Want to know the difference between being a presidential candidate and just a big-state governor? When someone tells a racist joke at one of your events, it doesn’t become national news.
On Monday, Rick Perry made his first public appearance since quitting the presidential race at a Republican event near Austin. Perry, who once was head cheerleader for Texas A&M University, said, “All Aggies have a really interesting way of admitting defeat. You know, we’ve never been outscored, we just ran out of time.” That joke would be funnier if the Republican primary weren’t still dragging on, but Perry was upstaged at his own event by, of all things, George Washington.
Actually it was a George Washington impersonator with a three-corner hat and a wig. He lacked a set of wooden teeth but he definitely had a tin ear when he told what passes for a joke.
“A Communist, a Muslim and an illegal alien went into a tavern,” he said. “And the tavern keeper said, ‘What will it be President Obama?’”
If Perry were still a presidential candidate, a joke besmirching the patriotism, citizenship and religious faith of the president would be a national scandal. But now Perry’s just a lame-duck governor, eclipsed on the national stage by such lightweights as Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. No one even cared to ask whether Perry wanted to disavow the joke, a far cry from when he had to apologize for a Baptist preacher and Perry supporter who called Mormonism a “cult”.
Not only did the local press give Perry a pass, but the newspapers reported that the crowd had a good laugh over it. Maybe the Texas press corps, weary of seeing Perry impersonate a presidential candidate, didn’t want to ask him what he thought of a joke told by a guy impersonating a real president. This is what passes for good manners in Texas.
So if insulting the president is okay if you make a joke about it, what else is acceptable? Conservative commentator Steve Deace picked up the meme when he tweeted, “Heard today – moderate, conservative, and liberal walk into a bar. Bartender says, “Hi, Mitt!”
Let’s all pause to salute a Republican for finding a way to avoid overt prejudice while skewering a rival. But there’s no reason we should let Republicans have all the fun.
Romney’s campaign, super PAC and his 501c4 walk into a bar. Bartender says, “What’ll you boys have?”
Mitt’s campaign says, “Oh, we’re not together.”
A devout Catholic, a philanderer and a moral scold walk into a bar. Bartender says, “What’ll you have, Newt?”
A doomsday hoarder, cult leader & old racist walk into a bar. Bartender says, “What’ll you have, Congressman Paul?”
“Delegates!” says Paul. “Yeah!”
For what passes for fairness here, I’d love to include a joke about Rick Santorum, but there is absolutely nothing funny about that man. “Santorum” is the place in Roman mythology where fun went to die.
The difference in the joke about Obama and the jokes about the Republicans is instructive. Making fun of Mitt requires honing in on his well-known hypocrisy. To mock Newt, contrast his latter day religiosity with his serial infidelities and sprinkle it with his grandiosity till the joke sparkles. And to tell a Ron Paul joke, all you ever really need to do is list his attributes and remind people about the white hood in the back of his closet. The closest you come to a personal attack on any of these guys is commenting on Santorum’s soporific qualities.
But to tell a joke about the President of the United States, some Republicans need to resort to calling him a foreign-born Communist who worships Allah. I suppose by now we should all be grateful that Republicans tacitly admit that Barack Obama is actually an Earthling.
For those of us consumed with politics, it’s probably good to keep in mind that most people think jokes about politicians aren’t funny enough to argue about, a point I have unfortunately demonstrated in this column. In fact, the best joke I heard recently had nothing at all to do with politics, though I did hear it from a Democratic political consultant named Ken Whittaker.
“I put my phone in ‘airplane mode’ and threw it up in the air,” wrote Ken. “Worst Transformer ever.”
I can’t wait to pretend I thought that up.
© Copyright 2012 Jason Stanford, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Jason Stanford is a Democratic political consultant living in Texas and the co-author of “Adios, Mofo: Why Rick Perry Will Make America Miss George W. Bush.” Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.