Sometimes, ya just gotta laugh


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



When I was only nine years old, I followed the political wrangling between Nixon and Kennedy. Since then, I have been fascinated by the process of electing a president. I guess I am a longtime political junkie.

There was a time when national politics seemed to be a bit more reasonable. At least it seemed to be less all-consuming.

Sixty years ago, presidential candidates would start talking about running and they might even start “testing the waters” the year before the election, but things didn’t really start humming until just before the primaries.

From the Iowa caucuses in early February, until the party conventions just a few months before the election, presidential hopefuls would travel by bus, train or airpl ane from primary state to primary state. The states with only a few electoral votes, or states with primaries late in political season, were often flown over.

Much like today, candidates wanted to make a big splash in the states that had numerous electoral votes. Maybe my memory is clouded, but back then the process seemed to be a bit more civilized.

That was all before the 24-hour news cycle. Now, its nonstop campaigning starting more than two years before the election and plowing through our lives non-stop until someone is declared a winner.

We are still 18months from the election next November and I’m already starting to feel a tad nauseated by all the rhetoric.

As a young boy, I used to enjoy the political process. Now, after being bombarded by all the media coverage, I am pretty much sick of it.

When something like this happens, I often start looking for something in the process to laugh about.

There’s plenty of that, but most people are taking the entire process so seriously that no one wants to point out the sheer silliness that surrounds a lot of the campaigning.

Late night talk show hosts have been poking fun at politicians and trying to milk situations for jokes every night, every week, every month for years. That’s also starting to get trying and old.

Sometimes, to find something to laugh at, we need go way back in time. All the way back to Mark Twain, Will Rogers and other humorists who took life seriously — but not their politics.

Mark Twain has been credited with saying, “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.”

Some historians claim it wasn’t Mark Twain who made that classic observation, but not only is it funny… it’s true. That’s the main difference between political humor then and now. There used to be some truth in the humor. Here are a few other painful truths and hilarious observations about politics.

“This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it. That we have carried as much political bunk as we have and still survived shows we are a super nation.”

“America has the best politician’s money can buy.” One comedian suggested, “Members of Congress should be compelled to wear uniforms like NASCAR drivers, so we could identify their corporate sponsors.”

“Calvin Coolidge made less speeches and got more votes than any man that ever run. William Jennings Bryan was listened to and cheered by more people than any single human in politics, and he lost.

So, there must “be some doubt whether talking does you good or harm.” This comment was made by either Twain or Rogers. No one seems to be sure who said it, but that quote contains wisdom and truth.

According to Will Rogers, “Our president delivered his State of the Union message to Congress. That is one of the things his contract calls for — to tell Congress the condition of the country. This message, as I say, is to Congress. The rest of the people know the condition of the country, for they live in it, but Congress has no idea what is going on in America, so the president has to tell ‘em.”

This observation was made by Ronald Regan. “Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”

The Will Rogers style of comedy was truth wrapped in his dry cowboy wit. He observed, “The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.”

Rogers often ended his time on stage by saying, “Help them, oh Lord, for they know not what they are doing.” He also said, “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”

Like I said, I’ve been an avid follower of national politics my whole life, and that last line is not only funny, but sadly, it’s true.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist