Recent job growth was zero, much like President Barack Obama’s chance of seeming a moderate. His best hope in the 2012 campaign is public contempt for the GOP.
“Are you comfortably sitting? Then I’ll begin,” said British actress Julian Lang. I meant to begin this column in August, but events kept intruding. One was travel to promote a book, “A Talk in the Park.” Another: completing next year’s book on Fenway Park’s centennial. It’s good to be back, much having changed since you and I last met.
Since late summer, Barack Obama has morphed from failure to calamity. In one poll or another, 73 percent say America is on the wrong track; 80, the economy reeks; 75, the president is clueless how to fix it. To use a baseball term, most want him going, going, gone.
Obama’s hope is that you can’t beat something with nothing — i.e., the Republicans. Franklin Roosevelt termed himself “Dr. New Deal” and “Dr. Win the War.” Mitt Romney is running as “Dr. Fix the Economy.” To practice in the White House, he will need to lure wary conservatives — in short, close the deal, as this fall’s Boston Red Sox didn’t.
Rick Perry can’t hit Triple-A, much less big-league pitching. Michele Bachmann is a righty with no control. Jon Huntsman is in the wrong sport, playing squash, not hardball. Newt Gingrich shows that ego is a four-letter word. My choice is still Candidate X — Marco Rubio comes to mind — set to succeed the GOP field when most of it, as I suspect, folds.
Meanwhile, America just ended its third non-recovery summer. Recent job growth was zero, much like Obama’s chance of seeming a moderate. His best hope in the 2012 campaign is public contempt for Republicans. The GOP’s best hope is public revulsion toward him. As TV’s “The Life of Riley” said, “What a revolting development this is.” Forget tax relief. We need laugh relief.
Lincoln said, “If I could not laugh, I think my heart would break.” In “A Talk in the Park,” proceeds to benefit the Baseball Hall of Fame, 116 retired or active baseball Voices relate side-splitting tales. Contributors from Vin Scully and Bob Costas to the Yankees’ Michael Kay and Mets’ Gary Cohen show, as Joe Garagiola once wrote, that “Baseball is (still) a funny game.”
Below, announcers whose story-telling skill would benefit any candidate:
• Yankees manager Casey Stengel had a reputation for verbosity. CBS arranged an interview, hoping to ask about his nine-man batting order. Later, someone asked how it went. “Fine,” said Voice George Kell. “But in our 15 minutes, Casey didn’t get past the leadoff hitter.”
• A few years ago the Giants’ Lon Simmons moved to Maui, California sad to see him go. “I wish you could broadcast baseball (here),” a woman rued. Lon cracked: “That’s what they used to tell me in the broadcast booth, too.”
• Bob Uecker was a career .200 hitter. In 1964, the Cardinals asked Uke for a favor: “We’d like to bring up another player — so we need to inject you with hepatitis.” No problem, said Uke: “Hey, anything to improve the team.”
• The Phillies’ Richie Ashburn wondered on air if Celebre’s Pizza was listening. Minute’s later pizza arrived. Finally management told him to “stop these plugs. Celebre’s not a sponsor,” but said Ashburn could still hail birthdays. That week he sent “special wishes to the Celebre’s twins — Plain and Pepperoni.”
• Johnny Carson asked how fans reacted to Uecker’s futility. “Of a hundred people,” Bob said, “fifty are going to say I stunk and was a disgrace to my uniform. And the other 50 are going to tell you I was garbage. So you have two schools of thought.”
An old song says, “Make ’em laugh.” Maybe Uecker should be the GOP nominee: popular, likable, articulate, smart. At the least, he would be a Washington rarity — a politician who is funny ... on purpose.
Curt Smith is the author of 14 books and a former speechwriter to President George H.W. Bush. Email him at email@example.com.