State of the Union

     Surely the most admirable person in the United States today is Gail Collins, The New York Times’ political columnist.
     Never have I seen her write a rancorous word.
     Even in her Thursday column this week, when she compared flailing Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal to rabid otters, there was no sting in it. I don’t know how she does it.
     The best newspaper columnists of the 20th century – H.L. Mencken and Mike Royko – never attained Collins’ blithe sublimity. Mencken said the only way for a reporter to look at a politician is down. Royko let his rage show. Only one other great columnist managed, like Collins, to sail above it all. I’ll get to him later.
     It’s obvious that U.S. politics today is insane. Nasty. Dishonest. Prostituted to money and fantasy.
     Wednesday night’s three-hour commercial for co-dependent enablers is as good a place to start as any.
     Jeb Bush got his biggest hand of the night by saying that his brother, W, “kept us safe.” The crowd at the Reagan Presidential Library went nuts.
     Actually, W ignored alarms from his own advisers that al Qaida was preparing an attack, allowed turf battles between the FBI, CIA and NSA to drown that evidence, then got us into the stupidest wars in U.S. history, which have killed and wounded 57,614 U.S. soldiers – only 27 percent of the casualties we suffered in Vietnam, but hey, that war’s over.
     The “debate” seldom rose above the level of name-calling, which the unelectable Gov. Chris Christie pointed out – and good for him.
     Donald Trump’s ignorance was on full display, but it didn’t hurt him much, and we all know why. It’s because U.S. voters like people who make us feel good. Whether they do this by lying to us makes no difference.
     That’s what Trump understands that the rest of them don’t. It’s why Ronald Reagan is still a Republican god. And there is some wisdom in this. Never take advice from, or vote for, an unhappy person. A man with a chip on his shoulder is the last person we need for a president. That’s why W was such a disaster.
     And everyone on that stage Wednesday night was unhappy but Trump.
     Scott Walker thinks unions are a communist plot.
     Marco Rubio dazzled with comments such as: “Forty percent of the people who come here illegally come here illegally.” And, “I stopped voting in the Senate because they weren’t doing anything.”
     Great, Marco! Who’s paying your salary?
     Mike Huckabee said the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses should be given a break because we let Muslims grow beards.
     Ted Cruz dissed Jeb Bush for the liberal justices his brother and father appointed to the Supreme Court – folks like Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and John Roberts.
     Need I go on? Please, don’t make me go on.
     The evening did clarify a dream I had this week. I couldn’t understand it until Wednesday night. Then I realized the dream was about U.S. politics.
     Famous people often appear in my dreams. I’ve had Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Clinton and Obama. Muammar Qaddafi gave me a beer. Probably this is because I’m more fabulous than Donald Trump, but let’s save that for later.
     Tuesday night Dave Barry showed up – the only columnist other than Gail Collins who’s never written a rancorous word. We were at a party and I wanted to tell him a joke. Mr. Barry graciously stepped into a corner with me and I told him about a torture victim I know. I used to work with torture victims. Halfway into the story I realized, “This isn’t funny. This isn’t the story I wanted to tell.”
     Dave Barry was politely smiling at me. Last thing I remember was pulling my hair, thinking, “Think! Think! There’s got to be something funny in this.”

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