chewing up the scenery

“I get no thrill….  from this atomic age;

My home is still….  upon the Palace stage,  

Where life’s a song, as long as I can say,

I belong to the wonderful world of the two-a-day.”

—- Vaudeville medley, Jerry Herman

In the surreal world of the American right, the systematic substitution of appearance for reality appears complete.  What has actually happened, versus what has been presented as having happened, have never been farther apart.

Beginning with the universally accepted myth that Bush “won” the 2000 election, as a Texan maverick who would work across party lines to “restore dignity and honor” to the White House, up to the present moment, where a supposed “revolt” is rolling across the land against the new President, the narratives, always accompanied by “events” which look pretty convincing on television, continues.  Of course, the scenery, having been on a grueling road tour all these years, is a bit tattered, and the players presenting the act are now either aging understudies or unseasoned ingenues, but we are asked to squint our eyes and believe, just one more time, and watch the show.

Oh, I’m not knocking the spectacles; some were quite dazzling.  Basking in the footlights, Bush pal Kenny Boy, with his stadium, skyscrapers, and airplanes, easily convinced a lot of people that somewhere there was real money to pay for it all.  AIG had a division in London that was reporting 87% profits, selling envelopes containing something they called insurance, which was true, as long as no claims were ever made….  Why not make it a hundred?  Citibank scoldingly informed its loan officers that the terms didn’t matter; business borrowers would flock to Citi for its superior brand alone.  The postman would surely be impressed at the quality of the stationery upon which the future dun letters would be printed.  In short, like Scarlett O’Hara, who was not beautiful, but “everyone thought she was,” all a financial or political celebrity needed was the telegenic trappings of success; real success could be cobbled together later.  Mission Accomplished, and all that.

But, forgiving audiences being what they are, even when when the Lear jet had quite visibly turned into a pumpkin and the martial triumph a grinding humiliation, rather than throwing tomatoes, those in the cheap seats worried about the fragile psyches of the performers on stage.  Their pain, or struggles for “liquidity,” as Linda Lay put it, were our pain.  After all, losing your crappy little job and your measly retirement was pathetically small potatoes compared to losing something that really mattered, like your mansion in Aspen, your name engraved on buildings, or your dazzlingly extravagant  tchotchkes, be they wars or wastebaskets.  

Unfortunately, this two-tiered system of downfall has now been enshrined in law, and the notion that some are more equal than others, especially if they have really expensive shoes, is now as American as apple pie.  Thus, the mere fact that Bush was not made dictator for life, and has to endure an obscure and unheralded retirement is more than enough penance to burn away any sins his administration might have committed, and the very fact that Donald Rumsfeld deigns to ride  the bus in Washington, rather than in a convoy of limousines, renders him sainted beyond all criticism by his fellow passengers.

Only “losers” would end up in a spot where bailing them out would be even debated; everyone worth knowing had already taken the money and run.  And only “score settlers” would care whether heinous, documented, and admitted crimes would be prosecuted; the “folks” feel bad enough that Dick and Lynne’s last tango won’t be, for legal reasons, in Paris.  Don’t cry for me, Dubai.

We do have two systems in America; one for those on television, where the rewards are enormous and the consequences few, and the whole world watches in awe, and another for those watching, where the rewards are few, the consequences enormous, and no one watches at all.


  1. Jim White says:

    Wonderfully said! I especially like the Lear jet turning into a pumpkin.

    Jane Hamsher just put up a post about the Republicans needing to find a new leader to take Limbaugh’s place. Check out this sentence:
    We’re about half-way through some Joseph Campbell hero cycle, where many noble challengers have boldly stepped forward to slay the beast but all have been forced to kneel and kiss the cyst.


    • cocktailhag says:

      I just read that, and of course loved it because it was gross. I’ll be painting cabinets today, with that damned Jerry Herman song stuck in my head. Good post over at Oxdown.

    • ondelette says:

      Maybe there is a way for the pumpkin turning to happen at 30,000 feet? Failing that, maybe a quick measure or two can be passed making it a crime worth twenty years to life to fly a pumpkin in commercial airspace at any airport, over any street, above any park, or near any convention center recently renamed something appropriate, from something like “Ronald Wilson Reagan blah blah blah”.

  2. Jim Montague says:

    “The Republicans believe that the power of government should be used first of all to help the rich and the privileged in the country. With them, property, wealth, comes first. The Democrats believe that the power of government should be used to give the common man more protection and a chance to make a living. With us the people come first.” Harry Truman
    Nothing changes…
    To today’s Republicans, the Constitution is just a quaint document from a simpler time, as Bush has said “It’s only a piece of paper.”

    • cocktailhag says:

      I guess what’s so sad is that the Republican way has been so aggressively, and successfully. Everyone now “worries” about the rich, like they’re dainty or something. Michele Bachmann even feared they might run away if we weren’t nicer to them. Sheesh.

  3. Dirigo says:

    In pure show-biz terms, Rush will not give up the spotlight he has just seized within Republican Part affairs without an ensuing wrestling match of bizarre proportions between him and party leaders – in full view of the nation.

    It could take months, or longer, right up to the mid-terms.

    Obama said to Republicans (while he was being extra nice), “Don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh.”

    Now, after the CPAC show, party leaders are faced with the spectacle that the rabid right rank and file are hanging on Rush’s every word, not theirs.

    They’ve allowed themselves be shut out, and to be seen as groveling.

    Rush’s titanic ego will not allow them to re-take control. No egoist actor such as he is, no out-of-control performer experiencing such a thrill, will give up the stage without a yank on a really big hook.

    He’s absorbing the party into his show.


    • Dirigo says:

      Not to get too technical, but I am a student of public speaking, and I watched a lot of Limbaugh’s appearance at the CPAC shindig. Not all, but a fair amount. Nothing he said was surprising; there was just more of it. It was doubly amusing that he made some joke about Stalin early on, and yet went on (apparently exceeding his allotted time by a considerable amount) and on, kind of like old Soviet leaders used to do, or Castro, droning and droning aimlessly – and defensively. Completely off the cuff and out of proportion.

      That’s a sign of someone out of control. It’s a sign of real arrogance.

      In contrast, for what it’s worth, Gordon Brown, the Brit P.M., demonstrated superb public speaking skills (and control of the stage within his moment) with a well-crafted and well-written speech before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. A real example of eloquence in action.
      C–span has it.

      • Pedinska says:

        It was doubly amusing that he made some joke about Stalin early on, and yet went on (apparently exceeding his allotted time by a considerable amount) and on, kind of like old Soviet leaders used to do, or Castro, droning and droning aimlessly – and defensively. Completely off the cuff and out of proportion.

        Without the money, Rush would be just another homeless person talking to thin air on a street corner.

        They are so insulated that they don’t realize how absurd the CPAC lineup of Limbaugh, Coulter and that bizarre 13-year-old really was. If that’s all they’ve got in their pocket for the future, then their future is grim indeed.

        • rmp says:

          Actually, I listened to all of that 13-year-old’s remarks and he was talking as a true conservative who though misguided and too simplistic are not phonies. He showed how ridiculous Rush and Ann are and you could hear in the audience cheers those who want authenticity not farce.

        • cocktailhag says:

          It’s that grim future that really has me crying in my beer for them. Limbaugh’s last contract was for $400 million. No wonder he thinks he’s king. We need a maximum wage in this country, so people will quit crazy delusion that they matter so much. They don’t.

    • cocktailhag says:

      I liked his looks, too. Like a bad cut of meat, sweating. It was bizarre, but worse because lots of people liked it…. love the commie analogy; it paints a great picture.

    • Karen M says:

      What is the opposite of breaking that fourth wall? Inverting it?

  4. rmp says:

    Great posts Hag and Jim White. The hack, ham actor will not be rushed off the stage no matter how much he chews up reason or loves to rule his side of the American stage. He won’t set foot on a world stage because the boos would drown out the nonsense and hatred he projects.

    The fancy pants in the two-tiered box seats, unless they hire enough thugs, will not be able to hush the masses in the cheap seats because these hurting fans know a farce when they see one. Hack actor’s crazed fans have been relegated to the top balconey and are drowned out by angry freedom and fairness loving fans who are posting and twittering grassroots clamor for a new show.

    The actors they are cheering for are trying to decide whether they should take over the present stage or create a whole new stage and form of theater. Their fans are equally perplexed. The answer is right down front and if these actors stop letting the glare of the footlights blind them, they would see the constitution and rule of law glaring back at them.

    They would then conclude that their fans deserve a one-tiered system where all are treated equally and laws are devised where money and power can no longer stage plays solely for their own benefit.

    • cocktailhag says:

      It is oddly mesmerizing watching the overconfidence of Rush and his bunch; outside of the media, they’re the last to know the game is up. Lies, once exposed, and especially if the results are disastrous, do chip away at credibility over time. Honestly, people now like George Bush better than Rush. Why? HE’S GONE! That makes him slightly more lovable in my book, even.
      But Rush, far from gone is everywhere.
      Good luck with that, Righties.

  5. bystander says:

    All too true, and well characterized. Kudos.

    What worries me is where are the Republicans with two functioning brain cells going to go, if not into obscurity? I keep thinking back to WT’s conversations with LWM. We don’t want them in the Democratic Party, but they seem incapable of wresting the GOP out of Limbaugh’s hands.

    Were I a reasonably sane young-ish person with aspirations of a life in politics, I wouldn’t be looking at the GOP as a vehicle to achieve my goal. I keep thinking either the moderate Republicans need to form a third party, or genuine progressives do (and, Lord, there used to be progressive Republicans). And, yet, the structures and institutions of political life array against a viable 3rd party.

    It bodes for a continuation of the fractured Democratic Party that we currently have, comprised of Blue Dogs, so-called Moderates, and progressives (the loony left which really isn’t far left at all). I don’t see progressive policies coming out of the current Democratic array for a very long time.

    • cocktailhag says:

      That’s the lame part. Here we are all excited to have a president who is about as liberal as, say, Nixon, again. Whoopie! My hope is that by demonizing “socialism” all the time, and looking so ridiculous and insane doing it, more moderates will start to look at “socialitic” things, like antitrust enforcement and universal health care in a better light. If Rush hates it, it must be good.
      Then I wake up, and realize that the Dems are a big part of the problem. Faced with a seismic shift in opinions and conditions, will they again propose meaningless, centrist crap, or nothing at all?

  6. rmp says:

    OT My son just alerted me to a new site:

    The definitive guide to Trolls

    As near as I can tell Ubuntu is a commercially sponsored Debian-derived Linux distribution that focuses on usability, whatever that means.

  7. rmp says:

    Hag, Dirigo and other creative types,

    The DNC just alered me to a new challenge involving Rush:
    Rush Limbaugh has made waves lately about his desire to see President Obama fail. And he’s unapologetic, even though Americans voted in November for the very kind of change the President is bringing to Washington. As even Limbaugh must know, if the President fails, America fails.

    Incredibly, Republican leaders have yet to condemn Limbaugh for his destructive comments. In fact, Republicans like Congressman Eric Cantor, a leader in the House, have adopted the Limbaugh strategy, telling the Washington Post recently that their strategy on the President’s jobs plan was “just saying no.”

    The only Republican leader to challenge Limbaugh — the chairman of the Republican National Committee — even called Rush to apologize just a few days later.

    But we have no apologies for Rush, just a message. We need you to come up with a slogan, in ten words or less, that we’ll put on a billboard where he can’t miss it — in his hometown of West Palm Beach, Florida.

    Can you help us come up with a message for Rush that we’ll place on a billboard right in his hometown?

    • Dirigo says:

      Be glad to try, but please note there seems to be some hair-splitting about what Rush first said.

      Did he not say that he wished for “President Obama to fail”?

      The hair-splitting I have sensed has to do with backpedaling, or whiffing away from that first utterance, to something like: “Oh, I mean I want his PROGRAMS to fail, like, you know, the Arizona Cardinals Super Bowl football PROGRAM to fail against MY TEAM, the Steelers!!! Y’know, PROGRAMS: like more welfare, and publicly-funded condom programs, and bailouts for those irresponsible people who took out mortgages that THEY KNEW they couldn’t afford in the first place … ”

      It’s not personal. Reeeealllllllly!

    • cocktailhag says:

      Mmmmm. I’m wracking my brain…. What a neat idea. Ondelette?

  8. Dirigo says:

    Testing for the hag-blog focus group:

    1) “RUSSSHHH! – E – I – B: Excellence in Bombasting”

    2) “LIMBAUGH: Chicken-Hawk; Chicken Debater”

    3) “RUSH LIMBAUGH: Take the Fool Away”

  9. cocktailhag says:

    “A floor wax AND a dessert topping?”

  10. rmp says:

    OT I just heard the tail end of a discussion on News Hour with James Baker and Lee Hamilton and Leher was asking them about how obama was doing on foreign affairs. Both were very impressed with his pragmatic approach and how he zeroed in on how to solve the problems. Then Hamilton said in answering Leher’s question, “Does he listen?” “Yes he listens, but beyond that, he understands.”

    • cocktailhag says:

      That’s like when Gates said, to no one’s surprise except the M$M nitwit who asked the difference, “Obama is “more analytical” than Bush. I guess in the same way that a dog is “more analytical” than an amoeba.

  11. Superb. Just superb writing.

    Your “selling envelopes containing something they called insurance” reminded me of the anthrax envelopes. Turns out, anthrax and Credit Default Options turned out to be pretty much the same, but the CDOs were more lethal. As Woody Guthrie wrote long ago–”Some men will rob you with weaponized anthrax, and some with a fountain pen”…

    • cocktailhag says:

      Thanks… That story just stuck in my mind. Of course, the rest of AIG was soooo jealous of the “performance” of the London office. The first liar doesn’t stand a chance, my mother used to say.

  12. Dirigo says:

    No elitism intended, but I was reviewing the academic achievements of our conservative brethren of note and found this:

    Rush Limbaugh is a high school graduate (and he barely got that far).

    Sean Hannity is a high school graduate.

    Karl Rove is a high school graduate.

    Zach Wamp, the Tennessee congressman who is suddenly up on his hind legs about health care, is a high school graduate (and a former, admitted coke head who wants to be governor).

    Just a few facts …

    Somebody was talking of dunces?

    • cocktailhag says:

      Well, it’s not just lack of formal education; Hell, Bush has a Harvard MBA. It’s a refusal to learn. Republicans don’t think, they memorize “facts” like multiplication tables, and recite them. In fourth grade, we got lemon drops for such intellectual achievements.
      Another element of it is the pride, nay, glory, of being a dumbo. They’re the party of Roman Hruska, mediocre people who deserve a chance. “Don’t confuse me with the facts. I have a closed mind.”

  13. OSR says:

    I’m glad that I’m not the only one who has noticed that the disconnect between reality and the media seems to be widening. Yet, even as our jobs, houses, and retirements evaporate, we never seem to tire of having sunshine blown up our collective posterior.

    • cocktailhag says:

      It’s weird. They talk about some 4% tax increase like it’s going to make John Thain wear a barrel. No danger of that, unless the barrel’s really expensive.
      It’s dumbfounding. Who are these people?

  14. karrsic says:

    Class warfare? Bring it on! Never before has the GOP been so unabashedly the party of the rich, to hell with the rest. They couple the message w/ anti-government rhetoric that appeals to the middle class. Why does this appeal to the middle class? Social issues aside, the middle class is pissed off because the govt is in bed with the corps, ie, the rich. So even if rich fux like Limbaugh say “don’t trust the govt, the govt takes all your money, etc., etc.,” some in the middle class say “damn straight!” The permanent end to the GOP comes when the Dems successfully (re)claim Southern middle class.

    We want Rush at the top of the GOP because he represents everything loathsome – greedy, gluttonous, hypocrite, chicken-hawk. Could we ask for more? There’s your billboard.

    “Rush: Representing your next-door millionaire.”

    • cocktailhag says:

      It is pretty funny, when the fat get angry. Usually, they calm down when you give them a Ding Dong.
      It’s remarkable that the GOP so steadfastly refuses to get the joke.

      • karrsic says:

        Mmmm, Ding Dong.

        • cocktailhag says:

          Those are pretty tasty, although at this point it would take a heck of a lot of medical marijuana to make me eat one. Or rather, buy one. Ding Dongs are like porn; they have many aficionados, but no advocates.
          Were you reading UT the day that the bloated gentleman being discussed claimed to have had “an apple” for breakfast?
          Kitt: I suspect that was a lie.
          Cocktailhag: It had a pie around it.
          Pedinska: He left out “dumpling.”
          If the Repubs want to avoid at least this type of juvenile ridicule, they should give Ann Coulter a call.

  15. Retzilian says:

    Off the top of my head, how about “Calories Don’t Matter!”

  16. Retzilian says:

    CH wrote:

    Republicans don’t think, they memorize “facts” like multiplication tables, and recite them. In fourth grade, we got lemon drops for such intellectual achievements.

    Title 1, aka “No Child Left Behind” promotes the same style of learning. They teach to the test, and mainly the kids memorize facts and a lot of them don’t really understand the context of what they are learning. I know this, because I have two grade-school kids in this loathsome structure right now. When I review what they are doing in school and ask them about what it means, they don’t really know. They can memorize facts but cannot apply the knowledge.

    Maybe it’s a Republican conspiracy to keep the younger generation from developing critical thinking skills.

    • cocktailhag says:

      I don’t think there’s a “maybe” involved. The whole movement depends on muddleheaded automatons, and NCLB is a dandy way to produce them. Better yet, it punishes teachers who might deign to actually teach anything, between exercises for the drills.
      A little knowledge is a dangerous thing; and fortunately for the GOP, it can be prevented.

      • Retzilian says:

        Well, I am proud of my son, who, in second grade last year told his class that President Bush was a war criminal.

        And, he didn’t get into trouble. His principal was a big Hillary fan.

        • cocktailhag says:

          My nephew Paul, riding in the backseat with his stepmom and me, had been quiet for a while, while she and I discussed her and my brother going to a party at one of our Sigma Nu brother’s. This was 2004, and he was about 8 at the time. I said, “Why don’t you want to go to Dufort’s?” Before Jennifer could answer, Paul said, in the most disgusted tone a kid that age can muster, “He’s a Republican.”
          Case closed.

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