Monday, March 5, 2007

Captain Underpants Part Deux


Adventure No.2: The Congressional Refresher Course

Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS! Yes, CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS! A mild-mannered, chisel-jawed congressman; raised by a secret Chamber on a nearby planet and returned to mid-Michigan as a young child; afforded earthly protection by Gannett and nurtured by the Press-Argus; self-styled super-hero to the working family! He’s faster than a sleight-of-hand magician with ADD, able to change colors so fast as to make a chameleon blush, more powerful than a corporate PAC, able to control the press with a single release! Yes, it’s CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS, the unabashed symbol for spin, injustice and the multi-national corporate way!

And now, on to our hero’s latest adventure….

The mood was downright depressing in the House minority dungeon, er, basement meeting room. With the pain of November’s defeat still fresh, the Republican House members had gathered to search for a way back from the wilderness. Though there were a few new faces, many more old hands were missing, lost in the debacle that was the midterm election. Representative Boehner of Ohio slouched in the corner, hands fidgeting in his pockets, with the forlorn look of a teenager who got dumped at the prom. In the aftermath of the party’s humiliating losses, Boehner knew what he had to do: organize a pep rally. He looked around, and stepped furtively into the room’s small janitorial closet. Boehner took a deep breath, picking up the red phone tucked between the half-empty can of floor polish and a box of Phillips head screws. “Captain,” he said. “We need you.”

“You can count on me, buddy! I’ll be right over.” The Captain hung up the phone, a proud smile on his face. The guys needed him! A good dose of old-fashioned politicking was just what the Captain ordered. Since he wanted the gang to appreciate how serious the situation was, he skipped his sparkly red cape and even kept his pants on over his Old Glory boxers. Simply dressed in his new suit made with child labor in Youbettastan, he felt a warm glow knowing that those poor foreign kids had jobs. Plus it was cheap – even cheaper than the ones from the good old days of “Made in the USA” stuff from the Northern Mariana Islands.

As he lumbered into the room with his trademark grin, the relief was palpable. Hesitant smiles lit up the faces of the assembled minority. After a quick pause to feel the (entirely hetero) love, the Captain began the meeting with a moment of silence for their friend and colleague Bob Ney. Poor Bobby had just recently entered federal prison, all because of Jack “The Rat” Abramoff. The Captain heaved a sigh as he thought of the waste, the tragedy -- all those golf games going unplayed, all those yachts unchartered, all those scotches unsipped…

Clearing his throat, the Captain fixed his audience with a steely blue gaze and said, “Boys, we need to be tough and focus on the fundamentals. Here are a few rules I’ve developed in my years here, and I think you’ll see the sense in ‘em.” The gang leaned in closer, eager to learn from the man they all knew to be a Great Politician.

“Rule Number One,” declared the Captain, “the electorate doesn’t pay attention.” It was true. With the philosophy enacted into law by the Captain’s party, average voters were working longer hours and many had to take second jobs just to make ends meet. Since no one was protesting in the streets, the Captain figured they were either happy with the way things were, or just stupid. Maybe both. Either way, he was golden. The Captain sensed a little hesitation, so he offered an example. ”Look, I’m a member of the House Intelligence Committee. No one knows what we do, and every time I mention it I get instant, unassailable credibility. I’ve stated publicly that the streets of Baghdad were as safe as any of our major cities, that the war in Iraq and Afghanistan was going splendidly and that I negotiated with folks in the tribal areas of Pakistan to defeat the Taliban and al Qaida. Now it’s pretty obvious that today the security situation in Baghdad is worse than ever, the war is going to hell in a handcart and the Taliban and al Qaida are regrouping in Pakistan. But as long as I keep reminding everyone that I’m on the Intelligence Committee, no one ever questions my statements.

The Captain saw some confusion on the faces of the freshmen, so he offered another example. “Look, when we first went to war on the cheap and our guys weren’t properly equipped, I attended local events to raise money for armor and helmets. At the same time we lost 12 billion, that’s billion with a “b”, in funds going to Iraq. Do you think anyone asked how we could actually lose 12 billion dollars -- that’s 360 TONS of money -- and then ask local folks to shell out their hard-earned money for freakin’ armor and helmets? Not a peep, because I kept reminding people that I was a hero for supporting the troops! Gosh darn it, it’s a good thing they just can’t connect the dots.”

“Rule Number Two, we have to adapt and adopt. Now that the do-gooder party has the votes, I went along with cutting the interest rates on college loans. Do you think anyone even asked about our vote last year that cut 12 billion dollars from education, the largest single cut to education in the history of the United States? Heck, no. And, I looked like a hero when I announced that we were cutting the same interest rates that we raised just last year!”

“Um, Captain?” The hand of a hesitant freshie was raised. “How can you do that? I mean, isn’t that kind of dishonest? “

The Captain chuckled gently. “That brings me to Rule Number Three: perception is everything. Forget all the issues we were responsible for when we were in control. No one cares. And it’s not important. Yes, we have to give up a few lunches and free trips, but unless we take back the majority the next time, we can kiss it all good-bye. Getting re-elected is what counts.”

“But,” protested the freshman, “what about the media? Don’t they ask those kinds of questions?”

“Rule Number Four,” the Captain replied, “we control the media. Keep using the phrase ‘liberal-controlled media’ if anyone asks. And if they persist, tell them how we have to all work together, maybe some mistakes were made in the past but what is important is that we come together as Americans, that we protect our country, that we win, blah, blah, blah.”

The Captain, clearly on a roll now and wondering to himself how this Gomer ever got elected continued, “If that doesn’t work do what I do. I’m from a district with a bunch of small town newspapers. Everyone knows newspapers are dying from a lack of readers. That means they have to rely on local business advertising for support. Have one of your local business people, like a car dealer, threaten to pull their ads for a week and guess what? Instant press lapdogs.”

“OK, guys, we’re running out of time. We’ll meet again before the votes on reauthorizing Fast Track trade authority and we’ll go over how to handle that.

“Oh yeah, and one more thing: for you newbies, don’t even think of bringing all those campaign promises to the next meeting. You don’t control the agenda. Actually, I don’t even control the agenda. The Chamber is in charge, and that’s all you need to know right now.”

But who and what was this secret Chamber?

Stay tuned for the next adventure of Captain Underpants when he travels to a secret meeting of the Chamber of Titanus Willerbi.

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