Thursday, January 13, 2005

no cash? bad credit? we can work something out

something tells me he's into something good

Every commentator on the planet is talking about Armstrong Williams and the $240,000 he received for plugging No Child Left Behind. This Act was a Trojan horse, said to provide Federal funding in return for creating national standards. It wound up providing very little money, but did impose national targets that force teachers to train kids for irrelevant tests instead of actually teaching them. Conservatives should be especially outraged at this Federal intrusion on a State and local activity. The Williams scandal may be our first glimpse of a very important story: widespread tax-funded Republican bribery to corrupt the public discourse. But that’s not the real reasons pundits are upset. Secretly they’re all saying to themselves: where’s mine?

That’s right. They're saying: Aren’t I important enough? Is there a big party going on and I wasn’t invited? What’s he got that I haven’t got? Oooh, that bitch! Full disclosure: I haven’t been bought off. But I’m available. True, I usually speak in favor of Democratic causes and issues, and that’s a problem. Democrats just don’t have the ready cash, especially now that Republicans control all sources of Federal largesse. So what could Democrats have offered to me and other left-leaning keyboard jockeys in the way of bribes during the past year? Here are some suggestions:

  • Howard Dean: With health care costs continuing to skyrocket, the good doctor could have offered free annual checkups to every commentator willing to endorse his candidacy. No cash need exchange hands, although I still appreciate getting a lollipop when it’s over. (Preferred flavor: raspberry.)
  • John Edwards: Emails from Elizabeth would be enough for me. Whenever the Kerrys and Edwardses shared a stage I wondered why, of the four of them, she wasn’t the candidate. Her published emails show a bright, engaged, and original mind at work.
  • Al Sharpton: Rev. Al was the only candidate this year empowered to perform weddings. I have a daughter. Need I say more?
  • Wesley Clark: The General could come over and order me to straighten up my office. He is authoritative: I would obey. God knows it needs it, but I just can’t motivate myself any other way.
  • Dennis Kucinich: I heard Kucinich do a pitch-perfect Donald Duck imitation once. (Seriously!) He could record my answering machine message. Or, if he’s mistaken me for someone important, he could have Natalie Merchant come over and sing “Peace Train.” She does it better than Cat Stevens, which means it’s probably a bad idea to get on a plane with her. But hold the Vegan meals for somebody else. I respect the concept, but tofu burgers make me kind of nauseous.
  • John Kerry: I’ll take a box of whatever they’re selling at that cookie stand he started in Faneuil Hall. It will get the taste of tofu out of my mouth.
  • Ralph Nader: Nothing, but he can drive my Corvair as much as he wants. (We kid, we kid.)

As for Armstrong Williams, I have the sinking feeling that this will turn out to be a good career move for him. Now he can repent, which will be even ickier to watch. Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair … I have a feeling Armstrong’s book deal is being negotiated right now. Conservatives are especially good at using personality failings as an excuse for bad behavior – remember Dan White and the “twinkie defense”? Let’s have a little quiz:

What will Armstrong’s excuse be?

  1. Depression/mental disorder
  2. Addiction/alcoholism
  3. Brutal childhood
  4. All of the above

What will he use as a device to convince us he’s redeemed?

  1. Religion (also permits him to force prisoners to pray on command)
  2. A tough-minded but compassionate therapist (think Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting)
  3. The love of a good woman
  4. All of the above

What form will his payoff for being a “good soldier” take?

  1. A regular slot on Fox News
  2. A prestigious and high-paying appointment to a conservative think tank
  3. Membership on two or more corporate Boards of Directors
  4. The love of Ann Coulter
  5. All of the above

I'lll keep you posted on the results. In the meantime, I hope Armstrong Willams is happy with the money he has earned, and will earn, from this process. I will give the last word to George Clinton of Parliament/Funkadelic (which is a good idea in almost any circumstance.) As George wrote in “Funky Dollar Bill”:

U.S. dollar bill
It'll buy a war
It pollutes this air
In the name of wealth
It'll buy you life
But not true life
The kind of life
Where the soul is hard

Good luck with your soul, Armstrong. "You don't buy a life, you live a life," the song says. Nevertheless, you Democrats who want me for your spokesman? Picture me pantomiming placing a phone receiver to my ear and mouthing the words: Call me.