Send out the Clowns


I’ve never really had an issue with clowns.

Krusty is one of my favorite Simpsons characters.

The Joker is my favorite villain from the realm of superheroes (I even have a Halloween mask from The Dark Knight). knight-clown

As a boy, I was one of Bozo‘s faithful TV servants (along with Bozo’s magician sidekick, Marshall Brodien, whose products I would consume like a meth addict). I once wrote the show requesting tickets, only to be told there was a two-year waiting list.


I couldn’t wait two years. I had to go to college.

But I knew clown aversion was real. My ex brother-in-law was so creeped out by them he would visibly shiver if you brought up the issue.

Still, I had no idea how pervasive it was until I began reading about the “creepy clown” craze sweeping the nation. Apparently, dressing up like a clown and trying to freak out children (and the childlike) has become a thing.

According to the New York Times, more than a dozen people have been arrested for clowning. Children in Ohio and Texas have been charged with making clown-related threats to school classmates. A New York City teen told police a clown threatened him with a knife in the subway. In Wisconsin, a couple was arrested after police discovered they’d left their 4-year-old child home alone while they went clowning. A Seattle-area high school was shut down after  some students reported seeing costumed figures in the woods.

But the prize goes to Mississippi, which reacted as if evolution were being taught in its classrooms. Supervisors in Kemper County passed a bill that bans people from wearing any clown costume, mask or makeup in public. The local law carries a $150 penalty, and it will be lifted Nov. 1.

You know, after Satan’s favorite holiday.

Which raises a few questions. What is the criminal charge for circus wear? Do they have to wear said getup in a police lineup? Does Ronald McDonald have to turn himself in to Mayor McCheese?ronald-and-mayor

If you fear being a victim of clownism, there’s reason for hope. Halloween is just around the corner, and the shelf life of fads in the social media time-space continuum can be measured with a stopwatch, not a calendar.

Unless, of course, we find lurking in our woods the most frightening of the orange-haired menaces.












Making the Wrong Side of the Bed


There’s an idiom in contemporary politics that goes, approximately, like this: Republicans wake up angry; Democrats wake up sad.

It would seem an inescapable truism, particularly given the rancor that freights this presidential campaign. While it will go largely unnoticed, Mike Pence did something extraordinary Sunday: He promised the nation that his party would peacefully accept the results of the election.

Think about that. Simply as principle, Democracy relies on an assumption that those involved understand the rules of engagement. Rules that weren’t in question say, during the presidential primaries, which were similarly rife with vitriol.

But in watching Pence, I realized that some Republicans must be waking up sad, too.  They also see where this path inevitably leads: To self-cannibalization.

Michael "Mike" Pence, governor of Indiana, pauses during an interview in New York, U.S., on Thursday, May 16, 2013. The largest-ever U.S. municipal junk bond sale remains in limbo after Indiana learned that a Pakistani company backing a fertilizer plant financed by the biggest borrowing in state history is linked to explosives causing the most U.S. casualties in Afghanistan. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Consider: In 2009, the Tea Party was borne of Republican worry that a newly-elected Barack Obama would usher a Caligula-like era Washington, reeking of liberalism and federal handouts. The party concocted a 10-point Contract from America (not “with,” interestingly). It called for, among other things, that Obamacare be repealed and that all new laws “identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress” authority to pass new laws.

Alas, the Supreme Court nixed the first provision and voters the second. In response to the non-response, the GOP drifted further right and began to consider Karl Rove’s parting advice to colleagues: expand the base by including more outliers — voters who would normally drift toward fringe candidates.

Thus the birth of Sarah Palin, the least-qualified professional since Marlon Brando whimsically hired a NYC cab driver as his agent (true story).


And now Trump, who makes Palin look MENSA cerebral. Trump has already put the GOP on notice that they will pay just as dearly as Democrats for angering him. Paul Ryan — a founding father of the Tea Party — has been particularly pilloried for non-neo-support. His political career (let alone his hold as House Speaker) is as clear as puddle water.

The pit bull has turned on its dog-fighting owner. Unshackled, if you will.

But Pence’s jaw-dropper followed another: Michelle Obama’s speech days earlier concerning the state of politics, specifically the NC-17 turn it’s taken. While she has traditionally eschewed stumping (she was opposed to her husband’s decision to run for president in 2008), she may have struck an apolitical nerve. One that prompts political action.

There’s a reason the crowd erupted at “enough is enough.”

That’s the tricky thing about energizing bases. You never know their mood when they finally wake up.



Trump: Make America Grope Again


My head is going to pop off like a dandelion’s if I hear one more fresh-faced newscaster wax philosophic on how Donald Trump represents a true break from the political rules of old. True, Donald sealed his fate with last week’s hot mic, but the scandal, however salacious, is hardly new.

I know Twitter limits you to 140 character per missive, but come on; just a little institutional memory, pretty please.

God knows I’m no historian. But I can at least (vaguely) remember events in my life. Your own life span should be grounds for a hint of historical context. And there is much to contextualize here, just as there was a half century ago.

In the year of my conception, 1964, another Donald Trump threatened to wreck not only the GOP, but the republic itself: Barry Goldwater. goldwater

Consider Barry Morris Goldwater Trump beta: also a Republican, a businessman, rich and nasty as hell. Like Trump, he despised what America had become. Namely, less white. He would earn his fame by filibustering and voting against the Voting Rights Act — and taking a shellacking in the presidential race by a guy who wasn’t even sure he wanted the job. lyndon

As Trump will in a month.

This will likely come naturally, as the Donald and his ilk choke on his own vitriolic bile. But just in case, all historians and the Clinton campaign need do is look at the Democratic advertising strategy of Lyndon Johnson. Like Clinton, he was ahead in the polls.

But there is an important stratagem here in Johnson for Clinton: Don’t take your foot off an opponent’s neck.  Johnson, for instance, was worried of an 11th hour rally and, not wanting to risk a GOP resurrection, sprang an attack campaign that created the modern template of American politics.

Johnson approved “Daisy Girl,” one of the most terrifying and effective political ads in political history. Sure, it was alarmist, sensational, and had no real basis in fact.

But at least it kept a nut from learning the nuclear ATM passcode.

Clinton would be well-served to follow Johnson’s lead. While her lead in polls (if they can be trusted; who under 40 even uses a home phone?), now is the time to break into the Secretariat Stretch, finishing off the Republican Party as it lurches in Tea Party/Trumpian death throes spasms.

Maybe she could even find this guy, if he’s not dead from cancer. The parallels are frightening. He even kind of looks like Trump, if a world away in logic. But it would be a kick to Trump’s slats, which is apparently the only place Donald can feel.

No one enjoys negative ads.

But it’s a lot better than negative nuts.