Sunday, October 29, 2006

Halloween Memories From a Lost America

Halloween gives President Bush a chance to pretend he's something he's not and frighten people - so it's a lot like every other day. I had two Halloween flashbacks lately that capture the rapid descent from a more idealistic time. One was when Candidate Bush appeared on the Tonight Show on or around Halloween and put on the Al Gore mask. Does anyone remember that? Anyway, I had two jokes on that night and one made direct fun of the Cheney half of the ticket. At the time Cheney's voting record was in the news - he barely voted at all. My joke was, "This election is going to be so close even Dick Cheney is thinking about voting."

When I look back on that, it's like another world. I remember marveling that a humble freelancer like me could take a verbal jab at a big political candidate's ticket while he was there as a guest. It actually is quite a statement about America that you can make fun of the leaders. Of course that was before the ticket was awarded office by the Supreme Court, and then went on a massive power drive such that the executive branch now has unchecked powers to arrest and torture any of us for the rest of our lives. That takes the steam out of the nostalgic reminiscing. And that was before light-hearted dissent was treated - not as an American way of life in the tradition of Will Rogers or Mark Twain - but as the unacceptable sniping of terrorist appeasers. Okay, that's a little strong, but I miss this country.

Who could have known that Dick Cheney's lack of interest in participatory democracy was a hint of a bleak future in which our system would be replaced by a de facto dictatorship? By the way, Dick Cheney enjoys picking a fun Halloween costume. It's the only time of year people don't think of him as Darth Vader. He also has a nasty surprise for trick-or-treaters who come to his house. He dunks them in water till they give up all of their candy.

My other Halloween memory was the night I got dressed down on the phone by Miss America's mother. I had written a front page story for the Portland Tribune about Donald Trump's refusal to let Miss America appear in the big Thanksgiving Parade because Miss Universe would be there. The details escape me but I sided with the hometown girl, Katie Harmon, and couldn't have been more generous in my support for her, and my disdain for the Donald. One thing about my Tribune columns - it seemed like someone was always upset - often the people you praised the most.

By the way, I always try and side with Portland in my jokes. I love the place so why not? My first joke I ever sold Leno made fun of Nancy Kerrigan, so I took Tonya's side early because she was the hometown girl. Later of course, I dumped on her as well, because it was good for business. But when a Portland State student wins Miss America, I'm not going to diss her in a local column and if I had they wouldn't have put it on the front page. So what was Katie's mom upset about?

As I remember, the Donald had come up with a counter offer that was demeaning and unacceptable and I wrote that Miss America had told him to stick it. I didn't quote her. I just described her reaction in those terms. Well, Miss America's Mom was not pleased and told me that she liked the article except for that one phrase and that Katie would never, ever say anything like that.

While she was talking the doorbell would ring in the background and she would go give candy to some trick or treaters. I could hear her talking to the kids, and this gave me time to notice how sweet a lady she was, but also to think about the weirdness of having Miss America's Mom upset at me.

That and making fun of Dick Cheney on the Tonight Show while George Bush was there are my two Halloween memories of the last 6 years that now seem so quaint and innocent that it might have been a Frank Capra film. Of course that was before we landed in the horror movie we're in right now.


At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more scary week to go..........

Although waaaay lacking in sincerity, it's nice to see Ron Saxton in his current ads attempt a sort of apology for simply being a Republican. Certainly a nice touch, and something all R's ought to consider during this election season - you know, an apology for the last six years. It's the least they can do before we turn out the lights on them next Tuesday.

At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 5:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Of course that was before the ticket was awarded office by the Supreme Court, and then went on a massive power drive such that the executive branch now has unchecked powers to arrest and torture any of us for the rest of our lives."

What's scary is that you might actually believe some of this stuff you are writing. Or maybe I'm just unaware of the recent government roundup and internment of comedy writers. Unless you are comparing comedy writers to terrorists that we've nabbed overseas plotting more attacks to murder innocent people across the World. Come to think of it, you may be on to something.

At 7:12 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

Nice to hear from you again. You refer to the scary stuff I'm writing. I didn't write the Detainee Bill, or the Patriot Act or this latest bill about martial law that allows the President to seize control of state militias in opposition once again to the Constitution. Why do you like President Bush so much? Is this a cult of personality thing? Here's a quote from a newsletter I get edited by Sam Smith: " In a stealth maneuver, President Bush has
signed into law a provision which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy
(D-Vermont), will actually encourage the President to declare federal
martial law. It does so by revising the Insurrection Act, a set of laws
that limits the President's ability to deploy troops within the United
States. The Insurrection Act has historically, along with the Posse
Comitatus Act, helped to enforce strict prohibitions on military
involvement in domestic law enforcement. With one cloaked swipe of his
pen, Bush is seeking to undo those prohibitions.

[The bill], which was signed by the commander in chief on October 17th,
in a private Oval Office ceremony, allows the President to declare a
"public emergency" and station troops anywhere in America and take
control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the
governor or local authorities, in order to "suppress public disorder."

You're so trusting, Butch. I doubt if you've had to worry that much about terrorism but you're so afraid of what may happen that you are giving our freedoms away too easily.That's a lot more scary than anything I write.

At 8:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The militia bill is a perfect example of ankle biting critics of this administration getting exactly what they asked for. It is in direct response to the extreme and unfair criticism of the Federal Government's response to Hurricane Katrina. Bush was raked over the coals for not responding quickly enough. Nevermind that the Federal Government doesn't have any 'first responders' such as State National Guard units at its disposal and that it was the inneptness of Governor Blanco and her failure to call up the guard. Well, guess what? Now Bush has his first responders. Congratulations.

At 11:16 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

Butch, Every now and then you present a strong counter-argument that really presents your position well. This is not one of those times. Extreme and unfair criticism for the way the federal government handled Katrina? That pretty much ends your case - I don't think W. himself would agree with you on that. Everyone knows he blew it on this. Ask yourself this: Would he like to do that one over and act differently? If your answer is yes, well, that's the response he should have had the first time.
You portray the new bill as W. expanding his power almost against his will because he's only trying to do a better job. He's only responding to what the opposition wants.
The problem is that this group takes every opportunity - some self-made and others thrust upon them - to expand the powers of the presidency.
I respect your opinions but seriously, Butch, on this one you come off as hopelessly delusional.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger LaurelhurstDad said...

This administration's antics remind me of a great H.L. Mencken quote:

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary."

And Mencken was speaking long before our pretend (but still very dangerous) president was appointed to power.


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