How long’s it been now?
Since there’s been a good one … a really good one?
Not some ‘governor lying that he was lost on the Appalachian Trail but was really on a love rendezvous in Argentina’ type ruse. (Despite the South American connection, the story is far too local.) Certainly, not one of those tepid Medicare payment scams. Instead, I’m talking about shenanigans of prodigious proportions … a political ‘CYA’ escapade gone haywire, stuff that cuts a wide swath across the length and breadth of the land and makes us question the very sanity of the participants. One of those … a rip-snorter, a page turner, the kind of stuff that sells good old fashioned newsprint, launches new careers, and is fodder for late night comedians – for months and months.
And while I would order up no collateral damage in terms of life or limb, a good political cover-up uncovered can be breathtaking. It captures the imagination –if not immediately the crooks — and diverts the attention of our collective mind from a weak dollar, a too high unemployment rate, and the obscene price of gas.
Watergate immediately comes to mind, of course. So does Teapot Dome, Spiro Agnew, Wilbur Mills, Iran Contra, and that business with “… that woman … Miss Lewinsky.” There other scandals too, but those are the biggies.
But seems to me that it’s been awhile.
The right kind of mischief sets off the following exchange at corporate water-coolers:
“You see the price of gas this morning, Stanley? Never thought we’d see $7.50 a gallon.”
“Hell, who cares about gas? Looks like they might be takin’ Slick Ricky out in handcuffs today… if they can find him. Ya know, I voted for him, but I never really trusted Slick.”
“Guess people called him ‘Slick’ for a reason. Ohmigosh, Ricky lied to everybody — including all three of the women. WOW! And then it looks like Mr. Speaker knew a lot more than we first thought. He may be going to jail too. Ol’ Slick makes Nixon look like a piker. ”
“One thing about it though is that Woodwork and Burndown broke this whole thing wide open. Those reporter boys are gonna win Pewlitzuhs’. Everyday they find more and more stuff. The Washington Boast is gonna sell a lot of papers. They’re gonna make gazillions.”
“I wouldn’t say this to a another single solitary soul, Stan, but this here ‘Slick-gate’ is kind of fun. Sumthin’ new everyday…reminds me of Wil-bah Mills … only a lot better. ”
“Hell, who could forget ol’ Wil-bah’? That rascal … him and ol what’s her name, Fannie … Fannie … Fannie Fox. Man oh man! Now that was juicy!”
“This is better. A lot better.”
In the half century after World War II, political scandals gushed to the surface as reliably as Old Faithful. You couldn’t set your alarm clock by them, but you knew it was just a matter of time and who. And while I am not endorsing sin, wrongdoing or political tomfoolery, one cannot deny the beneficial effects of a first rate political imbroglio laid bare?
The right kind is like a summer storm: it clears the air – at least for a while — and serves notice to other pols that they’d damn well better behave. It diverts attention from our collective troubles, confirms the suspicions we had all along, and best of all, delivers –head on a platter — somebody we know that we’re all better than … at least for the moment.
Not recently however.
Political wrongdoers of past generations were generally artful dodgers. They avoided discovery, the long snout of the media and long arm of the law much longer in they do in present-day. There was no text messaging. Certainly no Facebook. The walls that people could write on were attached to buildings — “For a good time call Suzy at 555-1212”. The closest thing to a text message was a Burma Shave sign.
Complicit in the lack of a recent rock ‘em sock ‘em scandal is the seeming proclivity for the Gen-Xers and the Millennials to share – everything: sin, sex, weed and their current latitude and longitude online.
The Silent Generation (folks born between 1925 and 1945) were … well, ‘silent’ — even after they were ‘found out’. Only birds and saloon singers tweeted. They unlisted phone numbers, kept three sets of books, and admitted nothing, even when caught in flagrante delicto:
“Hey you…stop! I saw that”, ‘the catcher’ exclaimed.
“Stop what? I have no idea what you’re talking about, fella. I’m not doing anything”, responded the ‘catchee.’
“Sure you are. I saw you. I’ve caught you ‘red handed’.”
“No you didn’t. And even if you did, you can’t prove a thing. You have no evidence.”
“But I saw you.”
“It wasn’t me fella…though it could have been someone who looked like me.”
On the other hand, the Gen-Xers and Millennials so far seem to have little knack for the bodacious cover-up:
“Hey you…stop! Stop that nefarious behavior, I say. I see you”.
“Stop it? Are you nuts, fella? I’m so proud of my work. Hell, I’ve filmed the whole thing. I’m about to post the video online for the whole world to see.”
“But … but …but …”
“It’s all shown right here online too. Wanna ‘friend’ me on Facebook, fella?
Of course, as it turns out, the police are members of Facebook too. Capitulation and confession occurs sooner rather than later. There’s no elongated, drawn out process. No cliffhanger. No slow peeling of the onion. All is laid bare. Almost immediately.
A steak nuked in the microwave is no good. It’s tough and unsatisfying.
Who needs that?
Political scandal – a good one –is intriguing, something to be slowly unveiled and savored, like a good ribeye.
So in the end, Americans have been without major scandal for awhile now. I guess that it’s going to have to be someone from my generation, a Baby Boomer or even older fart, who’s going to have give us one more go round.
We’re about due? Quite frankly, I think we could use a few laughs.
I’ll not make specific nominations for a guest of dishonor, you already have a list of the usual suspects. Bi-partisanship is welcome however.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that this whole viewpoint is only shared by me . Hell, it wouldn’t be the first time. Occasionally, during my youth, Momma would say “Boy, I think that there is a part of you that secretly roots for mischief and chaos … as long as it doesn’t affect you.” I never fully understood the reason Mom said this. Never understood why she shook her head while she said it either. But, I guess the woman must have had her reasons.
© Copyright 2011 Will Cantrell