This week I received review copies of a pair of new novelty books — y’know, the little square things you find near the bookstore checkout counter — entitled “185 Stupid Things Republicans Have Said” and “185 Stupid Things Democrats Have Said.”
“Perfect for a laugh during what is sure to be a politically charged year, and alphabetized by category for easy perusal, ‘185 Stupid Things ——– Have Said’ is the perfect gift for your favorite light-hearted Republican or Democrat seeking revenge,” says a news release from Andrews McMeel Publishing, appropriately printed with the Democratic release and the Republican release on two sides of the same sheet of paper.
“I tried to walk a fine line between acting lawfully and testifying falsely, but now I recognize that I did not fully accomplish that goal.” — former president Bill Clinton
“There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” — President George W. Bush
You get the idea.
Author Ted Rueter “earned a Master’s degree from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, both in political science,” the release says, also noting his experience as an aide to a mayor, a Congressman, state lawmakers and several campaigns. “He is also the director of Noise Free America, a national citizens group opposed to noise pollution.”
Well, then, why is he polluting the political landscape with this noise?
Hey, I love a good laugh too. And I admire books that give equal time to thoughtful, opposing political viewpoints on issues of importance.
But what does anyone gain from books like this, which only to confirm people’s already-formed and often all-too-shallow political allegiances? Ha ha, look how the funny Republican stumbled over his words — what a gas! Watch the Democrat play verbal Twister — how entertaining! I always knew the people on the other side were cretins, and now this book proves it!
This only accelerates the extremely dangerous dumbing-down of American politics and policy; it only cements the partisan rhetoric which has ground real American progress to a halt in recent decades, only deepens the divide. What happens in the halls of government isn’t supposed to be “Us Weekly” fodder; it often involves life-or-death decisions. And, with all due respect to Professor Rueter, you’d think someone with an advanced degree in political science would know that.
Look around — there’s a war on, the economy is in a tailspin, millions lack healthcare insurance, schools are struggling, a presidential election is nigh. But, hey, didja hear that corker from Ann Coulter? Who cares?
There’s no substance in books like these, only a celebration of spite — the kind of spite that eclipses truly important things that are or aren’t happening in the halls of power. These books are a distraction, an anesthetic actively seeking to prevent us from truly listening to each other and finding our way out of the colossal messes we’re in.
And there’s nothing funny about that.
UPDATE @ 4:33 P.M. FRIDAY: Sure, I know — pretty high and mighty from a guy who posts the “Schwarzenegger video of the week.” But not every political journalist is lucky enough to have a bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-governor, and hopefully this blog is more than just that.