It’s one of those story-jokes like “The Aristocrats”—everyone tells it differently. This isn’t film and I’m not Bob Saget, so here’s my “nice” version:
An old vaudevillian is passing through a circus grounds when he spots another vaudevillian he knows from days of yore. “Sam!” he says, “What are you doing here?” “I work here,” says Sam. “Here, in the circus? You became a… clown, Sam?” “No,” says Sam, “I take care of the animals.” “You, Sam? You were up there with the best!” Seeing the crestfallen look on the man’s face, Sam quickly tells him, “It’s OK, my friend, really! Come, I’ll show you. I have to give the elephant an enema.” Taking the man with him, Sam grabs a tall ladder and props it up against the elephant’s rear. He grabs a fire hose, turns it on full blast, mounts the ladder, and shoves 12 inches of the hose into the elephant. The elephant gradually becomes so engorged with water he explodes, throwing Sam from the ladder in a wave of excrement. As Sam lies sprawled on the ground in a pool of dung, his heartbroken crony pleads, “Sam, you don’t have to do this! You can quit!” Sam says, “What and get out of show business?
It’s a punch line with a moral. Vaudeville is long dead, but electing to swim in shit is not. Witness anyone in politics. If, to quote a master shit-detector, Yip Harburg, “It’s a Barnum and Bailey world,” Washington is its big top—and Congress is the center ring.
Infantile men and women of all ages run off to join the circus. As a rule, they leave family responsibilities behind to assume public responsibility irresponsibly. They call themselves Senators and Representatives. By electing them, we enable them.
I’m proposing “New Conditions For Congressional Officeholders.” Let’s give it a catch phrase for the C-SPAN debates and the ad hoc press conferences on the steps: The Stay Home Amendment. I hereby propose: we elect congressional candidates for terms at home. Instead of sending them to Capitol Hill, we post them to their homes and their families—and their own beds. Instead of living in caucus, committee or sin, they can learn, first hand every day, what the rest of us unavoidably know: drugs, unwanted pregnancies, hunger, broken wills and shattered dreams, essential needs and unpredictable ill health, lurk or fester in everyone’s backyard.
Now, Congressman, let’s debate “public option,” “freedom of choice,” “right to serve”; “bail-out,” “paygo,” and the ringer of ringers, “socialism.” On the cesspool side of mini-mindedness, let’s see if we can skirt the corrosive detritus of the Birthers and Tea Baggers. Welcome home.
If you were fortunate to see President Obama’s commanding appearance last Friday before “The GOP House Issues Conference,” variously referred to as a Republican retreat, a House caucus, or from my impression, a staged reading of scripted talking points by 10 toadying Republicans, you saw how the president, hungry for dialogue, patiently forbore bore after bore. It was reminiscent of a carny side show as the champ took on all challengers, all of whom entered the ring swinging unskillfully, hoping to land a lucky punch. Flailing and failing, the hapless pols needed someone to stop the bleeding. Roger Ailes to the rescue! (What’s a side show without a fat man?) While every other major network naturally continued to carry “The GOP House Issues Conference” to its conclusion, Ailes, the Fox News’ boss, decided to ring the bell and throw in the towel 20 minutes before the contest was over. And then “began attacking the president for ‘lecturing’ to the lawmakers,” according to Politico! So much for Fox’s “fair and balanced” news.
Now here’s Ray Fox’s fair and balanced news:
Ailes had this to say about his decision: “I’m not in politics, I’m in ratings.” And this non-sequitur when asked why Fox (TV) cut away so early: “Because we’re the most trusted name in news.” Arrogant and unbalanced newsman.
Obama had this to say to the conference: “I don't think they [the American people] want more partisanship. I don't think they want more obstruction. They didn't send us to Washington to fight each other in some sort of political steel-cage match to see who comes out alive.”
Who would you rather listen to? Just like back-room politics, what started here with an old joke ends with anything but a laughing matter.