Saturday, June 30, 2012

SRO on The Crazy Train

So far this year, was there even a one-day hiatus from mean-spirited attacks on our president? I mean, we're almost three-quarters through a year marked by one of the most vitriol-filled campaigns leveled against an American head of state in memory. The poor guy doesn't seem to be able to do anything right -- at least according to those paragons of rational thinking whose initials are Boehner, Issa, Cantor, and McConnell.

The subject of presidential trials and tribulations surfaced at a small dinner gathering I had for out-of-town friends a while back. One couple was here from New Orleans, the other from Columbia, Mo. They were in Austin for the annual fancy-schmancy Texas Observer fundraiser that has come to be known as the Molly Dinner. Named for Miz Ivins, the event usually features a bit of entertainment, a decent meal, a prominent speaker (this year it was Pulitzer Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman), an honoree or two, and journalism awards for writers who most reflect Molly's spirit and sense of social justice.

I mention all this because my little cornbread-and-chili supper on the evening preceding "The Molly," as it has come to be called, was almost a repeat of a dinner gathering my living room a few months earlier. As usual, we ended up talking politics during a momentary hiatus from our feeding frenzy. One of my guests was from Scotland, that Anglo-Saxon country we rarely think about unless there's a golfer in the family. Greg the Scotsman said his relatives across the pond couldn't make heads or tails of any reason to vote for any of the goofballs chasing the Republican nomination at the time.

(Remember now, Scotland is also home to a bunch of people named MacDonald. Greg regaled us with his recounting of a Scottish nobleman who rented rooms in his castle and had an in-house restaurant called MacDonald's. Our McDonald's threatened to sue. Their MacDonald threatened to sue our McDonald's -- despite the fact that their MacDonald had been around some 400 years. Check and mate.  Our McDonald's backed down. But I digress)

The free-flowing conversation that evening made me wonder anew how Molly might have responded to our Texas governor who thought Congress should only meet every other year, like the Texas legislature; or to Newt, the semi-aquatic amphibian who characterized President Obama as "the best food-stamp president ever," who probably never in a million years intending any racial innuendo.

And let's not forget Time magazine's Mark Halperin calling the president "a dick" on MSNBC -- not to mention that bizarre episode of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer wagging her bony finger in the president's face as though scolding a recalcitrant child. At least Newt is finally political toast, Halperin got suspended and Perry only emerges periodically from beneath his rock to make some goofy speech or other, as he did on a recent goofball appearance on "Face the Nation." As for Brewer, if there is karmic justice, hers will be ugly.

We lamented the loss of Molly's singular voice, recalling some of her more acerbic observations as aapplicable today as in years past.  "If his IQ dropped any lower we'd have to water him twice a week"; or "It's like, duh. Just when you thought there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties, the Republicans go and prove you're wrong";  One of my personal favorites, and one perfect for our times is, "Any nation that can survive what we have lately in the way of government, is on the high road to permanent glory."

So, in a way, she is still with us. Anyway, halfway through the more recent 5th anniversary of Molly's death, we are once again reminded how few voices like hers remain. I wonder how she would react to the level of meanness to which congressional activity has risen. I suspect she would despair of how few voices fearlessly speak truth to power anymore -- although she owuld be delighted that Bill Moyers is still in fine form on PBS -- which continues to give congressional boos the heebie jeebies.. For the most part, though, reporters who once spoke for the voiceless now parrot a corporate line mandated by media moguls. We're left instead with the stunning new HBO series, "The Newsroom."

Just as the slightly overwrought opening episode addressed newsroom ego clashes, I'm hoping that at some point a story line will deal with the extraordinary bigotry reflected in the behavior of so-called law enforcement officers, especially in the wake of President Obama's executive order allowing children born in the U.S. to remain here with all the rights of other American-born citizens. Specifically in mind is that guy out in Arizona.

Somewhere in that treasure trove of wouldn't-it-be-nice-if-we-still-had-an-Edward R. Murrow-among-us scriptwriting there must be a character based on Joe Arpaio, Arizona's dreadful Maricopa County sheriff. He has got to be the sorriest excuse for a law enforcement officer since Bull Connor. The only satisfaction to be derived from his miserable presence on planet Earth is the knowledge that somewhere down the line karmic justice will bite him on the butt so thoroughly that he'll wish it was a pit bull instead.

Alas, reporters who covered every minute of the Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers trial decades ago are long gone -- mainly because the spirited editors who put themselves out there are also all but gone. Important publications like The Texas Observer, The Nation, The Progressive, The Washington Spectator and Mother Jones struggle to survive. A handful of truly brave web sites track, collate and disseminate accurate information about a crazy Congress, loopy candidates and avaricious corporations, but they too operate on a shoestring. If anybody believes we still have mainstream media that consistently speak truth to power, also believes, like the song says, eggs ain't poultry,  grits ain't grocery, and Mona Lisa was a man.

So here we are, rocketing toward a national election with standing room only on the crazy train.

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