"If I were to lose my mind right now and pick one of you up and dash your head against the floor and kill you, would that be right?" Who recently posed this question to whom in order to make what point?
Send your answer by noon ET Wednesday to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday's Question (No. 376)—"Happens Stance":
"It's not as a consequence of being in politics," says Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey. "This could happen if I were in the restaurant business or a journalist. It happens to people in all walks of life." What does?
"The uncontrollable urge to back a loser."—Mary Anne Townsend
"Being constantly confused with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. It happened to me just the other day."—Katha Pollitt, Juris Odins, Michael Manella, and Greg Diamond
"They occasionally have to visit Nebraska."—Cebra "Offered in the Spirit of Continuing News Quiz's Midwestaphobic Streak. If, That Is, We Can All Agree That Nebraska Is Indeed Part of the Midwest" Graves (similarly, Brooke Saucier and Charles "Happy Birthday, Mom—Wherever You and Mr. Gupta Are" Star)
"They get offered cushy academic postings by contacts for whom they've done favors. 'Just like that Hooters manager who got the presidency at Dartmouth,' Kerrey added."—Matt "Formerly in the Restaurant Business, Currently a Journalist" Heimer (similarly, Greg Diamond)
"Being unable to tolerate the presence of Jesse Helms for one goddamn minute longer."—Tim Carvell
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Even their political foes praise Sens. Bob Kerrey and John McCain for the undeniable physical courage each man displayed in Vietnam. But while this quality is rare—I assure you that I have none—it is a dubious virtue. McCain volunteered—he was not drafted—for the Air Force, a branch of the service whose job was to fly over Southeast Asia and drop bombs on people. Why was this a good thing? Kerrey took it on himself to join the Navy SEALs, an all-volunteer unit that requires initiative, skill, and grace under pressure. But wouldn't it have been better for America, Vietnam, and Kerrey himself if he'd been a lazy coward, eventually fleeing to Canada, after first getting lost and wandering around Wisconsin, in an incompetent and un-SEALish way? That is: Their physical courage put in service of a dismal enterprise brought only misery and death. A little cowardice applied at the right time would have had surprisingly beneficial effects for all and sundry. And I hope no one threatens to beat me up for saying so, because, unlike these two men, I'd just crumble.
Deeply Philosophical Answer
Getting "spiritually hollowed out."
That's why Sen. Kerrey is leaving politics, although—if I follow his logic—he might just be leaving a restaurant to go buy a newspaper or something. The problem (not limited to introspective senators but surprisingly common among introspective pastry chefs and introspective reporters) says Kerrey: "I have a spiritual, interpersonal and creative cistern that needs to be filled back up." One way Kerrey may refill his cistern—running the Learning Annex. No, wait, sorry—the New School.
Fun With Product Placement Occasional Extra
When I worked for Mr. Letterman, we were always pleased to find a news photograph of someone being dragged off in handcuffs while wearing a Late Night T-shirt: You can't buy publicity like that. Without hiring a very expensive ad agency. To keep the wheels of commerce greased, let's extend the benefits of this sort of PR to other companies. Consider this:
Acknowledging that they impeded the investigation into former CIA Director John Deutch's mishandling of thousands of pages of classified material, top agency officials released this detail to the New York Times: "Deutch used unclassified Macintosh computers for classified work throughout his tenure as director. … [H]e wanted to keep the C.I.A.-owned computers in his home after he left the government."
Bad news for the CIA, but good news for Steve Jobs, if he plays it right:
Possible Slogans for New Print Ads
- Think different than that poor bastard Wen Ho Lee.
- Nobody ever endangered U.S. secrets, flirted with a cover-up, and arranged a phony-baloney consulting deal to get a free Windows machine.
- The computer for the rest of us who want to spit on national security.
- Just five minutes from box to desk to online to downloading 17,000 pages of classified documents so anybody who knows your AOL screen name can get at them.
Possible TV Spot
Start tight on sheepish looking John Deutch pecking away at a laptop:
DEUTCH: The iBook from Macintosh. So easy to use, it's criminal.
Widen out to reveal that he's in jail. Being beaten by a patriotic guard.
And Into the Future
Participants are encouraged to submit similar, to run from time to time. Let's help keep the longest peacetime expansion of the U.S. economy, er, expanding peace-timefully.
Do You Have What It Takes To Be a Professional Funnyman Extra?
You may qualify for our home-study course that could prepare you for a high-paying career as Jay Leno. Take this simple test. Can you mine comic gold from Helen Gurley Brown's list of the benefits of her youthful whoring?
"Freedom from hunger and want, bye-bye pinchies and scrimpies, farewell fiscal fright."
(N.B. Like yesterday's version, this is a rhetorical question, a device to frame the quotation. Sorry for the confusion of those who sent in some delightful versions of late-night talk show hosts delivering the line.—Ed.)