"Circus" is too orderly a metaphor for today's unhinged politics. "Entertainment" overstates, considering so many labor to hear Obama finish a speech or Romney a sentence -- before gagging. "Mayhem" underplays the massive right-serving payola that informs both party's texts and sub-texts. Deluged by witless untruths that affront even centrist Republicans, let's pose this thought experiment, "When do we get "stand our intellectual ground' shield laws against mental mugging?"
Is there no safety net from bubbling, partisan concoctions but termination by vote or retirement? If there's no penalty for the outrageous fabrications, why stop? In the meantime, we need new phrases to capture this concatenation of claptrap, say, the "deceptive dances of dunces." The vast, rightwing conspiracy against truth? Okay, southern-style confederacy of dunces? Go for it.
And herein pops up a paradox: in response to this mountain of mendacity, at least for the literate, there exist insatiable, even robust engines of transparency. Public stupidity is no orphan. True, a lie still travels "halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes" (M. Twain), but shoeless wrong-headedness wins headlines. Staying power varies, but which stirring gaffe and foul-up fails to garner publicity? Does not the mass media, bereft of courage or true ideas, glory in making dunces look bad?
Memory Takes Work
What now, the Romney Etch-a-Sketch meteor blazes across the sky, at least for a week. Such duration overcomes our severe cultural allergy to memory or the perspective necessary to unpack the latest gaucheries. Sure, there's a delay, but soon enough news breaks: we learn which reactionaries fund A.L.E.C. (especially when they run for cover) or what fringe billionaires enrich Karl Rove's PACs and cronies. Wail away about craven politics, but there is a rough-hewn transparency at play. Item yesterday, "Sheldon Adelson Gives $5 Million To Super PAC Backing House Republicans."
Certainly, lies and propaganda explode on front pages, as by spontaneous combustion, while retractions, apologies, or concessions are blunted or buried in the classified. FOX dullards stay misinformed because they won't change channels. Time, I say, to break America's gridlock by enacting a National Stupidity Gauge , with electoral prizes going to the least culpable. Is it not remarkable that the thundering horde of deceptions, from W. and Cheney through unrivaled GOP primary nincompoops, has failed to made idiocy a disqualification for office? Alas, only well-versed sexual miscues, high crimes of lowdown bribery, or felony indictments doom candidates called by God.
As if we don't have enough fresh-faced, heartless goons, Cheney is still thundering of late that Obama "has been an unmitigated disaster to the country." And he knows "unmitigated" disasters. Ditto, the irony-free zone of Karl Rove's hypocrisy, in the WSJ: the nefarious Obama seizes the "low road," eager to "distort beyond recognition his opponent's arguments. No honest differences are possible with Mr. Obama. He will impugn the motives of any who disagree with him." Obviously, shock and awe still oozes from GOP tongues, forked as ever. If Obama the Bipartisan bent any farther over, he'd have to be a circus performer -- or worse. Let that bide.