Monday is the opening of the GOP presidential convention in Tampa, Fla. (Yawn.) Next week the Democrats hold their get-together in Charlotte, N.C.
Every four years, each political party goes through these so-called exercises in democracy. (Or, to be more accurate, corporatocracy.) I realize there are elections every two years, but apparently nobody pays attention to the off-presidential year elections anymore except the Tea Party.
Historians tell us that the first democracy originated in Athens around 500 B.C. The descriptions sound idyllic, but I’m sure even back then that the average politician was something of a horse’s ass. (No offense to horses or any of my readers in the equestrian community.)
Over the centuries, the world has been subjected to corrupt leaders who’ve ranged from incompetent to sociopathic or both. (And no, I’m not talking about George W. Bush, although there’s the expression “if the shoe fits,” which, now that I think about it, is what you want in a shoe.)
What troubles me is how these “leaders” come to power and, more importantly, how we fall for it. Take Adolph Hitler, whom I admit is not the usual fodder for a humor column. But if you see footage of Hitler on YouTube giving a speech in front of 100,000 Germans, and didn’t know the consequences of his madness, you could almost laugh.
Hitler’s hand gestures and oratorical style, the whole “Sieg Heil” shtick and the soldiers’ goose stepping, seems comically burlesque. To see for yourself, go to YouTube and type “Hitler Rare Footage.”
Louis Zamperini met Hitler when he was 19 and an American track athlete at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Zamperini, whose life is depicted in the New York Times best-selling book “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand, was raised in nearby Torrance and, at 95, is still active as a Christian inspirational speaker.
A riveting read, “Unbroken” focuses on Zamperini’s being brutalized in Japanese POW camps for two years during WW II and explains how he overcame hatred and post-traumatic stress disorder after attending a 1949 Billy Graham religious crusade in Los Angeles. Upon briefly meeting him nine years earlier, Zamperini thought Hitler looked like “a clown.”
If you want to laugh at a politician lying go to YouTube and type “Richard Nixon Checkers Speech.” You can almost see Nixon’s nose grow as he speaks. (You could always tell when “Tricky Dick” was lying because his lips were moving.)
The speech came about because Nixon, Ike’s vice presidential nominee, was accused of receiving illegal funds from political backers. Like decades later during Watergate (“I am not a crook”), Nixon denied any wrongdoing.
In the half-hour TV address on Sept. 23, 1952, then Sen. Nixon from California reverentially refers to his wife, Pat, “She doesn’t own a mink coat, but she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat.” And with an “aw shucks” grin, he continues, “And I always tell Pat she’d look good in anything.” (Especially high heels and a whip?)
Toward the end of the speech Nixon admits that he did in fact receive a gift, a black-and-white cocker spaniel puppy from a supporter in Texas who sent it in a crate. (Crate? I immediately thought of Romney’s dog on the roof of the car.)
Nixon confided that his youngest daughter, Tricia, named the puppy Checkers. (Aw.) And, then in an almost tearful tone, Nixon closed with, “Regardless what they say about Checkers, we’re going to keep him.” (Believe it or not, the speech was a success and Nixon stayed on the ticket.)
Finally we come to Congressman Todd (“Comb Over”) Akin who’s running for the U.S. Senate from Missouri on what I refer to as the GOP Tea Party. A friend of V.P. nominee Paul Ryan, Akin recently gained notoriety for his comments about rape.
“From what I understand from doctors, if it’s a legitimate rape the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.” (Really, Todd? What doctors and where are they so I can avoid them?)
“But let’s assume, that maybe that didn’t work or something,” Akin rambled recklessly. “I think there should be some punishment but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.” (Believe it or not Akin still leads in the polls, making Missouri the “show me how dumb you are” state.)
“Legitimate” rape? How do GOP males tell women what to do with their bodies? (Especially in cases of rape or incest.) Frankly, these anti-women policies are disturbingly “akin” to those of the Taliban.
So, ready or not, here comes the GOP convention. (Now there’s a tea party I’m afraid I’ll have to pass on.) To those who think I’m a bit biased, I can only echo the timeless words of Will Rogers, “I’m not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”
Jack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.