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By REG HENRY
What is that noise? No, not the pitiful wailing coming from all parts of Pittsburgh now that the Steelers have lost three games in a row. Could it be thunder or, worse yet, gastric distress in the dog? Could it be the great whooshing sound made by our young people rushing to New York City?
No, that’s not the noise. This is more insidious. It is the sound of expectations leaping into thin air. It is the whisper of hands being gleefully rubbed together and fingers counting chickens before they are hatched.
Surely you can hear it now, it is everywhere _ not just in Pittsburgh. It is the note of hubris, the background beat of wanton insolence or arrogance that has always invited the wrath of the gods.
It is Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi talking about what she will do when she takes over as House speaker after the Nov. 7 election, with Democrats ascendant and Republicans everywhere routed. It is the jabber of the political commentators and pundits. It is the drumbeat of the polls.
Not to be a party-pooper, but hold your donkeys. Call me old-fashioned but I’m for holding the election before cheering the results.
Hubris _ the ancients feared it (if you don’t believe me, ask Joe Paterno).
About those polls. The recent CBS News/New York Times poll had more bad news for the Republicans. Among the bleak findings, most people believe that GOP leaders put their own political interests ahead of safeguarding congressional pages in the Mark Foley scandal.
Polling is a science, of course, and I do not doubt that this poll reflected what the interviewers were told in their nationwide random phone sample of 983 adults. Whether it is accurate for the rest of the 300 million or so people in the United States is another matter.
Were you asked? Me, neither. If by chance I were phoned for my views, I fear I would pervert the polling science. I would realize at once that I had won the equivalent of the lottery, being one of 983 adults in the whole nation so honored, and of course I would have some fun with it, because I am incorrigible.
And why not? Any such poll is a scientific sample of folks boring and lonely enough to be home and willing to answer a string of questions from a stranger, surely a sign of oddity from the get-go.
Only this much can be fairly said: Polling is more scientific than consulting the entrails of goats, for which the goats are very thankful.
It is true, however, that the polls more or less track what any thinking person can glean from the headlines. This does seem a propitious time for the Democrats, despite being a party of jellyfish flopping about. They may have a shot at taking over the House and even the Senate.
Not only is there the Foley scandal but also the Iraq war, that great and costly diversion in the war on terror, the Fiasco of the new book.
There is the federal deficit, which is such an out-of-control monster that politicians rejoice at the news when it goes down from humongous to stupendous. There is the general incompetence (“Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job”), plus the shredding of the Constitution, the plague of lobbyists, etc.
Yes, any thinking person might conclude that it was time for a change, that what Lord Acton wrote has once again proved to be true: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Unfortunately, and this is my fear, thinking may have very little to do with the outcome of the coming election. My amiable conservative colleague Jack Kelly likes to call members of the left moonbats, a word that suggests a certain frivolous and lunatic flitting about. That is an accurate description for some.
But in opposition to the moonbats, we have the true believers on the right: the goonbats. This does not mean to suggest they are ruffians or thugs (in my experience, they are just cranky and ill-mannered); the word is meant to convey the sense of being awkward, grotesque or stupid. The goonbats are famously impervious to any evidence of folly or wrongdoing by their masters. They know President Bush and his party can do no wrong in the unthinking goonbat universe. There’s nothing anybody can do about it.
Much can happen between now and Nov. 7. But this is certain: The goonbats will issue from their caves in large numbers and tramp down to the polls with their wings stretched out in front of them. Just a warning from a pessimist: They feast on unhatched chickens.
(Contact Reg Henry at rhenry(at)post-gazette.com)