The Truth, Mainly - 09/09/1991

… And still more lessons from the failed coup
by Leon Satterfield

I hope you were all paying attention last month when the Soviet coup failed. There were important lessons to be learned there, as we political pundits like to say, and I'm about to point out two of them.

The first is for anybody who thinks President Bush is a preppie airhead. I can reveal now that he's not a preppie airhead at all, that he merely talks like one every now and then to appease his supporters and make his opponents overconfident.

Take the way he talked about the coup. Phrases like "this democracy thing" make him sound like a simpleton who's suffering another attack of the dread intermittent juvenilingua, but there's usually method in his semi-coherence. A perfect example was his reference to the conspirators. Nearly everybody else called them old-guard, right-wing, reactionary, militaristic hardliners who have contempt for the constitution and a vested interest in the Cold War. Our President called them "the coup people."

A highly placed inside source revealed he knew even as he spoke that they were all those other things. Barbara says she told him so herself.

So if he knew that, why did he call them "the coup people"?

It gets complicated here, so follow closely.

I don't want to scare anybody, but the Soviet conspirators are not—repeat, not—the only old-guard, right-wing, reactionary, militaristic hardliners who have contempt for constitutions and a vested interest in the Cold War. In this country, such people are called Republicans. They control a whole lot of the nation's wealth; hence they are the President's best friends and he appoints them to cabinet positions, and their lawyers to Supreme Court vacancies.

So he can't very well say that their counterparts in the USSR are the bad guys in the coup, now can he? Yet his position requires that he talk in public about the conspirators, so he comes up with the brilliantly non-judgmental "coup people."

Democrats hear that and smirk and say witty things like "Well, what do you expect when he's on vacation away from his speech writers?" Then he sends them another veto they can't override. So the first lesson is this: when the President sounds dumbest, he's making the most points with his supporters.

The second lesson concerns the crap detecting that went on at the press conference called by the old-guard, right-wing, reactionary, militaristic hardliners who have contempt for the constitution and a vested interest in the Cold War. The ones in Russia, I mean. I told you this is complicated.

They announced that they were taking over because poor Mikhail Gorbachev was ill, having worked too hard perestroiking and glasnosting about the countryside, and they hoped he'd soon be rested up and back in the saddle.

They said it with owl eyes and straight faces. Not a hint of irony, not a wink or elbow nudge to suggest they knew they were applying fertilizer.

And that's when somebody's crap detector went off. Someone in the crowd of reporters snickered. Then another and another. The conspirators looked as snicker-stricken as a fifth grade teacher who's just lost control of the class because he's told them the earth is flat and babies come from storks and the trickle-down theory works to benefit those being trickled on.

The conspirators must have known at that awful moment that the coup would fail, that something monstrous had happened to the Soviet press.

What it was, our far-flung sources report, was the public activation of the nation's collective crap detector. And that's almost always bad news for anybody in power, whether by coup or by free election.

Naturally, the Bush Administration is trying to keep that development under its hat. White House consensus is that public crap detection is a good thing abroad, but it should be limited to those countries whose governments we oppose; America's domestic crap detectors have been inoperable ever since they blew a fuse during the second week of the first Reagan Administration, and we've been getting along just fine without them, haven't we?

So the second lesson is that Democrats need to get their crap detectors fixed before the '92 election. They might want to give them a trial run this week when the administration will try again to explain, owl-eyed and straight-faced, why it's so pleased that the ABA refused to give its "well qualified" rating to the Supreme Court nominee the President calls the "best qualified" candidate in the whole country. Or they can test them the next time George Bush, graduate of Phillips Academy ($174 million endowment) and Yale ($2.57 billion endowment), explains why money isn't very important in education.

Democrats might consider offering their Presidential nomination to Boris Yeltsin if they can't get their own crap detectors fixed. His seems to work pretty well and he's got a good record against old-guard types.


Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.

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