controversy it is. What’s a sweet neocon, by the way?

Nobody really knows. Everybody thinks the Stones are trashing Bush, but the president isn’t really a neocon, and the word sweet is a real stumper. One theory is that Jagger has a crush on Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, or Condi Rice. Probably Cheney, since the name Halliburton pops up in the lyrics. A demeaning song probably isn’t the best way to declare one’s affection, but then, romance among musicians of the ’60s often takes a strange path.

So far, the complete lyric hasn’t been legally released. The new record A Bigger Bang, containing the song, goes on sale September 6. But Jagger said on the TV show Extra that “it’s not really aimed at anyone in particular. It’s not aimed personally at President Bush. It wouldn’t be called ‘Sweet Neo Con’ if it was.” But if it isn’t aimed at anyone in particular, why should this unidentified generic neocon be considered sweet? Do you think the Stones just needed a one-syllable adjective to put in front of neocon? Maybe they just couldn’t bring themselves to say “bold” or “bad.”

That’s probably it. All the great negative adjectives have several syllables. Maybe the Stones pulled an all-nighter, debated “sweet” versus “sour” and finally settled on sweet.

What about the word the song uses to rhyme with hypocrite?

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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