Thursday, August 10, 2006

“Straw Men R Us”

“Hello, Straw Men R Us! How may I help you?”

“Hi. I’m calling from the White House. I hate to ask you for another rush job, but the president is giving a speech on Social Security tomorrow night, and he needs some straw men to attack.”

“That’s pretty short notice, but we try to oblige you folks. You’re our best customer, and we’ll do what we can. What time is the performance?”

“They’ll introduce him at 8 o’clock. We’d like to have the straw men here no later than 6, so the president can get acquainted with them before they all have to leave for the auditorium.”

“How many were you thinking of?”

“It doesn’t have to be many—half a dozen would probably do it, if they’re made of the right stuff.”

“No problem there. We use nothing but frequently recycled, highly inflammable material. I’m sure they’ll suit your needs.”

“We’ll have them seated right in the center of the audience. Can you make sure the legs bend at the knees and hips?”

“Can do, but it’ll cost you a little extra.”

“Doesn’t it always?”

“I assume you want them with our EZ-Tote lightweight carrying case that takes all the work out of transporting them from one venue to another?”

“Definitely. The president will be using them in eighteen cities in the next ten days, so ease of handling is a must.”

“Gotcha. Do you have any preferences on what you’d like to have come out of the straw men’s mouths? Something on the order of ‘There are those who say Social Security isn’t important enough to worry about in times like these,’ or ‘Some of my opponents say that we can put off dealing with Social Security indefinitely,’ or ‘Some people say that Americans can’t be trusted to manage their own retirement income, but I say…’?”

“Those are all excellent. The president gets really fired up when he can attack extreme positions that nobody actually holds. It’s a lot easier than dealing with the pluses and minuses of real debate.”

“I understand completely. That’s why we’re in business! By the way, how did the last set go over—the ones on national security?”

“Those were great! They went everywhere with the president and argued with him constantly. The straw man who said, ‘We ought to pull out of Iraq right this minute, abandoning our dead and wounded on the battlefield and in the streets of Baghdad…’—the one in the yellow shirt?—he was just super! The president beat on him in fifteen cities, and got tremendous applause every time.”

“I thought he’d like that one.”

“He sure did. I was afraid the president was going to wear him out.”

“Oh, one thing you can’t do is wear them out. They may be made of straw, but they’re unbelievably durable. You can use them over and over again. We guarantee them for a full term in office or until the owner dies, whichever comes first, and we haven’t had to replace one yet.”

“Well, ours have certainly held up well.”

“And how do you want their messages to begin? ‘There are some who argue…,’ ‘Some people say…,’ ‘Some of my opponents believe…’?”

“We’d like to order your deluxe mixture. The president prefers a variety to work from.”

“A wise choice. We’ll have them delivered by 6.”

“Wonderful! Listen, I appreciate everything you do. You know, when the president debates straw men, in speeches somebody else wrote, at conservative Christian universities or military bases, to audiences that have all the questioners and skeptics excluded, it makes everything so simple. God, I love my job!”

© Tony Russell, 2006

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