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I Wish to Register a Complaint: Of Obama and Dead Parrots



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When, in Monty Python’s famous parrot sketch, John Cleese complains that the parrot he bought is dead, the shopkeeper tries to change the subject, saying: “Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn’it, ay? Beautiful plumage!”

Yes, says Cleese. The plumage is lovely. But it’s dead.

For years, complaints that President Obama is a failure have been met both with reminders that he is an inspiring man who can make a damn good speech, and with requests for patience. Worry not about the unemployment numbers, we have been assured, for he is just about to revive the economy — this summer, or next summer, or maybe the one after that . . . Whether with Obamacare, the unemployment figures, or the stimulus, the president always seems to be just one pivotal oration away from convincing the electorate that his policies are attractive to them. He shares the conceit: When asked what his biggest mistake was, he answered that he had not communicated well enough.

There is a teeny-tiny problem with this: It’s not true. Barack Obama can make precisely one speech, and he has been making it for years now. He can make a speech in which — playing the youthful and exuberant outsider — he asks to be elected president in order to fix America’s problems — problems that have ostensibly been caused by a combination of minarchist Republicans, ubiquitous straw men, and the cynical nature of a politics that he somehow transcends. So well practiced is this speech that at the beginning of every sentence last night, those who follow such things knew precisely what was coming next, cadence and volume changes included.

Sadly for the president, however, all situations are not equal. The consequence of this has been that his speech has become gradually less effective throughout his tenure — to the point at which it is now flat, tired and, worst of all, downright inappropriate. Obama cannot reasonably be billed as the plucky young challenger when he is very much the establishment. While this seems to have gone amiss on him, it has not gone amiss on the assembled media, whose attempts to cover for his failure have been nothing short of heroic.

In the parrot sketch, when Cleese asks the shopkeeper why the parrot is lying motionless on his back, he is told that “the Norwegian Blue prefers kippin’ on its back!” Look, Cleese replies, “I took the liberty of examining that parrot when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had been sitting on its perch in the first place was that it had been nailed there.” Last night, even the president’s supporters could not spin away the weariness. The nails have come away.

It must be a crushing realization for his devotees, but the president’s plumage is no longer beautiful. He is, further to paraphrase our desperate shopkeeper, “tired and shagged out after a prolonged squawk.” A one-trick parrot, he is pining for the fjords of Chicago. It’s time to send him back there.



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