October 22, 2008

Garrison Keillor: “The American people have an ear for BS”


We are a stalwart and stouthearted people, and never  more so than
in  hard times. People weep in the dark and arise in the  morning and
go to  work… The waves crash on your nest egg and a chunk  is swept
away and you  put your salami sandwich in the brown bag and  get on
the bus. In Philly, a  woman earns $10.30/hour to care for a  man
brought down by cystic fibrosis.  She bathes and dresses him in  the
morning, brings him meals, puts him to  bed at night. It’s hard  work
lifting him and she has suffered a painful  hernia that, because  she
can’t afford health insurance, she can’t get  fixed, but she  still
goes to work because he’d be helpless without her.  There are a  lot
of people like her. I know because I’m related to some of   them.

Low dishonesty and craven cynicism sometimes win the day  but not
inevitably. The attempt to link Barack Obama to an old radical  in
his  neighborhood has desperation and deceit written all over  it.
Meanwhile,  stunning acts of heroism stand out, such as the  fidelity
of military  lawyers assigned to defend detainees at  Guantanamo Bay
— uniformed  officers faithful to their lawyerly duty  to offer a
vigorous defense even  though it means exposing the  injustice of
military justice that is rigged  for conviction and the  mendacity of
a commander in chief who commits war  crimes. If your law  school is
looking for a name for its new library,  instead of selling  the
honor to a fat cat alumnus, you should consider the  names of  Lt.
Cmdr. Charles Swift, Lt. Col. Mark Bridges, Col. Steven  David,  Lt.
Col. Sharon Shaffer, Lt. Cmdr. Philip Sundel and Maj. Michael   Mori.

It was dishonest, cynical men who put forward a clueless  young
woman  for national office, hoping to juice up the ticket,  hoping
she could skate  through two months of chaperoned campaigning,  but
the truth emerges: The  lady is talking freely about matters she  has
never thought about. The  American people have an ear for  B.S.  They
can tell when someone’s mouth is  moving and the  clutch is not
engaged.  When she said, “One thing that  Americans  do at this time,
also, though, is let’s commit ourselves just  every  day, American
people, Joe Six-Pack, hockey moms across the nation, I   think we
need to band together and say never again. Never will we  be
exploited and taken advantage of again by those who are managing
our  money and loaning us these dollars,” people smelled gas.

Some  Republicans adore her because they are pranksters at heart
and love the  consternation of grown-ups.  The ne’er-do-well son of
the old  Republican family as president, the idea that you increase
government   revenue by cutting taxes, the idea that you cut social
services and   thereby drive the needy into the middle class, the
idea that you overthrow  a dictator with a show of force and achieve
democracy at no cost to  yourself — one stink bomb after another,
and now Governor Palin.

She is a chatty sportscaster who lacks the guile to conceal  her
vacuity, and she was Mr. McCain’s first major decision as  nominee.
This  troubles independent voters, and now she is a major  drag on
his candidacy.  She will get a nice book deal from Regnery and  a new
career making personal appearances for forty grand a pop, and  she’ll
become a trivia question, “What politician claimed  foreign-policy
expertise based on being able to see Russia from her house?”  And the
rest of us will have to pull ourselves out of the swamp  of
Republican economics.

Your broker kept saying, “Stay with the  portfolio, don’t jump ship,”
and you felt a strong urge to dump the stocks  and get into the
money market where at least you’re not going to lose your  shirt, but
you didn’t do it and didn’t do it, and now you’re holding a big  bag
of brown bananas.  Me, too. But at least I know enough not  to
believe desperate people who are talking trash. Anybody who  got
whacked last week and still thinks McCain-Palin is going to lead  us
out of the swamp and not into a war with Iran is beyond persuasion
in  the English language. They’ll need to lose  their homes and be
out on  the street in a cold hard rain before they connect the dots.

Garrison  Keillor is the author of a new Lake Wobegon  novel,
“Liberty”  (Viking).

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