...was the name of the play and thematic song in Mel Brooks, "The Producers." It popped into my mind as I watched Karl Rove and George W. Bush do their routines at this weeks annual correspondents dinner.
Continued after the jump:
When Mel Brooks wrote this screenplay in 1967 the idea of making a comedy about an individual who brought the devastation of war and genocide to Europe was so outrageous that it seemed a sure way to ensure a flop, one that would make producer Max Bialystock rich. Much to his surprise, the audience loved it, and when Max's investors (all 2000% of them) expected their share of the profits, his goose was cooked.
Brooks, from Eastern European Jewish stock, took some heat for this movie that treated Hitler as a comic character. But, the Nazi era was long over, the dead were not to be brought back, and Brooks saw laughter as the ultimate affirmation of life.
President Bush and Karl Rove are still in power. The impeccable timing of Bush's comic acknowledgment of his decline of popularity disarmed even his critics, as it shifted focus for the moment from the reason why the public holds him is such low esteem. It is not that he has tripped on a banana peel, or was caught in a sexual indiscretion; it is that he is perpetuating a war that, while originally having some justification based on idealistic illusion, now is seen by all except his inner circle as an ongoing travesty.
As Bush did his stand up routine, he certainly was appealing; diffusing political conflict by making a joke of Pelosi's threatened subpoenas of the other comedian, Karl Rove. We could forget for a few seconds that this was the decider. This was the man who has the keys to the destiny of our country in his hands.
George W. Bush is not to be compared to Adolph Hitler. But while Hitler has become the archetype of evil incarnate, he was something else to the Germans of the 1920s. He was a decisive, charming, charismatic leader who was leading them out of the morass of socialism. Even after the war was lost, as bombs were raining down on Berlin, he was still loved and admired by many. Charisma is more than projecting authority. He had perfect comedic timing, illustrated by his hysterical parody of Churchill in his address to the Reichstag, when he recited all of the countries he was warned against invading. His audience was in stitches.
I have to admit, I enjoyed watching President Bush do his routine. Here it is on youtubeif anyone missed it. I must say I had a sense of comfort, of normalcy, as a child of a dysfunctional family must feel when he sees mommy and daddy laughing together. With all the partisan rancor we now have in Washington, it is still possible that those from both sides of the aisle can spend an evening together, enjoying each other's company.
The evening was a rare glimpse of something easy to lose sight of. It showed the political culture in this country that is so robust that it transcends even the worst that any individual president can do. This is a gift from those who signed the declaration of independence, an act of treason that could have cost them their lives, and then went on to write our constitution. It is a gift from all all of those cursed politicians who took their place in the halls of congress and the supreme court over the centuries who added their stamp to the founding documents, and made it more resilient.
While we are aware of the anger, the loathing that we feel for those who exercise power over us, especially when they are of the other party, we lose sight of the magnificent edifice of laws, tradition and civility, that allows demure Nancy Pelosi to challenge the Commander in Chief of the most powerful military in history.
We laugh with him because he acknowledges this. No, Bush is not Hitler. And 21st century America is not Weimar Germany. We are not better people than the Germans of that time, we are luckier. The correspondent's dinner celebrates that cosmic good fortune of our being here now, rather than there then.
For reasons that have nothing to do with our individual character or values, rather the dumb luck of being in this country at this time, we can allow myself to laugh with a man who very well may be the worst president in our nation's history.