There is a natural division of labor in politics: The Republicans fuss about the sanctity of marriage and getting God back in the schools and the Democrats about healthcare and the $8 billion that vanished in Iraq, and so far the Republicans are doing a better job. God is in the schools, the same as He is in Nebraska or even in Dallas, and marriage looks to be doing OK, since the White House is not in charge of it. Meanwhile, the Pentagon and the Justice Department are investigating fraud in Iraq, one grain of sand at a time, and we are likely to have answers in a decade or two.
I suppose that $8 billion is not so much considering that the war will cost $200 billion this year alone, and yet one is curious to know why the G-men can't find out where it went, at a time when the Current Occupant is so very concerned about keeping medical benefits away from undeserving children. Hundreds of millions paid to the gunslingers of Blackwater, but an American family with a seriously ill child has to tap-dance backward through a gantlet of government forms to prove they really, really, really are desperate.
As the old adage says, the little thieves get hung and the big thieves get richer and richer. When it comes to larceny, it pays to be ambitious.
If you were looking for a political platform, God and marriage would be a good bet, sort of like promising to make the sun rise. A part-time job with time left over to supervise the moon and the stars. It is so much more satisfying than the dreary business of investigating what happened to those suitcases full of bricks of $100 bills in Iraq during the Bremer years and tracking down the good Republicans who served over there -- the young folks with no prior experience in accounting or finance who were put in charge of the stock exchange and the national budget.
I heard a man on the radio the other day who was baying about Sen. Clinton's healthcare plan and at one point, in shock and dismay, he said, "This is taking away from those who have and giving to those who do not -- in other words, socialism." He sounded truly offended. And this is what the Republican Revolution has brought us to: No longer is there a consensus on taxation according to ability to pay. No longer agreement that it is in the self-interest of the well-off to promote a stable society by securing the safety net. It's the I Got Mine You Get Your Own party, marching under a Christian banner. But Republicans are starting to realize that if you claim to govern by divine inspiration, the voters will hold you to a higher standard. You can't throw $8 billion down a rathole and expect us all to forget about this.
Don't get me wrong. Marriage is a good thing. But as for the sanctity of it, you shouldn't look too closely. Every marriage has its profane moments, especially when children get mixed up in it, which so often happens.
There is yelling and weeping involved and door slamming and a great deal of bad poetry ("My life is a vortex of darkness because/ You never loved me,/ No, I was only/ An object of your wrath,/ Bad daddy") and all due to the horrors of parenting.
The childless couples I know seem smooth and easy together, working their old comedy routines, and the fruitful couples seem distracted as if expecting a phone call from the county jail. Childless couples don't go through this. They don't have to yell upstairs and say, "If I don't see you doing your homework in five minutes, I am going to yell and shriek and do such irrational things that they will put me into residential treatment and you will have to fix your own meals and do your own laundry."
The child has created a shrine to herself on Facebook and has a list of a thousand friends but not much is actually taking place underneath that hairdo. Just like with the Current Occupant, who represents them very well. He is a relaxed, easygoing, self-accepting guy whose old retainers love him for his self-effacing modesty, a wonderful trait, but when you are incompetent, it is not so wonderful as, say, a little more intelligence might be. He is heading for the short bus of history where Earl Butz and Spiro Agnew ride. Where are his parents? Why don't they yell at him?
(Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country.)
© 2007 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.