Politics & Policy

The Senator From Bray

[Note: One of the best-loved old English songs is “The Vicar of Bray,” whose words first showed up in print in the 1730s (though to a tune no longer sung). Bray is a small village near Windsor, in southern England. In the song, the cynical vicar of Bray boasts of how, by turning his coat to suit religious fashion, he managed to hold on to his position as vicar through all the politico-religious turmoil of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. You can hear the tune here, though the words shown are slightly different from the ones I was taught.]

In Lyndon Johnson’s second term,

When patriotism no harm meant

Some résumé points I had to earn

So off to Vietnam went.

That country did its sights contrive

Onto my heart to sear;

In just four months I’d medals five,

Kick-starting my career.

[Chorus] And this is true, depend on me–

Don’t bother to compete, Sir!–

No matter who the POTUS be

I’ll keep my Senate seat, Sir!

When Richard Nixon came along,

And war was out of fashion,

I testified to grievous wrong,

With most indignant passion.

To medals five goodbye I kissed;

A book (try finding it!) I wrote.

And now would be a pacifist

But for the VFW vote.

[Chorus] And this is true…

While Ford and Carter struggled o’er

Our post-Vietnam confusion,

I kept low profile as a lawyer,

In public prosecution.

For in those times the public mood

Was harsh on politicians.

(While, to relieve my solitude

I sought out girls – just rich ones.)

[Chorus] And this is true…

In Reagan’s time I saw the chance

To further my ambition.

So to the Senate did advance–

A liberal patrician.

My Senatorial chores were few–

No need for much attendance.

Just raise some funds and kiss up to

Joe Kennedy’s descendants!

[Chorus] And this is true…

When George the First came to the fore,

With policies much sounder,

I stood out firm against his war

Believing it would founder.

It didn’t; but his previous vow

All taxes new to spare us

Soon got me off the hook: Who now

Remembers judgment errors?

[Chorus] And this is true…

Then dear Bill Clinton’s fortunes soared

And liberal men were thriving.

I got myself a loaded broad

And lots of cars for driving.

No military issues rose

Past follies to unbury:

What happy, golden days were those

For lefties like John Kerry!

[Chorus] And this is true…

For George the Second’s Iraq War

I voted my approval;

And cheered until my throat was sore

At S. Hussein’s removal.

But liberal friends soon whispered that

A quagmire was a-brewing.

And in the ring I threw my hat,

To seek George Two’s undoing.

[Chorus] And this is true…

Imagine this: A noble vet–

One with a sharp salute. He

Stands up in wartime to upset

A man who shirked his duty.

Alas, it’s going all awry–

Just look at my position!

The Swifties say my past’s a lie–

And Rather’s blown his mission!

[Chorus] Ah, well. What matters it to me

My buggy’s in the ditch, Sir?

No matter who the POTUS be

I’ll still be stinking rich, Sir!

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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