Saturday, March 25, 2017
I came to awareness in a particularly mediocre time for children's cartoons, the mid-1960s. Huckleberry Hound. Beanie and Cecil. Magilla Gorilla. Not exactly art for the ages. Not exactly "Krazy Kat." The Flintstones wasn't bad—we didn't know it was a bald rip-off of "The Honeymooners." But it was on at night; intended for adults. People forget that.
Luckily, there was relief, in the form of Warner Brothers cartoons. They had begun their lives in the 1940s in theaters, part of the elaborate set piece that was going to the movies, along with newsreels and travelogues and such, intended to pad the intervals between features. They had ended their useful cinematic purpose, and were now pressed into endless duty in the saw-dust floor vaudeville of Saturday morning VHF television. There they stood out like a Fabrege Easter egg set among plastic ones: funny, well-produced, fast-paced, artistic, mini-movies. They easily withstood being watched over and over and we did.
Of course I was a Bugs Bunny fan, appreciating his mordant wit and detached style that at the time I didn't realize was lifted from Groucho Marx. The Road Runner tended to bore me, with its constant chases and desert dry locale and hardly any witty dialogue at all. The occasional boast or "ulp" from the inevitable loser, the sputtering mockery of "meep-meep" from the inevitable winner.
But the cartoons did give us a classic trope, a metaphor, a stock character in the form of Wile E. Coyote or, as he would put it, in an arch, thespian voice completely at odds with his mangy, underfed demeanor, "Wile E. Coyote"—pronouncing it "Kie-oh-tay"— Genius." It was on his business card.
He came to mind Friday afternoon, frozen in that eternal moment after he has grabbed at the Road Runner and plunged over a cliff, that instant where he looks at the viewer, his pupils dilating, before hurtling to earth with a twanging "Ptooooo," and then the Doppler effect whistle of a falling bomb.
How very like the Republicans, fulminating against ObamaCare for years, pinning their hopes on the liar, bully and fraud Donald Trump, grabbing at the prize, too crazed and egomaniacal for caution, then tumbling to earth at their own hand, with only each other to blame. The whole quest, a fervid revenge fantasy straight out of "Moby-Dick"—maybe Ahab would be a better motif for today, but let's dance with who brung us.
The Republican replacement of ObamaCare was certainly a Rube Goldberg device on par with the elaborate Acme contraptions that our unfortunate canis latrans would uncrate and attempt to use to snare our his swift nemesis, inevitably with disastrous results.
Wile E. was the definition of pride, going before a quite literal fall. As are Paul Ryan, et al. Swelled with the wealth of their business masters, and the power they wield, or could, if they could only agree, they view those who think otherwise, who, oh for instance, see the value of helping people get health insurance with such utter contempt, they are so certain, they failed to notice the American people tiptoeing out of their tent. Only 17 percent supported their American Health Care Act. They elected Trump to repeal and replace ObamaCare, not spike it and replace it with a thinly-disguised jackpot for the rich. The Republicans always insisted it would be replaced with something better, or at least similar. Not gutting the health care of 24 million Americans to put more money into the pockets of the wealthy, all for the chimera of "access" and choice, an obvious dodge that operatively was like a tyrannical father throwing his children in the street, explaining that he doesn't want them limited to the narrow range of choices in his poor larder, but is encouraging them to sample the cornucopia the world has to offer.
Being geniuses, they just assumed the gullible public would just fall for whatever has they served and, I suppose, given the election of Donald Trump, they had good reason to think they might pull it off.
Though if there is any moral here, the failure of the Republican efforts to pass their sham health insurance plan is a reminder that believing you're a genius and actually being a genius are two very different things.
I don't want to treat lightly the national tragedy that is the Trump administration, nor the disastrous Republican Congress ripping up the planks of civil, decent, intelligent society. But this latest, biggest, most risible failure of a string of failures has to be encouraging to those of us in the fact-based world. To see Trump chortling, still, about the potential collapse of ObamaCare—something that could still happen, given the country is in their hands—you'd think he doesn't realize there are millions of American lives involved. And of course he doesn't.