I am your elder

It's time the powers-that-be took my advice: No more papal Muslim-bashing, no apologies for American cars and a lot more action in Washington.

Published September 20, 2006 10:00AM (EDT)

I wish the pope had talked to me before he gave his "evil and inhuman" speech that got Muslims so testy at him. I could have told him, "Don't quote some old emperor's thoughts about Muslims unless you're willing to have people confuse his views with yours." You don't tell a Mormon, "My neighbor used to be Mormon and he says it's the weirdest religion since the Incas." He'll give you the hairy eyeball and go off to the temple and start converting your deceased ancestors.

If you're the Holy Pontiff, you should watch what you say, with the infallibility factor and all. You toss out an idea and suddenly people are on their knees repeating word for word what you said. You'd think the pope would have some peeps to tell him this. He can't just put on a pair of Ray-Bans and toss back an appletini and shoot the breeze as if he were Joe Blow from Kokomo. I could have told him that, had he asked.

My advantage is that I'm in Minnesota and it's September, there's a chill in the air, and this makes us smarter. Cold is a stimulant of intelligence. This has been shown time and time again.

If only Ford Motor Co. had spoken to me before admitting publicly that it expects to fall behind Toyota in the near future. The execs must be spending too much time at the beach. That's weenie talk. They should have said, "Market share is not what it's about for us. We know in our hearts that we are making the right cars for America at this time, and we will keep making them no matter how unpopular they are. In the end, we'll be proven right." Walk tall, Ford. Don't cry in the beer. That's my advice. Too bad you didn't ask.

I am an elder, after all, my boyish grin and insouciant manner notwithstanding. I have been around the block. In other civilizations, I would sit cross-legged in my lodge and you people would approach me, bowing, and ask my counsel. You could do this anyway.

And that crazy Rep. John Boehner. He made a speech, asking whether Democrats are "more interested in protecting terrorists than in protecting the American people." He should have talked to me first. The U.S. House of Representatives, in which Mr. Boehner serves as majority leader, is not an institution held in high esteem these days, and before he chucks road apples at Democrats, he should tend to his own business. The House took a five-week summer vacation, came back into session, debated the Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Coin Act, then spent four hours debating a bill to prohibit slaughtering horses for consumption -- horse meat! In this country, horse meat is served only to carnivores in zoos, but various gasbags had to stand up and laud our equine friends, praise their role in the western migration, the U.S. Cavalry, etc.; meanwhile the subjects of immigration, port security, terrorism and the war went unmentioned in the House chamber.

Commemorative coins!!??! The U.S. Mint is still producing pennies, though a penny costs more than a penny to produce (and a nickel costs more than a nickel), and people throw the coins away because they're worthless and a nuisance, and other people don't bend down to pick them up, despite the saying, "See a penny, pick it up, and the rest of the day you'll have good luck," and the Mint keeps cranking out more small change to replace those -- it's deficit spending in action. It's foolishness on wheels. Boehner's majority is helpless to solve this or to deal with the great issues of this country aside from whether to feed Trigger to the lions. And then he hauls off and accuses Democrats of treason. Who is this guy and who is responsible for monitoring his medications?

You want to know what I think? Members of Congress should leave town. Move north to where they can feel the crisp chill breeze of reality. Maybe a place in the middle of the country, along the Mississippi River. Let D.C. keep the Pentagon, the White House, the statuary, the vast marble and granite sheds of the federal bureaucracy, and move our nation's deliberative bodies to a place with a clearer view. There is plenty of land available along the Mississippi, rolling hills, woods, meadows. No need to spend money on a dome and pillars -- just pitch two big circus tents, one for the House, one for the Senate, bring in FEMA trailers for housing, and let's see if we can't get more work out of these people.

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(Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country.)

© 2006 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.

By Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor is the author of the Lake Wobegon novel "Liberty" (Viking) and the creator and host of the nationally syndicated radio show "A Prairie Home Companion," broadcast on more than 500 public radio stations nationwide. For more columns by Keillor, visit his column archive.

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