It's been a busy month at the Center for Counter-Intelligence, the anti-think tank that generates Really Dumb Things for public figures to say and do.
The CCI (motto: "Nobody ever lost an election by coming off as too dumb") mostly serves politicians who feel they need help disguising their intelligence in order to be more compatible with The Average American.
They think The Average American is a Really Dumb Person.
It was, obviously, the Center for Counter-Intelligence that gave President Clinton the precise wording for his defense of letting anyone into the White House who could write a check with six figures.
"I think those meetings are good," the AP quoted our Rhodes Scholar president. "I think the president should keep in touch with the people."
"It'll make you sound like Carl Sandburg," the CCI folks must have told him. "The Pee-pul, yes, the Pee-pul. It'll make everyone who can't write checks with six figures feel they're not measuring up. They'll feel so inadequate, they won't notice that you're continuing the Reagan-Bush gallop from democracy to plutocracy."
The ploy was consistent with the earlier CCI recommendation to make the inauguration an exercise in tawdry hucksterism, complete with a pamphlet (discreetly tucked inside the official invitations) called "The 53rd Presidential Inaugural Collectibles." A partial list of offerings:
The Official Presidential Inaugural Medallion (in padded display box) for only $175.
A casting of "the symbol of American Freedom, a SILVER EAGLE" hovering over "the 1997 Inaugural Seal
frost etched onto the charcoal crystal base" for a mere $225.
A "wide profile rollerball AWARD PEN by SHEAFFER" featuring the inaugural seal on the clip and "the President's signature engraved on the barrel" for a paltry $35.
The "Official 1997 Presidential Inaugural License Plate Set" for an unbelievably low $55.
All those collectibles, I imagine a CCI official purring, "are in absolutely peccable taste. They're so dumb that only the Center for Counter-Intelligence could have come up with them."
It must also have been the Center for Counter-Intelligence which, in a touchingly bipartisan act, provided the Republican National Committee with its latest spiffy idea:
To run an ad showing Haley Barbour holding up a giant-sized cashier's check for $1 million payable to anyone who could prove Republicans are cutting Medicarethen to sue the 80 respondents who took them up on it.
"The ad was a pretty dumb idea," CCI officials probably said, "but the law suit is a Really Dumb Idea. It'll knock 'em dead in Newt Gingrich's district."
And Newt, who can usually manage such things without outside help, must have picked up his latest howler from the Center for Counter-Intelligence. Tell the people, he must have been advised, that the $300,000 fine laid on by the House Ethics Committee is only persecution for not being liberal enough.
The Truth, Mainly
So Newt told us that conservatives who make just one little bitty mistake had "better plan to be pilloried because you're politically incorrect"a stunningly dumb interpretation of his fine for violating tax rules and not telling the truth about it.
"The guy's got a Ph.D.," I imagine CCI officials boasting, "and we make him sound like Jerry Lewis on a bad day."
Because the CCI has been so successful with government officials, it's been attracting other clients who want to put their worst foot forward.
Who do you think advised those Marines to be videotaped pounding award pins into each other's bleeding chests?
Who do you think instructed UN-L Sigma Chis to be astounded that anyone might see racist implications in burning a cross next to a Confederate flag?
And how else explain the frat's apologynot for its action, but for the public's interpretation of it?
"We're sorry for the misunderstanding and are extreme apologetic to the extent there was a misunderstanding," one carefully-coached member said. "Our intent was not to offend anyone, nor was it to appear to be ignorant of history."
CCI officials must have given each other high fives on that last sentence.
"As a Really Dumb Sentence, it's a home run," they must have said. "It's a finely wrought utterance that can assert it doesn't intend to offend or appear ignorant at the same it does both."
People with thoughtsor anti-thoughtson continued funding for the CCI may want to contact their representatives before next week's closed-door budget hearings. Insiders say a counter-Counter-Intelligence argumentthat Americans are smart enough to be talked to as adultswill be made by an indignant Congressional minority.
All 14 of them.
Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes
to salvage clarity from his confusion.
His column appears on alternate Mondays.