In the last couple of days, I’ve been reading the comments of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. They have been pretty ugly. And Barack Obama has been none too pretty, in campaign mode: more obnoxious, nastier, than usual. He grants almost nothing to his opponents — no goodwill, no sincerity, no point. He just thinks, or pretends to think, we’re a bunch of plutocrats who feast on orphans (and despoil the land as we eat).
All my life, I’ve been told that “politics ain’t beanbag.” People used to add, “as Mr. Dooley said.” I think they have dropped that, for the most part. Does anyone remember who Mr. Dooley was? Let me digress for a second, before getting back to the Democrats.
As we lose our shared patrimony — cultural patrimony — it gets harder to write. You can assume nothing: no familiarity. Last week, I wrote a little post after Ted Cruz’s victory in Texas. I quoted one of the Gershwins’ most popular songs: “They all laughed at Christopher Columbus, when he said the world was round. They all laughed when Edison recorded sound.” Some of my more clueless critics thought I was quoting the candidate himself: “Cruz is so stupid, he doesn’t know that Columbus was not laughed at for thinking that the world was round!”
What can you do? Some editors make you say, “Ludwig van Beethoven, a German composer of Dutch ancestry who lived from 1770 to 1827 . . .” You always feel you’re insulting the reader. But then — are you?
Anyway, back to the Democrats. I realize politics ain’t beanbag, and that we are in campaign season. Still, I think there are human limits — and that Obama, Reid, and Pelosi cross them, with no penalty, of course. No penalty imposed by the media, the professoriate, or Hollywood. (They’re all basically on the same side, let’s face it.) At the same time, I can’t imagine that decent Democrats are happy with their present leadership: with the triumvirate of Obama, Reid, and Pelosi.
You could say, however, that, after a while, a party gets the leadership it deserves. There’s an expression: “At a certain age, every woman has the face she deserves.” I don’t think this is true: We all know rotten women who have faces the world sees as beautiful. Conversely, there are golden women you might wince at, before getting to know them. Be that as it may: Today’s Democratic party may have the leadership it deserves.
How about the Republicans? How about the triumvirate of Romney, McConnell, and Boehner? In comparison with their Democratic counterparts, they are lambs, I think — or, if you prefer, princes. They can each be bruising, as who on that level can’t? (Who on any level, really?) But they are not rhetorical hooligans. They are nowhere near the level of nastiness reached by Obama-Reid-Pelosi.
Is that to the Republican disadvantage? Are they lobbing bombs at us while we’re fencing in tights? There is a debate to be had. In any case, no one can go further than his conscience or stomach will allow.
From time immemorial, probably, people have said, “Their side plays dirty, our side plays fair, or at least less dirty.” At the time of the first caveman gangs, those words were said, probably. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t true, now and then, here and there.