Every now and then even in this most serious of times it is hard to suppress a fit of the giggles. It isn’t just the nervous titters that may surface inappropriately during silent prayer in a house of worship for example but rather a sardonic take on the sheer absurdity of this inept administration and the rhetoric articulated by a raft of wannabes vying for higher office.
Take the responses offered up by Alberto Gonzales at the Washington Press Club recently. Not so different from his non-answers to members of Congress they provided nonetheless amusing insights into this man’s off-beat approach to his job as Attorney General. It isn’t funny of course that he has made a mockery of one of the country’s most important institutions but that he seems so smug doing it, as if politicizing the judiciary were simply a Republican coup de grace – – something to be proud of, for which no explanation is required.
Shuffling responsibility for the firing of eight federal prosecutors onto the shoulders of recently-resigned Chief of Staff Sampson, recently-resigned assistant Monica Goodling and soon-to-be retired Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, Gonzales said that delegating the function of hiring and firing federal attorneys was simply the way he had intentionally “structured” the Justice Department. His mission he says is the more pressing one of keeping our children safe from pornographers and street gangs. Now that is LOL hilarious.
And there was a deliciously silly moment during Tuesday night’s Republican debate. On the subject of abortion Senator Brownback referred to the unborn as ‘beautiful gifts from God’ and gestured with his hands towards his abdomen as he talked about the contents of the womb. Now without specific knowledge regarding the senator’s physiological makeup, one can reasonably assume he is not womb-endowed. But, while his gestures made him appear ridiculous his position on abortion is a profoundly un-funny example of men presuming to make decisions for women according to a narrow, religiously-directed vision.
As to the issue of torture most of the candidates agreed that doing “whatever it takes” was acceptable in the cause of defeating terrorism; as if situations were always as clear-cut as an episode of TV’s “24” where a nuclear device could wipe out NYC or DC if extraordinary means weren’t used – – say the threat of seeing one’s daughter incinerated – – to extract information from a suspect. Extreme examples are always presented when in fact most situations are far more general, outcomes less imminent. Significantly, as Senator McCain pointed out, civilian leaders often support the use of torture, while most troops with combat experience don’t – – not just because results are often unreliable but because of what it says about us as a people to the rest of the world. Unfortunately addressing such matters in terms of TV scenarios leaves the public amused perhaps but also fearful and seriously uninformed.
In the category of ‘same old twaddle’, Rudy Giuliani ranted at Ron Paul for his suggestion that one factor motivating terrorists has been our country’s unwelcome presence in Muslim parts of the world – – installing regimes, influencing economies, re-defining borders, taking down locals. Angrily calling on Paul to recant his remarks New York’s former mayor said the roots of terror are driven by our freedoms, our way of life, our liberated women. Sound familiar? Maybe that’s the way presidents are supposed to express themselves since those are the very reasons President Bush gave after the attacks of 911. In any case a delighted audience responded to Giuliani with sustained applause.
None of that is particularly funny. What is mildly amusing, however, is that, while some pundits felt Giuliani hit a home run with his impassioned outburst, public polling (even at Fox) had Romney in first place after the debate with Giuliani in third. The second-place finisher by a respectable margin and the hero of most call-ins to Washington Journal the next day was RON PAUL. Now that’s worthy of a chuckle or two. And although it probably doesn’t represent a ground swell of support for his candidacy it may still be an indication of just how fed up the public is with, well, ‘the same old twaddle.’
As a result, even when the White House announces a major new addition to its cadre of advisors, the public is in ho-hum mode regarding the War Czar. Actually the president prefers to call Three-Star General Douglas Lute a director rather than a Czar, but you know what, nobody really cares or believes that this appointment will make the slightest bit of difference. If it were ever to have been a meaningful post, that time has long since past.
What is most disturbing about the mess we are in and the information we are provided about our lives and our future is that so much political discourse today seems to have morphed into Saturday Night Live projects, send-ups that challenge public acceptance of the premise that our leaders are serious people. We may laugh from time to time, but it’s nervous laughter because the joke is on us.

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