For all the fireworks of the French election, please note that Marine Le Pen gave a simple, elegant concession speech, congratulating the winner and thanking her supporters and campaign workers. She did not claim voter fraud or a media conspiracy or accuse the government of tapping her phone. She is, after all, French. Liberty, equality, dignity.
And so our country, the land of the Pilgrims’ pride where our fathers died, remains No. 1 in blithering tastelessness, naked self-promotion and delusional hypocrisy, thanks to Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and James Comey. North Korea is a close No. 2, followed by Sudan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, the Ku Klux Klan, the Fall of Man and the Republican health-care plan.
That was a remarkable photo, Republicans on the White House lawn celebrating the House passage of a bucket of horsefeathers. It looked like the Kappa Delts gathered at the country club for the Eight-Ball Roll-’Em and Martini Scramble. Actually it was the D-minus students collecting a pile of partial term papers regurgitated by dogs and sending them to the Senate to be made into something coherent and perhaps defensible. As the man said, nobody knew health care could be so complicated. Good luck, Sen. McConnell! Take your time! Read the whole thing!
Senate approval is an archaic legal requirement — so much easier to simply write an executive order stating that everyone gets the care they need, preexisting conditions or not, a beautiful deal for less money, and let’s move on to something else. Sign another order that cancer has been cured — that would pay for everything.
This guy is in love with the executive order. It’s his idea of a selfie. He sits at his bare desk, grinning, holding up the two-page large-print document with his big bold signature, in a nice leather binding like an Award for Meritorious Achievement from the Federation of Organizations, his smiley vice president looking over his shoulder, a select group of happy citizens clapping. Last week, he signed one assuring ministers of freedom of speech in the pulpit. Next week maybe he’ll order ladybugs to fly away home, their house is on fire, their children are gone.
What is so remarkable this spring, as we all wait for the next shoe to drop, is how completely the Republican virtues we grew up admiring — caution, respect for history, attention to the fine print — have been thrown to the winds, and the party has united behind an aging New York playboy with no fixed principles except an insatiable urge to be on the front page every single day, including weekends and holidays. It would be like the Democratic Party electing Big Bird and applauding whatever comes out of his big beak.
Big Bird is a costume. There is a person inside it. He says what is in the script. But if he says whatever is going through his mind and starts ranting about conspiracies and TV ratings and the Civil War (how come?), you have a Big Turkey for a leader. Some people might think it edgy and cool to have an eight-foot president covered with yellow feathers, but I believe that most Democrats would not go along with this, even those who feel the party has gone elitist and needs to regain the common touch.
The American people do not wish their president to be on the front page every single day, especially not for saying stupid stuff. They would prefer government to be effective, functional, honest, rational — in other words, boring. Think of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. You want it to operate quietly without drawing attention to itself. You don’t want to read in the paper that when you hold a $20 bill up to ultraviolet light now, it says “Invest Kushner” with a blinking 800 number. Same with the National Park Service. We don’t need to sell ad space on the foreheads at Mount Rushmore. The U.S. Coast Guard is a fine operation, if you ask me. Ditto the Federal Aviation Administration, and so is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — imagine the complexity of it, administering the oceans and the atmosphere — and yet it goes about its mission without fuss. The White House could write up an executive order — “Let the waves be still, let the tides not encroach upon Mar-a-Lago” — but NOAA would simply build an ark for the president and life would go on as before. And that is the whole point.
Garrison Keillor is an author and radio personality.