AMERICANS are, figuratively, sticking their heads out their windows and shouting that they can't take it anymore. They're frustrated and angry over a government in Washington that, they feel, isn't responding to their needs. Their target is both Congress and the president.
Just listen to call-ins on local radio shows or watch C-Span on cable TV if you want a quick verification of the black mood the public is in today.
Or go to the annual dinner of the Gridiron Club, the l07-year-old organization of Washington journalists, and hear the ribbing of government, those who govern, and those seeking to govern. As the club's performers recently poked fun at the politicians there was a lot of laughter. But there was a sobering side to many of the songs this year, reflecting the mood in the country.
One song, to the tune of "The House I Live In" - aimed at voter unhappiness over congressional privileges - drew loud laughter. Yet I talked to guests afterward who said the words are sad - even cynical. The singers, portraying members of Congress sang:
What is America to me - safe seat,
good pay and perks for free,
Political plutocracy - that's
America to me.
The House we live in is more than
just a bank.
It's a monumental tribute to the
privilege of rank.
A parking space for members -
no tickets do we see.
The right to be elitist - that's
America to me.
That's tough stuff. A bit bitter. But I must concede that it truly mirrors what many Americans are thinking about their leaders and those who seek to lead.
Nor was the roasting of Sen. Edward Kennedy very gentle - though the song won an uproar of laughing approval:
After a singer had portrayed Kennedy singing "It's Three O'Clock in the Morning" and time to go out for a spree, he was quickly reclothed in top hat and cutaway coat so he could step forward to belt:
I'm getting married in the morning,
Ding dong the bells are gonna chime,
A resurrection, before my election,
So get me to the church on time.
If I am dancing, roll up the floor,
I gotta face my voters in ninety-four.
Gridironers did not duck the charges that the press, even the responsible press, actually has enjoyed the printing of sleaze incidents this year. To the tune of, "What's the Matter With Kids?" a performer sang:
Please, we're too pure to cover such sordid stuff.
Please, in the high-class press there's not space enough.
Sleaze makes our readers queasy when they get the
Goodness gracious, no salacious copy
Ever mars our columns.
But - there is one exception to standard bland
Sleaze can be quite all right if it's second-hand.
Bless the Star and Inquirer, though we pretend they're
Just as long as they print sleaze first.
The Republicans were hit the hardest on the charge that they had failed to foresee and deal with the recession. To the song, "Get Happy," a soloist parodied this head-in-the-sky approach:
Forget your troubles and just get happy.
We're gonna chase all your blues away.
Sing Hallelujah, come, get happy -
No recession we can see today.
You lost your job? Well, come on, get happy.
We've got a program to ease your pains.
And for the poor it is really snappy -
So they can keep all their capital gains.
Yes, it was a year when Gridironers took off their gloves.