New voter paradigms

November 15, 2000

"CHAMBERS Done See,” the hook line from a calypso of the same name, with its clever double entendre, is perhaps the only original joke coined in the last 100 years about a political figure.

In his easy chorus, composer/ performer Plainclothes, offered the listener a clear choice of interpretation. It was either that then Prime Minister George Chambers had extraordinary incisiveness and foresight, or he was nothing but a failing and hopeless dunce.

Before that song and since, all the jokes I have encountered about prime ministers and presidents with whom voters fall out of love, are some kind of “damblay” on (or variation of) rib-ticklers we have heard oh-so-many times before.

One possible exception is the work of the Washington DC prankster, who convinced the American media to market the presidential election as “Decision 2000”.

With their protracted vote count still a work-in-progress and the impending poll here at home coughing up all sorts of strange sideshows, the most ghastly jokes about past leaders are being frantically exhumed and “re-engineered” to suit current situations.

Take the “latest” on Prime Minister Basdeo Panday, an earlier version of which I clearly remember hearing back in the seventies, when its butt was then US President Richard Nixon:

“Caught in a massive traffic-jam one evening,” the joke goes, “A priest asked a policeman the reason for the hold up.

The officer replies: “The Prime Minister is just so depressed about the thought of moving out of his official residence after next month’s election, that he stopped his entourage in the middle of the highway and he’s threatening to douse himself with gasoline and set himself on fire. He says the public hates him and he doesn’t have the money to pay Ken Gordon for a recent lawsuit. We’re taking up a collection for him.”

“Oh really?” said the priest. “How much do you have so far?”

“About 500 gallons,” said the officer, “but a lot of folks are still siphoning.”

In the interest of fair play, Opposition Leader Patrick Manning does not escape. His most recent attack is selected from the troop of quickies attributed to General Mac Arthur, after his public falling out with US President Harry S Truman.

The local version casts two of Mr Manning’s advisors at the water cooler:

First Aide: “They tell me the Chief was struck by a rather progressive thought on the way to work this morning.”

Second Aide: “Yeah, but I hear it was only a glancing blow like all the others and is not likely to have any lasting effect on his brain.”

In the second half of the 20th Century, American spin-doctors hit upon a new concept – telling truths in a fashion designed to cause embarrassment.

You see, for all its publicised preoccupation with education and rewards for intelligence (the latter mostly paid by the CIA in small, unmarked bills), US presidential hopeful Dan Quayle could not even spell the word “potato”.

President Reagan, some historians argue, demonstrated first indications of Alzheimer’s Disease while still in charge of the world. It was inevitable, therefore, that some of their utterances would be used against them.

The twosome of George W Bush and Al Gore, currently locked in the joust for the US Presidency, have gone all out to discredit each other, simply on the basis of the spoken word.

Making the rounds in cyberspace last week was a 13-page compilation of short quotes, with dubious credit going to Republican Governor George W Bush.
Here then are some of the choice Bush-isms:

“The vast majority of our imports come from outside the country”

“If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure.”

“A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls.”

“I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy, but that could change.”

Quick on the draw, the Bush camp shot back with a few selected bloopers from Gore. They quote the Toronto Sun of May 13, where Gore said:

“A zebra does not change its spots.”

Gore is also reported to have told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he created the Internet.

On August 12, the New York Times reported him as saying:

“When my sister and I were growing up, there was never any doubt in our minds that men and women were equal – if not moreso.”

Just last month, on the verge of trying to control the US budget, Gore was clearly confused about the exact amount of thousand-dollar bills comprising $1 trillion.

Looking for a candidate who has not said one silly thing, or drove a vehicle under the influence of mind-altering substances, took a toke of marijuana (with or without inhaling), or mis-pronounced a word like “paradigm” only to be made Education Minister thereafter; has become a task of immense proportions.

Perhaps, here at home, as we prepare for the Mother of All Elections, we should rely on another quote from George W Bush to calm our anxieties:

“People that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and then have a tremendous impact on history.”


Terry-J at I-Level