According to legend, President Silent Cal Coolidge once hosted a vivacious and popular actress at a White House dinner. Washington was abuzz with speculation. What would the famously taciturn president say to the superstar? The immovable object was about to meet the irresistible force.
All eyes were on the pair and the assembled multitude let out an audible gasp as the actress leaned over and whispered something to the president. They saw him respond, then jaws dropped in amazement as she convulsed with laughter.
Later, a reporter who had been in attendance ran into her on a train and dared to ask her what Silent Cal said.
“I asked him ‘Mr. President, why are you so quiet all the time?’ He answered that after President Harding, the people want a sober son of a bitch and that’s exactly what I’m giving them.”
Like any good comedian, Coolidge knew how to read his audience. I can’t say the same for the Democratic Party.
Last Friday, Washoe County Democrats held their annual awards dinner. It was a rather sober affair.
Acting as undertaker for the evening was keynote speaker Mitch Stewart. Who? He’s the national director of Organizing for America, the successor to 2008’s Obama for America. The event was not a sellout.
Mr. Stewart started off reminding people of his greatest defeat working for the re-election of then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.
Great, the keynote speaker led off with “I’m a loser.”
Daschle’s opponent, John Thune, along with President Bush the Lesser and Shadow President Cheney, accused Daschle of being the “chief obstructionist” of Dubya’s agenda by using filibusters. (Sound familiar?) They also made the standard allegations of treason because Daschle was critical of the Iraq war. Thune also made a big deal of wanting to poison prairie dogs. Daschle angered environmentalists by agreeing that the pesky critters deserved genocide.
If that sounds like the elements of a comedy routine, it should. But not for keynote speaker Stewart, who droned on into the evening in a bloodless, humorless, unprepared speech which was basically his standard seminar instructing inexperienced precinct workers. Unlike Silent Cal, he didn’t read his audience and concluded with this earth-shaking advice: talk to 10 people about Democratic issues and get them to talk to 10 people.
His entire lecture missed the point of this year’s elections. You can’t defeat raw, unreasoning emotion with classroom instruction.
Hardassed advocates like Michael Moore are pulling out what’s left of their hair trying to get the Donkeykong party to act like its mascot and kick some jackass.
We live in an age of government by media spin. Corporate America governs via Fox News, which cows liberals and progressives into advocating pale imitations of moonhowler positions. (“I not only want to kill the prairie dogs, I want them made into stew to feed the poor.”)
The nutso right is providing the greatest straight-man act any comedian was ever handed. But the Dems are fresh out. Al Franken, D-Minn., turned into Calvin Coolidge the minute he was sworn in as a U.S. senator.
Mitch Stewart didn’t even see the obvious setup at the beginning of his speech, the silver lining in his permanent cloud: “At least Tom Daschle’s loss was good for Nevada because it made Harry Reid majority leader, so you ought to thank me for being such a lousy campaign manager.”
Democratic leaders are too afraid to laugh at the jokes running against them. It’s time to lighten up or God save us all in November.
Last week, I gave the incorrect year in which then Clark County Commissioner Lorraine Hunt ran for lieutenant governor. Worse, I printed two different years. As long-ago New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker once said, “I don’t make many mistakes, but when I do, it’s a whopper.” Ms. Hunt first ran for light guv in her final year on the Gomorrah South Commission, 1998.
In the Aug. 22 installment of this weekly rant, I misnamed Tonopah High School. What’s worse, I knew better, proving that just because you know better doesn’t mean you’ll do better (see above), kinda like some political candidates I know.
The column knocked GOP U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle for working to successfully block the Muckers’ one-time use of Satanic black jerseys in a 1992 football game. The dark togs were intended as motivation to avenge a loss to Laughlin the previous season, which their coach had called the “blackest day in Mucker history,” according to longtime Tonopah newspaperman Bill Roberts. Mrs. Angle used the issue to help propel her to a win for Nye County School Board.
Longtime Barbwire readers will remember this column running a long series that year about right-wing religionaut attempts to take over local educational bodies, which they did across the nation. The Muckers, wearing their traditional red (another color of the devil) and white (the color of surrender), won the game anyway. Hallelujah.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 41-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.