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LOS ANGELES ( MAYORS & CITIES ) — It’s bad out there. But there actually is some fun to be had. Really.
We’re less than a year out from the 2012 election and President Obama faces the real possibility that he could become the first one-term president since George H.W. Bush was defeated by Bill Clinton in 1992.
Then, like now, there were economic issues and dissatisfaction with Washington. But compared to now, that was junior high. This is high school and the Capitol is being run by the mean girls and bullies. The electorate is massively pessimistic and, like Congress, deeply divided over the country’s direction, with a majority saying we’re headed on the wrong track.
So, we’ve got political paralysis except in politicians’ mouths that always seem to be open spewing something incomprehensible. The country’s in a sour mood. And now comes word that the Russians have launched a 13-ton spacecraft called the Phobos-Grunt that was set to launch a probe to Phobos, one of Mars’ two moons, once it escaped Earth’s orbit.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Mars’ moon– the rocket never got out of Earth’s orbit. And the Russians are in as near a state of panic as Russians can be because they have not been able to regain control of the spacecraft that, incidentally, is carrying a full 10-ton payload of toxic hydrazine fuel and nitrogen tetroxide. Oh, yeah. There’s a small cargo of radioactive cobalt-57 aboard, too. When the Phobos-Grunt plummets back to Earth, as is expected, we’d all better hope the toxic materials are in liquid form because they should explode once the rocket re-enters. If they’re frozen, well, depending on where it hits we, at least, will be able to see each other as we glow in the dark.
All this gloom and doom reminds me of a comic I used to read as a kid. It was Al Capp’s “L’il Abner” and it featured a character with the unpronounceable name of Joe Btfsplk (and OK for some of you, it’s also sometimes spelled Bftsplk as if it matters). The thing about Btfsplk is that there was always a dark cloud hovering above his head as he wandered the environs of Dogpatch, Kentucky. I’m beginning to think we should substitute Dogpatch for America and we might discover that at least 99 percent of us are Joe Btfsplk’s. Working, if we have a job; grocery shopping, if we have enough money to afford food; and hitting the gas station if we can shell out the bucks — all the while that black cloud hovers over us.
And, yet, there is a sort of silver lining to be found in that cloud and it’s called the candidates for the Republican nomination as President. I swear, you feeling down? Just spend a few minutes listening to some of their comments and the economy, the Russian rocket of death deciding who to knock off and the tragedy of Kim Kardashian’s ill-fated 72-day marriage will all be forgotten as you roll with laughter over your TV remote.
Of course, we have to start with Rick Perry who must have a copy of Meat Loaf’s classic “Bat Out of Hell” album in the Texas governor’s mansion. One of the tracks on the Loaf’s album is “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.” During the November 9 Michigan debate, Perry demonstrated his classic rock knowledge by getting two out of the three federal agencies he would eliminate. He got through Commerce and Education easily, but then came the brain freeze heard ‘round the world. He couldn’t come up with his third target, despite frantically rustling through his notes. His opponent, Ron Paul, suggested maybe the EPA? Yeah, Perry said, but quickly retracted that. After 53 seconds, Perry gave up saying “The third one, I can’t (remember). Sorry. Oops.” (The oops can be replaced with the Energy Department, which was the third on his list.)
Then we’ve got the Godfather of Dough, Herman Cain, he of the Godfather’s Pizza chain. Cain seemed to be on a roll, leading the rest of the field in some polls. The Cain Train was chugging along the rails until at least four spikes came loose threatening a derailment. Those four spikes are four women who have accused Cain of various forms of sexual harassment. Two were paid off in confidentiality agreements by the National Restaurant Association, which Cain headed.
Cain had denied the accusations in various fits and starts, much like a 1970’s Chrysler. He has also referred to the House of Representatives’ first woman speaker, Nancy Pelosi, as “Princess Nancy” and joked when someone mentioned Anita Hill who had testified against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas charging him with sexual harassment in previous years. Cain’s question to his audience? “Is she going to endorse me?” It was a real thigh-slapper of a response. Oops, let’s keep any body slapping references off the Cain Train.
Now we move to Michele Bachman of Minnesota. I’m originally from Minnesota and always proudly mentioned it when asked where I was from. I’ve since revised my answer to say, yes, I’m from the Minnesota that does not include Bachman’s congressional district. I think this is partly because of comments she recently gave during a speech at the Family Research Council.
“Our nation needs to stop doing for people what they can and should do for themselves,” Bachman said. “Self-reliance means, if anyone will not work, neither should he eat.”
Well, after hearing that, I leapt off the couch to get started on this column. I figured if I got at least halfway through it, I could eat one slice of leftover pizza. And finish the column? I’m talking dinner here.
As for Newt Gingrich (whom I’ve never taken seriously because of his seriously funny first name), he was up to his usual tricks at the debate. He criticized journalists, balked at having to explain his plans to overhaul the health care system in 30 seconds (even after being offered to take as much time as he’d like) and went after the Occupy Wall Street movement by asking “Who is going to pay for the park you are occupying if there are no businesses making a profit?” Another Brooks Brothers’ tie will simply have to languish for a while longer on the rack, I predict.
And then there’s the always-presumptive front-runner, Mitt Romney. I’m sorry but every time I see Romney I picture him on a black-and-white TV walking through the front door of his suburban house and asking how the Beav did in school today. Or strapping his dog inside a cage mounted atop his vehicle for a family trip.
Ron Paul, former Sen. Rick Santorum and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman also showed up, but didn’t really bring rapture to the crowd.
So, that toxic piece of Russian evil space junk is ripping around the Earth and an outside date of re-entry could come as soon as November 26. Where will it hit? Who knows? But just FYI, the Republican candidates will be gathering in Des Moines, Iowa, November 19 for a Thanksgiving Family Forum. But I’m not saying anything. Oops.
Photo ( White House ) by BOSSI