Bernhardt column: Oh Pat, we need you now

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 7, 2012

Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule – and both commonly succeed, and are right.
~H.L. Mencken, 1956
Now that I’ve survived the onslaught of both political conventions, I am finally prepared to make an informed choice.
Having received sufficient information from the right, the left, the middle, the Tea Party, the Green Party, and the Green Tea Party, I can now rest in the knowledge that my choice will be an enlightened and intelligent one.
I’m voting for Pat Paulsen.
I know he’s dead, but he still looks like the best choice to me.
You probably have to be over fifty to remember Paulsen. A comedian by trade, he was a fixture on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late sixties, known for his less than stimulating editorials on the issues of the day.
His slight physique and deadpan delivery were his trademarks. Perhaps the closest thing we have to him today is Ron Paul.
In the fall of 1967, the writers of the show had the brilliant idea of fashioning the droll and expressionless Paulsen into a Presidential candidate. He would appear regularly on the show to deny his candidacy, then descend into the audience to shake hands and kiss babies.
He portrayed himself to Americans as nothing special, or as he put it, “just a common, ordinary, simple savior of America’s destiny.”
Among his most famous quotations:
“All the problems we face in the United States today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the American Indian.”
“A good many people feel that our present draft laws are unjust. These people are called soldiers.”
“Assuming either the left wing or the right wing gained control of the country, it would probably fly around in circles.”
“I must choose my words carefully in order to avoid any negative interpretation. Among politicians, this is a tactic known as lying.”
“I’m often asked why I travel around the country talking politics. Is it for humanitarian reasons, community spirit, or is it for the money, the limousines or the girls? The answers are: no, no, yes, yes and yes.”
“I’m a big supporter of foreign aid. We should ask every country in the world to send us whatever they can.”
Presidential elections have come and gone since Pat’s original bid in 1968. He was there for many of them, his monotone voice offering commentary on the politics and personalities of the day.
In 1988, of Robert Dole he quipped “Who wants a pineapple for President?”
Of Gary Hart’s exit from the primaries following accusations of sexual misconduct, Pat said “you’ll never catch ME fooling around,” while mopping sweat from his brow with a bra pulled from his pocket.
Of evangelist Pat Robertson’s short-lived bid, he said “God told Pat Robertson to run for President. This proves conclusively that God has a sense of humor.”
Yes Pat, we need you more than ever. These days, we’re awash in pizzazz without content. Pat was Calvin Coolidge without the pizzazz.
Still, strangely his utterances of 45 years ago make more sense than a lot of the so-called facts pouring out of Washington these days.
Pat left us in 1997. I miss this man who described himself as “neither left-wing or right-wing, but middle of the bird.” And I remember that perhaps the most ringing and enduring truth he shared was a statement he made at the Democratic Convention of 1968:
“I do not claim that I can solve all the country’s problems by myself. If I did, I’d have to run as a Republican or Democrat.”

Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.