Bob Dole has a new rhetorical tactic. When he surprises himself with a phrase he finds elegant and precise and lyrical, he says it three times in a row.
He was telling Floridians last week how the Clinton ads keep saying Republicans are going to "cut Medicare, cut Medicare, cut Medicare." But, he said, "We call it Mediscare! Mediscare! Mediscare!"
It's not, as some believe, that Bob Dole was frightened in utero by a broken wax cylinder recording. It's that his handlers have convinced him that saying something three times gets way down deep in the psyche where the voter's inner child lives. And, as his handlers know, it's the inner child who casts the vote.
Certainly he appeals to my inner child when he's on TV talking about taxes.
"It is your money!" he tells his audience. "It is your money! It is your money!"
The crowd goes wild.
I am sitting alone in the basement watching TV. I go a little wild myself.
"Yes!" I say to the Sony. "It is my money! It is my money! It is my money!"
It reminded me of when I saw "Network" on the late show last year, then opened the basement window and yelled "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!" It felt so good I yelled it two more times. Hearing that taxes are my money is even more exciting.
I still haven't calmed down a half hour later when my wife and I go out for a hoagie.
"Whole tuna melt cut in half on two plates," I tell the woman who takes the orders. "And two small Pepsis."
"That'll be $6.96," she says.
And something snaps deep down in my psyche where my inner child lives.
"It is my money," I say, my voice soft at first, then louder. "It is my money! It is my money!"
She gives me a look.
"Of course it's your money," she says, "but it's my hoagie. You give me your money and I give you my hoagie. Hey?"
"But," I say, "Bob Dole says"
My wife cuts me off by laying out $6.96 of her money, then taking me gently by the elbow and guiding me to a table.
"There, there," she says. "It'll be all better when you get your little din-din in your big tum-tum."
"Don't patronize me," I say. "I'm 62 years old."
"Then act like it," she says. "Have you been listening to Republicans talk about tax money again?"
"Bob Dole," I say. "He says it's my money, my money, my money."
"I don't want to patronize you," she says, "but let's review some basic third-grade economic theory: it's your money until you trade it for goods and services. Then it's someone else's money. Get it?"
"But Bob Dole said it three times," I say, "and he didn't say anything about my money turning into someone else's money."
The Truth, Mainly
"That's because Bob Dole is running for office," she says. "People running for office never say you have to pay for what you get."
The lady brings our half hoagies and Pepsis. She gives me another look.
"He's been listening to people running for office, has he?" she says. "He's the third one today who's asked for something for nothing. Take him home and give him a cup of Sleepy Time. That's what my husband gets when he talks about taxes."
I wolf down my half of the tuna melt and chug-a-lug my Pepsi.
"It's all right," my wife says. "We paid for it. Nobody's going to take it away from you."
On the way home I hit a chuckhole.
"When are they going to fix these streets?" I say.
"Just as soon as you give them some of your money to do it," she says.
"Why me?" I whimper.
Later we see Bob Dole on the 10 o'clock news. He's still saying "It is your money! It is your money! It is your money!"
"There," I say to my wife. "See?"
"Your brains have been dried up by political talk," she says. "You really think you can drive on the interstate, have firemen put out fires and policemen arrest criminals, spend a jillion dollars in the Gulf so you can buy cheap gas, send our kids and grandkids to public school, get Social Security and Medicareall without paying for it? Where do you think the money comes from? The tooth fairy?"
"Rampant socialism!" I yell. "Confiscatory taxes! Gommint on our backs!"
"Bedtime for you, Bonzo," she says. "You know the rule: throw a tantrum, go to bed."
She tucks me in and turns on the Donald Duck night light.
"It is my money," I say after she leaves. And just before I put my thumb in my mouth, I say it two more times: "It is my money. It is my money."
Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes
to salvage meaning from his confusion.
His column appears on alternate Mondays.