The man famous for calling Barney Frank "Barney Fag" says he'd never marry me. Am I a lucky woman, or what?
Topics: Politics News
The most charitable explanation I can come up with for former GOP Rep. Dick Armey’s wild retro outburst at me on Wednesday’s “Hardball” is that he knows I’m a huge “Mad Men” fan, and wanted to throw me back into the sad straitened sex roles of the early 1960s, but without the afternoon cocktails or Joan Holloway’s hot dresses.
Apparently I’ve been lucky. I’ve never before had a man try to win an argument — public or private — by saying “I am so damn glad that you could never be my wife,” as Armey famously did, when he ran out of arguments about President Obama’s recovery bill. But I should have known that the guy best known for calling Barney Frank “Barney Fag” would throw me a strange curveball. As far as I can tell, it flew around and hit Armey in the face. Just like the Rush Limbaugh insults we were supposed to be debating, it showed the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the right-wing political project in 2009. Judging from my e-mail and blogosphere reaction, Armey’s attack on me was as effective as the House Republicans voting unanimously against the stimulus bill that passed the House overwhelmingly without them. (Glenn Greenwald links Armey’s crazy assault with his impotent former House minions’ latest moves very well, here.)
Like Barack Obama, I want to be magnanimous, mostly. A lot of people have asked why I wasn’t meaner in my comeback to Armey. Mainly, I felt sorry for him; he’d clearly run out of arguments, and he wasn’t raised to know how to argue with female opponents as well as male. The thing is, for guys of Armey’s generation and backward political views, once you’ve rigged the world so that women and non-white people can’t compete with you on equal terms, life is easy: You’re always up against a bunch of white guys you’ve grown up with, and you know how to win. When late in life the game changes, and you find yourself having to argue with a whole new cadre of smart, opinionated women, black people, Latinos, Asians, gays, well, it’s gotta suck.
That’s what led to Rush Limbaugh’s whine about the real outrage of Obama’s presidency, which is what ultimately drove Armey over the line with me: “We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles, bend over forward, backward, whichever, because his father was black, because this is the first black president.” Poor Rush! Poor Dick! Rush and Dick are finding they have to bend over forward and backward, whichever, and debate blacks and women and god knows who else, and who can blame them for their frustration, Rush looking around for his Oxycontin and Viagra and babbling about grabbing his ankles; Dick spouting off idiotically, “I am so damn glad that you could never be my wife.” (Something upon which Armey and I, by the way, thoroughly agree.)
My heart goes out to Rush and Dick, seriously. And even more to poor, de-pantsed Phil Gingrey, a Republican congressman from Georgia. A few days ago Gingrey tried to tell Rush to back off, to stop criticizing congressional Republicans because he can’t know how hard they have it, but within 24 hours he’d phoned in to the radio host’s show to apologize to Limbaugh. “I clearly ended up putting my foot in my mouth on some of those comments (laughs) and I just wanted to tell you, Rush, and — and all our conservative giants who help us so much to maintain our base and grow it and get back this majority, that I regret those stupid comments.” Talk about grabbing your ankles.
Limbaugh, Armey and Gingrey are lost. They have no ideas for the economy (Armey kept babbling “tax cuts, tax cuts” on “Hardball” yesterday), they’re captives of a narrow base (“real people” who love Limbaugh, Armey called them; narrow-minded people mysteriously obsessed with who might make them grab their ankles, is how I’d put it). Guys like Gingrey can’t get reelected in their districts if they do the right thing for the country. But in most of the country today, they can’t get elected if they don’t. Their time has passed, and they know it.
The only person I felt sorrier for than Dick Armey Wednesday night was his wife. In 1998 he made her semi-famous by saying, during President Clinton’s impeachment, “If I were in the President’s place I would not have gotten a chance to resign. I would be lying in a pool of my own blood, hearing Mrs. Armey standing over me saying, ‘How do I reload this damn thing?’” I wonder what she thought Wednesday night.
In related, happier news: President Obama just signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. I can’t think of a better rejoinder to the Dick Armeys of the world.
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Two-for-one for Everyone — West Wind Solano Twin Drive-In, Concord, Calif. This family-friendly attraction with several spots across the U.S. (including California, Nevada and Arizona) prides itself on offering first-run double features (save for premiere events) on the cheap — which is quite the deal, considering their 65-foot screens are among the biggest in the biz. And if you have great car speakers, even better: squawk boxes of old have been replaced with Dolby quality audio piped through your car’s FM stereo.
For the Four-legged Friendly — Warwick Drive-In, Warwick, N.Y. Northeast city slickers looking for a place to watch their favorite movie stars under the stars need only veer six miles east of Vernon, N.J. What began as a family affair in 1950 has since become a seasonal institution offering rural and urban (and pet!) audiences two movies for the price of one on any of its three giant screens.
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See Stars Collide — Ford-Wyoming Drive-In, Dearborn, Mich. Open year-round (unlike many of its surviving contemporaries), this five-screen staple of the Midwest known as the “largest drive-in in the world” plays host for up to 3,000 cars on any given night. And if the double-feature doesn’t hold your attention, relax; you’ve got the best (car)seat in the house for the occasional overhead meteor shower.
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A Hole (Lot of Fun) in One — Wellfleet Drive-In, Wellfleet, Mass.Built in 1957 and still offering original mono sound boxes for those looking for an authentic experience (or not, as FM stereo is available as well), the summer-exclusive theater hosts double features of first-runs on its giant 100’ x 44’ screen. Come for the movies, stay for the mini-golf and flea market (on select days).
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Go Big or Drive Home — Bengies Drive-In, Baltimore, Md. The only thing bigger than Bengies’ prolific history (57 years and going) is its main attraction — boasting the biggest theater screen in the U.S. at 6,240 square feet. That’s 52’ x 120’ of pure anamorphic presentation. Complementing its time capsule of a snack bar (unchanged since ’56), previews old and new occupy the venue’s old-timey intermissions between features.
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Proof That Film is Forever — Shankweilers, Orefield, Pa. While we’re on superlative street, consider stopping at this roadside treasure: America’s oldest drive-in. Operating since 1934, it may not have the frills and pony rides of nearby Becky’s Drive-In, but it’s defied hurricanes and the wear and tear of time. Worth the one-hour drive from Philly.
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The Gritty Hollywood Reboot — Corral Drive-In, Guymon, Okla. Like a slasher movie menace that died (several times) in the ’80s only to be rebooted years after, the long-vacant Corral Drive-In was resurrected and restored in 2009, providing big entertainment at a nominal fee. And if the $6 adult admission doesn’t make you feel like a kid again, the venue’s inflatable bouncers most definitely will.
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Hop the Healthy Highway — Delsea Drive-In, Vineland, N.J. Less than an hour’s trip from Atlantic City, New Jersey’s only drive-in offers the best of both worlds — old school aesthetic outfitted with modern tech and healthier food choices to boot. Open seasonally, with first features beginning around dusk.
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Bring Your Backyard to the Big Screen — Starlight Six Drive-In, Atlanta, Ga. As much a backdoor barbecue as it is a night out at the movies, this six-screen Atlanta drive-in encourages what most in the theater biz forbid: bringing your own food and grilling it. Those looking to add a hip twist of the theatrical to their Labor Day getaway need only stock the cooler and pack some brats or burgers for the Starlight’s annual “Drive-Invasion,” which features a hot-rod show, live music, and B-movies galore.
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And really, what better way is there to cruise the nostalgia highway of old Hollywood than in a MINI Roadster? Allowing all the headroom one needs to see the stars on the screen and those directly above, the 2013 convertible goes the distance where it counts — on the road (obviously), not to mention the discerning driver’s wallet. Never mind that its fun-size frame also makes motoring in and out of tight traffic all the more enjoyable (or parking in even tighter spots for cozy romantics all the more convenient).
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Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."
Joan joined Salon in 1998 to become the first full-time news editor and became editor in chief in February 2005. At the end of 2010, she became editor at large, to
write full time. In the last couple of years she's had the privilege of debating conservative zealots on TV, from Bill O' Reilly to Dick Armey to Pat Buchanan.
As a columnist for San Francisco Magazine, she won Western Magazine Awards in 2004 and 2005 for writing about local politics. She's written for everyone from the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post to Vogue and the Nation.
Before she joined Salon, Joan spent many years as a freelancer. She also ran her own business, consulting to national foundations and nonprofits on education, community development and urban poverty issues. She's a crazy San Francisco Giants fan and co-wrote a book about the ballpark back in 2001.