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The Truth, Mainly - 03/29/2004

Laughing ourselves crazy

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 to—and understanding of—the 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…no, no, 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 country—any country—that has good targets. If you're going to look for a dropped nickel, the important thing is to look under a street light—any street light—where 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 Himself—whose 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 House—make 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 saying them.)

But it all goes over the heads of folks with defective humor detectors.

And the jokes go on and on.

Our current administration is more enthusiastic about war than any administration in decades. And it's dominated—get this—by 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 address is: leonsatterfield@earthlink.net.


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