It’s time to laugh instead of cringe at politicians | Whale’s Tales

Day after day, you and I watch politicians stand before the cameras, lie shamelessly and get away with it — and day after day, I cringe at the elevation of ignorance.

“So, don’t tell me,” as the old song goes, “I’ve got nothing to do.”

I realize, even without Ann reminding me — as she often does — that I spend too much time wringing my hands about our present national malaise, letting it depress me. And following up on this revelation, I’ve come to the conclusion that I could use a time out to think, maybe even laugh from time to time.

As humorist and social critic H.L. Mencken wrote, “A man who can laugh, if only at himself, is never really miserable.” And too many of us take ourselves too damned seriously today.

So here, I’ve pulled together a few sayings of some our most trenchant and amusing observers of the human condition — from the past.

Why the past? Wouldn’t it be, er, the past, badly outdated? Not really. Just a little reading proved to me that like us, each writer had a rich palette of the greatest fools and hucksters, scallywags and crooked politicians of their ages to choose from and deplore, just like we do today.

Fact is, some things never change, and human folly is one of those things.

So, here to gag alongside us in this all-important election year, I present a small sampling of Mark Twain, H.L. Menken and George Carlin. I leave it to you to judge if it is out of date.

Twain, as canny an observer of the human condition as there has ever been, once said: “Politicians and babies need to be changed frequently, and for the same reason.” I find that truth as valid today as when he said it.

Later on came H.L. Mencken. In 1922, Mencken coined the word “booboisie” for the uncultured and uneducated members of the general public, i.e. “boobs,” forming the word after the more famous “bourgeoisie.” Mencken, likewise, coined the word “smuthound” for anyone given to censoring bad language or smut, particularly when it is found in works of literature.

Here are some of my favorite Menckenisms.

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

“If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.”

And my favorite: “As democracy is perfected, the office of the president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

Now here’s George Carlin on politicians.

“Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from some other reality. They come from American parents, American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses, American universities, and they’re elected by American citizens.”

This is the best we can do, folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces.

If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re gonna get selfish, ignorant leaders. And term limits ain’t gonna do you any good. You’re just gonna wind up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans leaders.

So, maybe … maybe … maybe it’s not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here. Like … the public. Yeah, the public sucks! That’s a nice campaign slogan for somebody: “The public sucks!”

My hope was to shine a little of light in the darkness, perhaps put a bit of a smile on your faces, and give you something to think about.

Your thoughts? Write me.

Robert Whale can be reached at