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The Old Scout
The Bums Try an End Run
September 9, 2008

So the Republicans have decided to run against themselves. The bums have tiptoed out the back door and circled around to the front and started yelling, "Throw the bums out!" They've been running Washington like a well-oiled machine to the point of inviting lobbyists into the back rooms to write the legislation, and now they are anti-establishment reformers dedicated to delivering us from themselves. And Mayor Giuliani is an advocate for small-town America. Bravo.

They are coming out for Small Efficient Government the very week that the feds are taking over Fannie and Freddie, those old cash cows, and in the course of a weekend twenty or fifty or (pick a number) billion go floating out the Treasury door. Hello? Do you see us out here? We are not fruit flies, we are voters, we can read and write, we didn't just fall off the coal truck.

It is a bold move on the Republicans' part — forget about the past, it's only history, so write a new narrative and be who you want to be — and if they succeed, I think I might declare myself a 24-year-old virgin named Lance and see what that might lead to. Paste a new face on my Facebook page, maybe become the Dauphin Louie the Thirty-Second, the rightful heir to the Throne of France, put on silk tights and pantaloons and a plumed hat and go on the sawdust circuit and sell souvenir hankies imprinted with the royal fleur-de-lis. They will cure neuralgia and gout and restore marital vigor.

Mr. McCain has decided to run as a former POW and a maverick, a maverick's maverick, rather than Mr. Bush's best friend, and that's understandable, but how can he not address the $3 trillion that got burned up in Iraq so far? It's real money, it could've paid for a lot of windmills, a high-speed rail line in Ohio, some serious R&D. The Chinese, who have avoided foreign wars for fifty years, are taking enormous leaps forward, investing in their economy, and we are falling behind. We're wasting our chances. The Republican culture of corruption in Washington hasn't helped.

And a former mayor of a town of 7,000 who hired a lobbyist to get $26 million in federal earmarks is now running against the old-boy network in Washington who gave her that money to build the teen rec center and other good things so she could keep taxes low in Wasilla. Stunning. And if you question her qualifications to be the leader of the free world, you are an elitist. This is a beautiful maneuver. I wish I had thought of it back in school when I was forced to subject myself to a final exam in higher algebra. I could have told Miss Mortenson, "I am a Christian and when you gave me a D, you only showed your contempt for the Lord and for the godly hard-working people from whom I have sprung, you elitist battleaxe you."

In school, you couldn't get away with that garbage because the taxpayers know that if we don't uphold scholastic standards, we will wind up driving on badly designed bridges and go in for a tonsillectomy and come out missing our left lung, so we flunk the losers lest they gain power and hurt us, but in politics we bring forth phonies and love them to death.

I must say, it was fun having the Republicans in St. Paul and to see it all up close and firsthand. Security was, as one might expect, thin-lipped and gimlet-eyed, but once you got through it, you found the folks you went to high school with — farm kids, jocks, the townies who ran the student council, the cheerleaders, some of the bullies — and they are as cohesive now as they were back then, dedicated to school spirit, intolerant of outsiders, able to jump up and down and holler for something they don't actually believe. But oh Lord, what they brought forth this year. When you check the actuarial tables on a 72-year-old guy who's had three bouts with cancer, you guess you may be looking at the first woman president, a hustling evangelical with ethics issues and a chip on her shoulder who, not counting Canada, has set foot outside the country once — a trip to Germany, Iraq and Kuwait in 2007 to visit Alaskans in the armed service. And who listed a refueling stop in Ireland as a fourth country visited. She's like the Current Occupant but with big hair. If you want inexperience, there were better choices.

© 2008 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, INC.



From the Desk of Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor
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