Naked Flying Baby's Second Amendment Rights

[ Posted Wednesday, February 7th, 2007 – 14:55 UTC ]

So President George Bush gave Democrats an early Valentine's Day present last weekend. He actually addressed the Democratic Party's "sanctum sanctorum" retreat, the first time he's done so in six years. He even answered questions! Perhaps the Democrats' new congressional majorities have forced him to attempt a bipartisan outreach, perhaps he decided to get lovey-dovey with the Democrats all on his own, or perhaps a naked flying baby was exercising his Second Amendment rights and shot Dubya with a Democratic love arrow, two weeks early.

You be the judge.

Bush not only went into the Democratic lion's den (so to speak), he also utilized some humor to defuse the situation. This, it should be noted, is the second time in as many weeks that Bush has been delivering punchlines. Maybe the midterm election defeat loosened him up; in the same way Al Gore was seen to flourish (personality-wise) after his presidential campaign was over. Whatever the reason, Bush was playing to the inside-the-Beltway set, and he actually got off a good joke.

It all started with the State of the Union speech... or it all started with Senator Joe McCarthy, depending on how you view it. At the very beginning of the speech, while actually speaking some kind words towards the new and historic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Bush blew his line. Intentionally or not, instead of reading "Democratic majority" from his TelePrompTer text, what he actually said was "Democrat majority."

Not really that big a deal, since Republicans have been utilizing this slur for over 50 years now, but when the President is attempting to "reach across the aisle" and usher in a new era of bipartisanship, you'd think he'd at least get his opposition party's name right. In the spirit of all that bipartisanship, and all. Ahem.

The second stage of this mini-drama was when Juan Williams of NPR actually asked him about it in a recent interview. Bush gave a (sort of) backhanded apology, and blamed it on learning English in West Texas. But whoever writes Bush's jokes noticed, which brings us to last weekend.

Anyone who reads this column regularly knows I am not exactly a fan of President Bush, but his line at the Democratic retreat almost deserves the adjective "Reaganesque." From Bush's speech:

"Now, look, my diction isn't all that good. I have been accused of occasionally mangling the English language. And so I appreciate you inviting the head of the Republic Party."

This was truly brilliant. It had just the right tone of self-depreciation that Ronald Reagan often used, to great effect.

But Democrats need to pick up this ball and run with it, in order to stamp out this backhanded slur from the lexicon of American politics forever. For the next few months, every time a Democratic politician or advocate faces this familiar dilemma, they now have the perfect response.

Picture this:

[GOP POLITICIAN:] "Bloviate bloviate BLO-vi-ate, bloviate the Democrat Party position on this subject is bloviate blovi-ATE..."

Or, perhaps, the following:

[FOX NEWS "JOURNALIST":] "Spin spin SPIN. Spin SPIN spin spin Democrat Party spin spin SPIN!!!"

Now picture this response to such provocation:

[DEMOCRATIC POLITICIAN'S RESPONSE:] "Well, if you insist on referring to my party as the 'Democrat Party' then I'm going to have to use President Bush's own term 'Republic Party' to respond to that. After all, if my party's name is too hard for you to pronounce, then I'll have to follow Bush's lead and use 'Republic Party' in order to get it down to the number of syllables you seemingly are able to pronounce."

Don't just let it slide by, pick up a big hammer and beat this GOP snideness down forever!

There's one other thing about Bush's appearance that is worth mentioning here. Bush wasn't just cracking jokes with Democrats, he also actually answered questions from the crowd. OK, he did kick all the press out of the room first, and he did negotiate in advance that he'd only take six questions; so it wasn't exactly public or spontaneous (no reports on whether the questions themselves had to be pre-screened by the White House or not, but I wouldn't put it past Karl Rove to insist on such a restriction). Still, it's the first time in my memory that he's allowed Democrats to just ask him anything they wanted.

I lived in Europe for a few years, and one of my major English-language news sources while I was there was listening to BBC radio. I learned a lot about the way the British Parliament works from doing so, and every so often I would find myself thinking: "That's actually a good way to do things, I wish America did that." One of these things was "Prime Minister's Question Time."

For thirty minutes each week, the Prime Minister had to schlep down to Parliament and answer any and all questions, about anything under the sun. These questions came from the opposition parties, and the radio broadcasts of them were high comedy. Of course, if caught in a pinch, the PM would just slip into partisan rhetoric -- much the same way our presidential candidates do during debates. But the hilarious part was that they've never heard of Robert's Rules of Order in Ye Olde Country. So the minor and insignificant members of Parliament (the "backbenchers") would mutter and yell and otherwise loudly express disapproval whenever the PM said something they didn't like. You have to picture an angry crowd from a South Park cartoon yelling: "Rabble rabble rabble!" to truly appreciate such chaos. This is not an exaggeration. Heard above the din, every so often someone will even yell out "Treason!" just to liven things up.

Minus the kindergarten screamfest, though, wouldn't it be nice if the President had to spend a half-hour every week answering questions from the opposition party in Congress, instead of once every six years? The constitutionality of such a scheme is debatable, of course, but I still think it'd be an experiment worth trying.

It could guarantee that we never again have a president who insulates himself in a solid-steel "and never is heard, a discouragin' word" bubble from the public's opinion at large. Short of converting to a blog site where people can post comments, it would open the doors of the Oval Office to some differing opinions on a regular, weekly basis.

Just think about it... if you were a freshman House member, and President Bush appeared before Congress to answer questions, what would you ask him?


[See the original Huffington Post article, complete with comments.]

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