Our laughable boobocracy

Sydney H. Schanberg

October 30, 1991|By Sydney H. Schanberg

New York -- THE MEMBERS of the boobocracy in Washington, for their gutter performance in the Clarence Thomas confirmation process, have apparently gotten a lot of voters angry, which is sort of a rare phenomenon given the usual general apathy and determined uninformedness of the public. This time is different, it would appear from the opinion polls, for large numbers of people have reacted to the Thomas debacle by openly cursing all politicians as bums, slime and worse.

Facing this deluge of disapproval, what do the politicians do? Why of course they begin a major investigation into who leaked the information that they say forced them to make fools of themselves. The other guys made me do it, Ma, I didn't really want to set the fire.

Actually, if we were true humanitarians, we'd feel sorry for our beloved boobocracy. So out of touch are these poor, stoned-on-themselves yahoos that they haven't the faintest realization that the certain outcome of their investigation is to make themselves even more scorned than they were before.

First of all, leaks in Washington are as common as fleas on a hound dog. So any investigation is an obvious attempt to divert attention from the real issue, which is the atrocious, unethical behavior of Congress and the White House. It is behavior, incidentally, that no sane parent would tolerate in a five-year-old -- and we're paying our Washington boobs big money to conduct themselves in this fashion and thus take us to the cleaners, which is why everyone's so angry.

The president, George Herbert Walker Bush of well-behaved Yale, sent his staff out to orchestrate and spread the scummy, locker-room innuendos at Thomas's Senate confirmation hearings about Anita Hill, the woman who testified calmly and persuasively that Thomas had sexually harassed her, his aide, when he was head of the federal agency that's supposed to enforce laws against sexual harassment in the workplace.

And now that same president contends that the garbage act was all the doing of Congress, which he denounces as "a privileged class of rulers who stand above the law." Yet who could be more privileged and protected than a president who hides in the Rose Garden and dispatches his staff to do the hatchet job on someone whom he sees as interfering with his imperial mandate to nominate whomever he pleases? And who flouts the law more than a president who nominates an unqualified man like Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court (unqualified quite apart from the allegations of sexual harassment)?

After blaming Congress for everything from misconduct to mopery in his barrage last Thursday, Bush said the boobs had better appoint a special counsel to investigate the infamous leaks, said leaks being about the Anita Hill information that the Senate Judiciary Committee had decided to sweep under the rug until the leaks got into the press and caused a public uproar.

"Frankly," burbled Bush, "the American people just will not understand it if the Senate fails to bring the leaker or leakers to justice."

Why is nobody laughing at these thigh-slapping jokes from the true leader of the boobocracy? Yes, his satire is very funny, but people are saying it's hard to laugh when you're so disgusted.

On the Democratic side, the leaders there have finally recognized that Bush and the Republicans are so much better than they at the down and dirty. So the party of the donkey has decided not to return the insults to Bush but instead to deflect the public's ire by ordering up that leak investigation.

"This institution has been injured," said Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, a Democrat from Maine. So now, naturally, they're going to injure it some more by making permanent -- instead of only temporary -- laughing stocks of themselves. Mitchell's Senate colleagues, Democrat and Republican alike, were just as desperate as he to stem the flood of ridicule and embarrassment that has washed over them since the Thomas hearings. The vote was 86-12 to do the investigation.

In a way, it's cleansing to see foolish men run around foolishly trying to escape an enemy that is themselves. Maybe there's a chance that some of them will even come to understand what they've brought down upon themselves. It would be wise, however, not to place any bets on this hope. Congressmen, historically, have been masters at self-delusion; they will find someone else to blame. Probably the press. Isn't that where leaks get published?

They and their president (not just this one, but certainly not excluding him) have disgraced themselves by regularly harboring and covering up for actual criminals -- senators and representatives and cabinet officers and powerful White House aides who, if they were private citizens, would most assuredly have been indicted and gone to jail. All you have to do to come to this conclusion is look at the most recent of the evidence, such as the Iran-contra record, the executive branch's failure to pursue the BCCI and savings and loan scandals and the latest whitewash investigations by the ethics committees of the Congress.

Perhaps ridicule is, after all, the best answer. Boobocracies can withstand any assault, any criticism, any ignominy -- but not laughter. Let us all, for our country's health, keep laughing at them.

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