Dear Pat: Lose with class

Russell Baker

November 26, 1991|By Russell Baker

TO Patrick Buchanan, Columnist

Dear Pat:

Pardon the informality, but as your faithful reader, I feel we are old pals. Anyhow, I saw where you might run against Bush for the Republican nomination because you're vexed about him letting down the conservatives. This made me take a good hard look at myself, and I was startled to see what an old stick-in-the-mud I've become.

Believe it or not, Pat, I have been vexed about every president since Eisenhower, who was the first president I had to think about day and night the way we columnists must. Still it never occurred to me to go to New Hampshire and try to get rid of one of them. You've made me wonder if I lack get-up-and-go.

Of course there are an awful lot of other columnists who live in a more or less constantly vexed state, and they haven't shown your kind of moxie either. I mean, look at Mike Royko out in Chicago. Always down on the local pols, yet he has never once run for mayor of Chicago, has he?

You'll say, "Sure, but what about Jimmy Breslin, who is vexed a lot about the New York political scene, as who wouldn't be? Didn't he once run for president of the City Council up there?" And all I can say, Pat, is, "President of the City Council! You've got to be kidding!"

President of the New York City Council, Pat, is to president of the United States as Mister Micawber is to Attila the Hun. Anyhow, Jimmy only ran because Norman Mailer ran for mayor at the top of the ticket. I mean, being down deep a sweet guy, Jimmy sort of agreed to be Norman's caboose.

It wasn't vexation that drove him to it so much as it was respect for Norman, who incidentally couldn't write a 745-word column for the life of him. I speak, Pat, as one who has just finished "Harlot's Ghost," Norman's 1,300-page -- that's "page," not "word" -- treatment of the CIA.

As a fellow columnist of Jimmy Breslin, you're probably as pained as I am to think Jimmy once took second spot on a ticket headed by a writer who couldn't dispose of the CIA in 745 words. I did it myself not long ago in a mere 450 words and had to pad like an upholsterer to bloat it to the requisite 745.

All of which is neither here nor there, nor why I am writing. All I want is to say you are very brave and I hope you will bring glory to all columnists by running a campaign all columnists can be proud of. America has been a long time down there in the squalor, presidential-campaign-wise. Give us a campaign at last, Pat, that makes us all proud to be columnists.

Adlai Stevenson long ago gave the Democrats one-and-a-half campaigns like that. Adlai's trick? He didn't treat America as a conglomeration of gullible saps. Instead, he said in his own words what was on his own mind. What elegance! "What idiocy!" professionals in the election industry will say, noting that Adlai lost twice.

Pat, don't be content to say in somebody else's words what is on somebody else's mind. George Bush will do that for us, and probably win by doing it, and probably depress us even further by making us realize what a conglomeration of gullible saps we really are.

Spare us that depression, Pat. Follow the example of Hubert Humphrey, who proclaimed "the politics of happiness." Dear Hubert -- he was the last of the old-time politicians who thought the politician's job was to do something for people every day.

After him came all these new-time politicians spreading fear and hate, so they can get us all into such a low, rotten frame of mind that we'll go forth and vote our fears and hates, having abandoned our hopes, and quite sensibly too, since these new-time politicians don't do anything for anybody, even as small as fixing a traffic ticket, unless you're an anybody rich as Croesus.

Don't tell us what to fear and who to hate, Pat. Don't spend the next year making everybody feel even worse. Tell us there's a good time coming for all us ever-loving, wonderful people. If lose you must, and probably you must, do all columnists proud: Lose with a little class.

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