Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sneering Back

We just passed another anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Like certain other milestones in history, we may never know the full story. But we can't help but wonder how historians fifty or more years from now will see the events of that day. Will they see it as more or less tragic than the wars which followed? One war finally petered out to an end almost ten years after we started it. The other one will soon hit the eleven-year mark. Neither Iraq or Afghanistan is likely to become a tranquil Islamic Sweden in the forseeable future.

I'm not ashamed to say that I watched a good deal of tennis during the recently concluded US Open. Winners come and go, though I suppose Andy Murray deserves a star for being the first of his countrymen (he's Scottish, but we lump him in with other Brits) to win a tennis major in over seventy-five years. Future statues and paintings of Mr. Murray will no doubt be an improvement over his somewhat homely appearance. For what it's worth, I liked some of the commercials that went with the broadcast, especially the Mercedes ad featuring several overly cute children asking the same question: "Are we there yet?" 

At last week's Toastmaster meeting, I found myself asked to speak extemporaneously in reply to a remark given at the Republican Convention. It was the kind of thing one might say when one is sure no one will disagree, and is given as a play for laughs. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty likened President Obama to the youthful indiscretion of getting a tattoo, then regretting the act and wishing the inky body decoration gone. This, mind you, comes from one of the so-called "moderates" of the Republican Party who has now twice been passed over as a VP candidate because of, I suppose, his perceived dullness.
My actual words at the meeting were forgettable, but, by the miracle of being able to blog the perfect comeback, here is what I should have said:
     "Let's first, before examining Mr. Pawlenty's remark, consider the source. You may remember that the  former governor of Minnesota was once a candidate for president himself. In fact, it wasn't that long ago, not much more than a year. Do you recall what caused him to take his hat back out of the presidential ring? It wasn't a primary or a caucus, not even a nasty rumor. It was....the results of a straw poll held at the Iowa State Fair. Pawlenty, in fact, may be the only candidate for president to ever be knocked out by Michelle Bachmann, who won the poll. The good news turned out to be that Pawlenty didn't have to try to elbow his way in front of the camera at too many of those interminable primary debates.
     So, as tattoos go, Mr. Pawlenty himself comes well short of the Mona Lisa. Here are few items which we might associate with the Obama administration, but not, alas, the non-existent Pawlenty administration: The preserving of General Motors as a major American manufacturer and employer, the end of the war in Iraq, the reform of the US healthcare distribution system, the removal of many top leaders of terrorist groups, including Osama bin Laden (who the Bush administration had completely lost track of), the turnaround of the nation's most severe recession since the Great Depression, the end of torture as a policy for gaining military intelligence, the end of presidential "signing statements" by which the president chooses to ignore some congressional directives and enforce others, the reduction of US killed and wounded in battlefront actions by the use of unmanned drones, and the guarantee of woman employers to not suffer pay discrimination based on sex.
     The record is imperfect, thwarted by filibusters and opposition who enjoy almost unlimited access to corporate lobbying funds. Every president makes mistakes, including Mr. Obama. But his opponent has yet to show just what path (other than the decades old favorite of tax cuts) will be used to return prosperity and peace to all. Until he does, Obama, whether a tattoo, a portrait or a sculpted bust, looks pretty good."          


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