An old joke popped into my head this week as at least three news stories reminded us that in Washington, at least, things are never - not seldom, but never - what they seem.
An old joke popped into my head this week as at least three news
stories reminded us that in Washington, at least, things are never - not
seldom, but never - what they seem.
In the joke, two psychiatrists share an elevator one morning on the way
up to their offices, when a stranger gets on and says cordially to the
two, ’Good morning.’ When they reached their floor one of the
psychiatrists turns to the other and asks, ’Now what do you suppose he
meant by that?’
Here in the capital of the free world, the media always want to know
’what he meant by that,’ and are never ready to assume the simple and
obvious solution. Occam’s Razor, in other words, doesn’t shave any of
As the first example, Vice President Gore was revealed as having
agonized, as a college student, in letters to his girlfriend (now wife)
Tipper, whether to volunteer for service in Vietnam in spite of the
overwhelming scorn it would generate from his fellow students.
It would have been easy, as the son of a senator, to avoid service by
using family influence to get into the National Guard, as two of his
future opponents (George W. Bush and Dan Quayle) chose to do. Or, he
could have chosen to escape serving through the intercession of a friend
in the military, as Bill Clinton did. After some soul-searching, Gore
chose to volunteer.
This being Washington, the media promptly wondered if he did it to help
his father (an anti-war leader) get re-elected. The notion that Gore
might have been seriously conflicted or patriotically bent hardly
crossed any pundit’s mind.
Similarly, George W. Bush was asked his opinion of Republican
congressional leaders’ proposal to reach a balanced budget by postponing
payment of the Earned Income Tax Credit to the working poor until fiscal
Bush responded, almost offhandedly, ’I don’t think they should balance
the budget on the backs of the poor.’ This remark caused fury and wonder
in the ranks of the GOP leadership and conjecture by the political
analysts over whether George W. had this as a motive - to distance
himself from the Lotts and DeLays of his party. But maybe he simply
meant he didn’t like the plan - it was too tough on the poor.
And Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura told Playboy magazine that he
thought religion was ’for the weak.’ He added, if he were to return to
Earth after death, he would prefer to do so as a ’38D bra.’ Can we
assume he was pandering to the atheist and anti-feminist vote?
Nobody, it seems, gets to be taken at face value. Oscar Wilde had it
right: ’It is a shallow man who does not judge by appearances.’