Stupid is as stupid does

With the Democratic Convention starting in Denver next week, it is a timely moment to suggest to Barack Obama and other party luminaries on how they can best avoid criticism by the right-wing propaganda machine.

My advice is: Stay home. Stay in bed (not with anyone named Rielle). Pull the covers over your head. Don’t say anything. I think that should do it.

In the event that the Democrats ignore this advice and turn up anyway, I have some fallback suggestions.

While I am not a Democrat myself, my liberal opinions regularly incite rabid conservatives to e-mail me notes ranging from the angry to the merely churlish. In this way, I have become something of an expert in how the chronically conservative react to any hint that the GOP isn’t God’s Own Party.

Of course, as an equal opportunity offender, I am proud to say that I have also offended the lefties from time to time. In fact, I have come to believe that the far right and the far left are the same dyspeptic people, possibly separated at birth. On the circle of political opinions, they are next to each other in the extreme loony quarter. The whole bunch of them couldn’t get a joke if clowns parachuted into their yard to deliver it.

As the right-wing branch of this unhappy family sharpens their knives for the convention, Barack Obama especially needs my advice at this hour. He is the one who will step to the podium to accept his party’s nomination, assuming that Hillary Clinton supporters haven’t rigged a giant anvil to fall on the spot at the first mention of the words "Yes, we can."

First of all, he needs to understand how those to the right of Genghis Khan actually think. When I say "think," I mean the flurry of jerking knees that kick the consciousness of the alleged thinkers into the mental pool of cliches and stereotypes pertaining to all things liberal.

From my own correspondence, I have been surprised to learn that I am a godless person who hates private enterprise and wishes to surrender to the terrorists — me, the last of the fighting moderates! I am also a whiner and name caller, or so I am told, and I am regularly called stupid and a typical liberal. This really does offend me. How dare they call me typical! While I hear this all the time, I never get the sense that these critics have ever met a liberal, so nutty are their notions about what they believe. I would like to remind them that it was the liberals who got kids out of the coalmines and much more to the good, but what’s the point? All they know is what Rush says.

The amazing thing about these anti-liberal retorts is that they are all exactly the same no matter what part of the country they come from. It’s as if every crank is reading from the same playbook. I sometimes wonder whether the source text of these ridiculous sayings is Ann Coulter’s book "How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must)." I suppose (name calling alert) I could read the attractive harpy’s book, but that would spoil the fun.

Barack Obama must know that the general rule of the right is that liberals are not supposed to say anything. For example, when Obama warned that his opponents would play dirty tricks because he looked different — a logical and fair assumption, given their track record — the McCain campaign accused him of playing the race card.

Actually, the campaigns are not playing cards but right-wingese insists that all thoughts be delivered as a series of bumper-sticker-sized descriptions. Socialized medicine! Cut and run! Race card! Thus are the great issues of the day reduced to a series of mindless catchphrases so they can be swallowed whole without any mental chewing.

Barack Obama would probably be better off saying nothing. Perhaps mimes could deliver his speech, except that someone would yell from the back of the hall: "Speak up! We can’t hear you!" But even if he said nothing that would only reinforce the other stock thought of the day: We don’t know who he is! Of course they know who he is. They know he is a liberal Democrat. That is all those folks care to know about him.

Yes, nothing that Barack Obama says will protect him from the great wave of effluent about to descend. While I am making a pre-emptive strike against all the stupid things that they will say, I do have some final advice: In the spirit of Harry Truman, give ’em hell, Barry.


(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)