ABSOLUTELY THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH
By Andy Weddington
Friday, 26 November 2010
"Every country gets the circus it deserves. Spain gets bullfights. Italy gets the Catholic Church. America gets Hollywood." Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
As always, there will be trains and trucks and trailers and busses and tents. And funny cars. And tricycles and bicycles and unicycles.
And megaphones and microphones and certainly teleprompters.
There will be "lions" and "tigers" and "bears" and "lion tamers" and "tiger tamers" and "bear tamers" and "tight rope walkers" and "trapeze artists" and "jugglers" and "horses" and "goats" and even a "zebra" or two whose stripes will change right before our eyes.
And there will be "elephants" and "donkeys."
There will be "dogs." Plenty of "dogs."
There will be "giants" and "dwarfs" and "oddities" and "stilt-walkers" who stay above the fray.
There will be master "illusionists" and some self-denying "delusionalists."
There will be some who end up "cannon fodder."
There will be plenty of pretty ladies clad in skimpy sparkling costumes--prancing about with eye-popping style and grace. There are always pretty ladies. And there's always room for just one more. Or so some think.
There will be main shows. And sideshows. And creep shows. Maybe even some caught in peep shows.
Where to look? Oh, that's easy. There will be plenty of "clowns"--yes, plenty of "clowns"--running amok to grab our attention...to distract...to entertain. Look for them in the funny cars and on the tricycles, bicycles, and unicycles. And even afoot.
There will be surprises! Yes, plenty of surprises. Some jaw-dropping--one way or another. And just when we think we can't take anymore--through all the laughter or tears--there will be more surprises. That's just the way the "circus" works--astonishment and laughter one moment and shock and even disappointment the next. It's good theatre.
And along with surprises there will be hawkers and barkers and concessions. Yes, concessions but not necessarily of popcorn, peanuts, pretzels, funnel cakes, hotdogs, and ice-cold drinks. Pie, of the humble flavor, is always on the menu.
With "pie" there will be acts of contrition.
Acts of contrition? At the circus, you ask?
Yes, at the "circus"!
No, no, I'm not talking about the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I'm talking about "Absolutely The Greatest Show on Earth"--the run for the American presidency; that "circus."
As old number 27, William Howard Taft (1857-1930), a mountain of a man who tipped the scales in excess of 300 pounds and made for a respectable ringmaster--if only in appearance, opined, "I have come to the conclusion that the major part of the work of a president is to increase the gate receipts of expositions and fairs and bring tourists to town."
Sounds circus-like to me.
It's starting; again. The race--the "circus"--for the Oval Office; a variation of a ring--that awaits a master.
"Politics, where fat, bald, disagreeable men, unable to be candidates themselves, teach a president how to act on a public stage." That the astute observation and choice words of journalist and writer, Jimmy Breslin.
It'll be exhilarating. And exasperating. And exhausting. And confusing. And refreshing. And disappointing. And maybe, at some point, comforting. But comfort, should it ever come, is performances away.
There will be VIP seats. And cheap seats. Sometimes standing room only. But that does not matter--tickets not required. Thanks to Twitter and TV, and everything in between, we'll all have 24/7 ringside seats; like it or not. And with a gaggle of court jesters--from competent to baboonish--to amuse us. Beware the sleight-of-hand. And just for giggles, switch jesters once in a while.
So the "circus" is in town and setting up show.
They're already coming forward. Those whom want to be ringmaster--who seek the public stage. And the fat, bald, disagreeables who'd like to be but never will are too.
Some characters have already tossed their hat in the ring. Others not yet. But it won't be long before we'll know those with eyes trained on the Oval Office ring. Some obvious. Some assumed. Some expected. And some projected. Some rejected. Some dejected. Some just may surprise us all--after all, it is the "circus."
Last Saturday morning I asked a darn bright and savvy retired Navy friend who lives in the Washington, D.C., area to play a "circus" game with me--"Who's your pick for the GOP in 2012"? He offered a couple of names and why. I responded with a couple and why. Our correspondence now rests in a "for the record" file all its own on my computer. Private for now. For the "circus" is just beginning and I don't want to spoil any of the fun. But I will offer a bit of the perspective from my seat...
"I'm going extreme and am torn some at that...I like so and so and so and so because they're bold enough to hold the public's attention. As we both know, in America--where attention spans are held in seconds--boldness matters. And, we have already seen, the completely unqualified can be elected. I am thinking the run for 2012 will look like an extreme cross between American Idol and Survivor and more bizarre than anything we have ever seen. And the post-election parties mega productions surpassing Dancing with the Stars. Would it not be fascinating were "Teen Activist" Bristol Palin holding school on the dance floor for our 45th president--Sarah? Stranger things have happened. You heard it here first..."
His facetious reply, "A vast right wing/tea bag conspiracy!"
They don't serve tea at the circus--yet.
And with that, I'd amend Bierce's opening quote by changing the last sentence to read...
"Every country gets the circus it deserves. Spain gets bullfights. Italy gets the Catholic Church. America gets the run for the presidency."
Why? Because reality is always stranger than fiction and nothing beats the raw, unpredictable, and entertaining center ring of American politics. Only time will sort out who has the best one-two and corner. But a "corner" in a circle? Only a politician could find it. And explain it. Which leads me to the closing point.
As for the "circus," there will be one other piece of the show--"bull"--and plenty of it. Switch on your detectors and watch your step.
Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997), once a powerful figure in the People's Republic of China, spoke words particularly apropos...
"The United States brags about its political system, but the president says one thing during the election, something else when he takes office, something else at midterm and something else when he leaves."
And that's no bull.
Carnival atmosphere aside, the race for office is absolutely the greatest show on earth. And making it so is the "circus" goers, not the "performers." As the goers have a big hand in orchestrating the show; as they reminded the performers a few weeks ago. Perform for the people or your act is over. It's as simple as that.
Acts are replaceable. As are clowns. Ringmasters, too.
If not for the circus, then what analogy for the "circus"?
"Anyone who wants the presidency so much that he'll spend two years organizing and campaigning for it is not to be trusted with the office." David Broder