When I was a kid growing up in southwest Kansas, I had a very
precocious sense of humor. It was a result of all the Little Moron jokes
we told. (Nobody knew about political correctness then and insensitivity
was our game.) Not only would the jokes make us laugh so hard our soda pop
would come out our noses, they made us feel smart.
It's that background, I believe, that makes me so attracted
toand understanding ofthe jokes of the Bush administration.
For example, one of my favorite jokes was the one about the Little
Moron who dropped a nickel on a very dark street one night. Instead of
looking for it where he dropped it, he walked to the street light a half
block away to look. When a friend asked why he was looking for his nickel
there, the Little Moron said this:
"It's too dark to see a nickel where I dropped it. It'll be
easier to see one under the street light."
Knocked me out. Laugh, I thought I'd die.
And I had the same response last Sunday when I was watching "60
Minutes." Richard Clarke, the counterterrorism honcho in the
administrations of Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II, was talking about
his new book, "Against All Enemies."
What made me laugh out loud was his story about a meeting with the
other Bush honchos shortly after the 9/11 attacks.
Nearly everyone agreed that Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were
probably responsible, so Clarke was surprised, he told Lesley Stahl, when
"Rumsfeld said that we needed to bomb Iraq. And we all said
Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld
said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of
good targets in Iraq. I said, well, there are lots of good targets in
lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it
. When he said there
aren't enough targets in Afghanistan, I thought he was joking."
What's funny here is that Rumsfeld was joking,
but Clarke hadn't grown up with the Little Moron jokes we grew up with in
southwest Kansas, so he didn't get it. In fact, as Little Moron aficionados
have already detected, what Rumsfeld said is clearly a variation of the joke
about the Little Moron who lost his nickel in the dark.
If you're going to bomb a country to get revenge, the important
thing is to pick out a countryany countrythat has good targets. If
you're going to look for a dropped nickel, the important thing is to look
under a street lightany street lightwhere you can see.
Not many people are as amused as I am about all this. That's
because not many people grew up in southwest Kansas.
Sen. Chuck Hagel, for example, says Clarke's book is "a serious
book written by a serious professional who's made serious charges, and the
White House must respond to those charges."
The Truth, Mainly
Lighten up, Chuck. This administration jokes about everything.
And of course, the Jokester-in-Chief is the President
Himselfwhose jokes are clearly influenced by the Little Moron canon. I mean
this guy has degrees from Harvard and Yale. Are we supposed to believe he
isn't joking when he says "I understand small business growth. I was
one"? Or "We're concerned about AIDS inside our White Housemake no
mistake about it"? Or "I was proud the other day when both Republicans and
Democrats stood with me in the Rose Garden to announce their support for a
clear statement of purpose: you disarm or we will"?
(All of those lines come from the Bushisms calendar in my office.
If he didn't actually say them, I'm sure he'd like to get credit for
But it all goes over the heads of folks with defective humor
And the jokes go on and on.
Our current administration is more enthusiastic about war than any
administration in decades. And it's dominatedget thisby Chicken Hawks
who declined to fight in the war they were of age for in Vietnam: the
President who took refuge in the Texas Air National Guard, his Vice
President who once said "I had other priorities in the '60s than military
service," and the hawkiest of the advisors, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard
Perle. And they all like to ridicule John Kerry (a Silver Star and three
Purple Hearts in Vietnam) for being less combative than they are.
Is that a hoot or what?
And here's maybe the craziest joke of all: we're told that
Medicare will be broke by 2019, that Social Security will be bankrupt by
2042. And the President, an irrepressible twinkle in his eye, a
mischievous little smile playing at the corners of his mouth, tells us
it's time to cut taxes again.
I giggle like a Little Moron. My soda pop comes out my nose.
I'm a sick man.
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail