August 08, 2007

Our President and His Loyal Guard

I saw Mort Sahl the other night, the second time in five years or so I've been able to catch his act. I'm a lifelong fan, as you might expect. I think one of the funniest lines I ever heard was Mort's drollery during the Formosa crisis of the Eisenhower Administration regarding the disputed islands of Quemoy and Matsu. I must have been only 9 or 10 at the time, but I recall that one never heard Quemoy without hearing Matsu. Should mainland (Red) China have Quemoy and Matsu, or should Formosa have Quemoy and Matsu? Where was the United States on this issue? In those days we were staunchly in the corner of Formosa, of course, since everything Commie was evil, and there was no Wal-Mart to soften our hostility. Quemoy & Matsu were like Huntley & Brinkley or Procter & Gamble; it was unthinkable to uncouple them. So Mort had the answer: "I think we should give them Quemoy but not Matsu." I don't know why that's so funny, but funny it is.

Mort is cynical about all politics, so often the case with satirical thinkers, and five years ago he was a little contrarian where anti-Bush sentiment was concerned. The years between then and now, however, have won him over. He's become a superb Bush-basher. Bush has that uncanny knack; even the apolitical learn to despise him. Mort told a story about being invited by Alexander Haig, an old West Point buddy (yep, Mort Sahl went to West Point for a couple of years), to a fund raiser for Bush in Palm Beach. Bush's caravan arrived at the estate, a long dark phalanx of heavily armored SUVs, and behind Bush's own ride were a car full of doctors and another emergency vehicle rigged for onsite medical care. Mort didn't say much about it, he just reported the spectacle. But you know what he was thinking, along with the rest of the liberal crowd in attendance at his concert. All these extraordinary precautions, all this meticulous planning and preparation, all this government expense, so that the United States of America minimizes its chances of being deprived of the peerless leadership of that smirking specimen in the photos above. Because without that man and his incomparable intellect and character, where would we be?

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