Eli's Observations

Month: April, 2012

Faking It

It was fun seeing House Speaker John Boehner the other day, faking indignation, pounding on the lectern, raising his voice to attack President Obama for mixing politics and the presidency on his recent trips.

Boehner usually has the self-satisfied look of the manager of a very lucrative golf course, but he managed to look indignant, accusing the President of campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime.

I wonder if this cost the taxpayer as much as flying President George Bush to an aircraft carrier at sea, so he could hop out of a fighter jet in a flight jacket, to proclaim victory in Iraq! As far as I know, President Obama isn’t going around to campuses with a banner reading “mission accomplished.”

Of course, the Republicans have always been pretty good at feigning outrage. Remember Senator Joe McCarthy? He ranted on the Senate floor that there were communists under every U.S. bed, all working on orders from the Soviet Union! (“We’ve got trouble my friends, trouble right here in River City!”)

A lot of Americans ate this stuff up, even though the Red Scare turned out to be a tempest in a teapot. (Pun intended.)

The GOP lost a mainstay of their fear-based foreign policy when the Soviet Empire turned out to be wearing no clothes. They’ve been trying ever since to co-opt global terrorism, but the Democrats weren’t caught flat-footed this time. For quite a while, they supported every dumb anti-terrorist idea Bush and Cheney came up with.

FDR was a master at radio, but many of his major speeches before an audience were also filmed, showing an ebullient speaker who could use humor and sarcasm with a light but devastating touch.

In his second campaign, he ridiculed Republicans who claimed they supported Social Security, by imitating them: “Of course we believe in those things! But we do not like the way the administration is doing them.” (A sly grin appears.) “Just turn them all over to us. We will do all of them, we will do more of them, we will do them better — ” (The grin turns into a broad smile.) “And best of all, it won’t cost anybody anything!” FDR joined the audience in laughing uproariously.

The Democrats tend to do humor better than Republicans, though it doesn’t always spell success. Adlai Stevenson was a witty, sophisticated man, yet he lost twice to Eisenhower. When you think of Dukakis, Carter, Mondale and Kerry, none of them were comfortable being funny or even capable of it. Television has made it harder to stand there and read scripted jokes.

Jack Kennedy raised the ante. Not only could he get laughs, he could use humor to deflect or deflate hostile questions. On television, you had to be quick-witted or at least seem to be. Clinton was good at that, George H.W Bush, not so much. Dubya was about as quick as cement drying, yet he won because Gore and Kerry never really could fake the laid-back image.

We now have a President who’s quick in a cool way that we may not see for a while. We have seen all the GOP prospects and the only funny one was Rick Perry (not on purpose.) The party of Reagan, the ultimate charmer, now consists of sourpusses and scolds. The Democrats need to find someone for 2016 who is smart and charismatic. She‘ll be up against a bunch of stiffs, so a sense of humor certainly couldn’t hurt.

Brain Trust

A bunker somewhere near Washington, D.C.: The GOP Brain Trust digs deep for ideas!

Present are former Vice President Dan Crony, political strategist Cal Ratz, Tax Opponent Wilbur Armtwist, Senate leaders Mush McGoogle, Otto Shambles, Jim Breathmint, House Leader Jack Bender, and two rebellious House freshmen: T. Bag and T. Ball. We listened in.

VP Crony: “You’re all here because you people represent the whole spectrum of our grand old party, from right to far right to extreme right and, uh –”

Bender: “I thought we came here to get behind a single candidate for president.”

Cal Ratz: “Well, sure, we already have one – sort of — ”

T. Bag: “You’ll never beat lefty Obama with a ‘sort of’ candidate! We need a ‘lead the charge’ kind of candidate!”

T. Ball: (Excited) “Like George Custer? How about this for a slogan: ‘Follow me, men’ … or maybe, ‘This way! Follow me, America!!’”

Armtwist: (Grumpily): “We’re not electing an usher. We need a Barry Goldwater – ”

VP Crony: “I don’t know, Wilbur, Goldwater got kind of liberal later on – ”

Bender: “I heard that was just because of the old timers’ disease.”

McGoogle: “Alzheimers! And old Barry never went lefty – ”

Crony: “Goldwater and Reagan are also dead. Let’s just pick one of these guys with a pulse and build a campaign around him! There are four names on this list – ”

Cal Ratz: “Four?? (He looks at list) “How the hell does Gingrich keep getting on this list? I’ve crossed him off three times!”

Armtwist (objecting): “Newt has great name recognition – “

Ratz: “So did Hitler!”

Bender: “Easy now. Let’s focus. We’ve got Romney – “

THERE ARE A FEW HISSES.

Crony (sharply): “Put a lid on the teapot, men!”

Bender: “Okay. Romney – Santorum – and – Paul?”

Senator Shambles: “Gingrich has more delegates than Paul –”

T. Ball: “And Newt has a lot of fresh ideas –”

Crony: “We don’t need new ideas. Our old ideas are fine. Anyway, ideas are overrated! We just need bumper sticker thingys.”

Senator Breathmint: “Lower taxes!”

T.Bag: “How about a flat tax?”

Armtwist: “How about no taxes?”

Cal Ratz: “Now we’re getting creative! Exchanging new ideas!”

Bender: But Ron Paul sure hasn’t gotten far with that approach – ”

T.Bag: “He’s a lovable grandpa but he’s a darned pacifist like Obama! And where would we be without a war? The whole damned economy would collapse.”

Senator McGoogle: (nods) “There’s no money in peace! Maybe we could get by for a while with just lots of little global tensions – they all need a strong defense – new weapons systems – real budget busters – ”

Bender: “Now you’re talking! Maybe some pilot defense contracts! Cost over-runs –”

Ratz (pointedly): “We’ve got to get elected first, boys –”

T.Ball: “Right. Some of our folks back home don’t seem to like wars anymore. Too expensive –”

VP Crony: “You’ve just got to sell it right. Enemies! Enemies everywhere!”

Bender: “Syria! North Korea!”

McGoogle: “Eyeran!”

T.Bag: “Eyerac?”

T.Ball: “But aren’t they on our side?”

Crony: “For now. Just give ‘em time, son –”

Ratz: “Gentlemen! We’re not going to win by promising the American public more wars!”

THERE IS A LONG SILENCE.

Senator Breathmint: “How about abortion? Family planning!”

Bender: “Santorum’s done that. Doesn’t seem to work.”

Senator McGoogle: “Obamacare!”

Senator Shambles: “Uh – burdensome regulations – job-killing red tape – waste –”

McGoogle: “Obamacare!”

Senator Breathmint: “Afghanistan! Obama wants to cut and run –”

Cal Ratz: “Don’t touch that!”

Bender: “How about just ‘support our troops’?”

Senator McGoogle: “Obamacare!”

T.Bag: “Prayer in the school! The war on Christmas!”

Ratz: “Now we’re getting somewhere! Really fresh ideas! Just keep ‘em coming, fellas!”

Shambles: “Wedge issues – where was Obama born –?”

T.Ball: “Indo — India — Asia, for sure! Can we call him the Mongolian candidate?”

T.Bag: (snickers): “How about Mongolian idiot?”

Ratz: “Don’t touch that kind of stuff. We’ll get burned.”

Bender: “Can we get some coffee sent in here? Maybe some donuts?”

T.Bag: “With sprinkles?”

T.Ball: “Where was Romney born, anyway? Mexico?”

Cal Ratz: “Don’t touch that, either!”

McGoogle: “Obamacare –”


Life Sentence

The GOP campaign for presidential nominees is ending. Not with a bang, but with a dispirited gasp of a Whoopee cushion running out of air. Not even the Faux News Channel could make a case for a dramatic finish. Mr. Unlovable – but inevitable – Mitt Romney — was obviously going to be the Republican nominee. Politics had triumphed over reality TV.

Not everyone got the message. Reverend Rick Santorum continued his Death March day by day until April 10, when he finally gave in. Santorum apparently wanted to be remembered as the Dr. Kevorkian of GOP presidential hopefuls. If we begin to see a lot of angry people in sleeveless black sweaters, we’ll know that a new political fringe group has arisen.

Still, the rabid rhetoric and double-talk will continue through the summer with some casting changes. There will be spiffy new red, white and blue graphics and hopefully, better campaign music.

No more Romney quavering his way to “America the Beautiful.” And please, Mr. President, your Al Green imitation was fine, but let’s shelve that for a while. But don’t worry, the ocean of campaign spots will now continue in numbingly large numbers.

Though for real political drama, and occasional comedy, keep your eye on the Supremes. The nine of them put on quite a show. You might ask why you should be interested in “Men In Black” without Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Let’s try a little recent history.

Many of you will remember the 2000 presidential election that started the U.S. on a downward spiral. It was supposed to be a contest between Al Gore and George W. Bush, and it was, right down to the wire. But in the middle of a close Florida ballot re-count, Judge Scalia and some of his cohorts decided continuing the re-count would be “divisive.” Florida was thus given to the Republicans and Bush/Scalia defeated Gore. Dubya became president and later added two conservative justices, John Roberts Jr. and Samuel Alito.

Still not convinced? Say you are between 30 and 50 years of age as you read these words. If you take a 20-year nap, there’s a good chance that when you awake many things in the U.S. will have changed, but not the Court.

Roberts and Alito will likely be wearing the same smug expressions. Clarence Thomas will be sitting silent as a stick and Scalia will be haranguing everybody that human rights can be compared to broccoli or even cole slaw.

Don’t be surprised if China has outstripped us of everything except school dropouts. Dick Cheney will have replaced Alexander Hamilton on the $10 dollar bill.

You will have missed several undecided and un-funded wars in the Middle East. Oil drilling rigs will now dot the U.S. landscape from sea to oil-slicked sea.

Thanks to Scalia and company’s ruling that money equals free speech and can’t be regulated, billionaires will have regularly won public office, making you wonder what that word “public” stands for.

There’ll be few protests in the street because of a recent Scalia/Cantor Homeland Security update. By now you will probably want to go back to sleep. Who will be president at this nightmare moment? You sleeping beauties won’t have chosen him or her. However, in 2012, you will have a choice as to who chooses the next Supreme Court Justice. But only if you stay awake — and vote.

Where’s Eli?

In addition to regularly contributing to “Eli’s Observations,” John O’Toole is also now blogging periodically for The Huffington Post.

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