March 22, 2011

Pundits doing a Turnabout?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 4:12 pm

Thorne Smith’s 1930 novel, “Turnabout,” was recommended to this columnist, before the Vietnam war began to spin out of control, as a hilarious romp for several reasons and, since the suggestion to add it to our reading list came from “a reliable source,” we commenced an effort to locate a copy of the book.

When it looked like a win in the California primary would give Bobby Kennedy a big boost in momentum and a good chance to win the Democratic Party’s Presidential Nomination, we were seized by a strong premonition while entering a used bookstore in downtown Los Angeles. We were certain that we would find a copy of the sought after novel there. As we left, we noted that our hunch had been bogus, but then we suddenly rekindled our effort by going back in and looking in the “humor” section. Success!

The book tells the story of a married couple whose spirits, due to a mysterious magical statue, exchange the host bodies. The man is in the wife’s body and she finds herself inside the man’s body. The guy is immediately paralyzed by the prospect of becoming pregnant and enduring the challenges of childbirth. The woman is plunged into the world of bonding with the other “guys” at work.

Smith had a short but productive career and many of his novels were turned into profitable films. To the best of our knowledge, “Turnabout” wasn’t filmed. The basic plot-line has been turned into a Hollywood cliché, but in all the examples of mind-exchange films, “Turnabout” has been overlooked.

Some time after reading “Turnabout,” we learned that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had written a short story about a similar mystical event that involved a college professor and one of his students, who had a school boy crush on his teacher’s wife.

[Smith’s “The Bishop’s Jaegers” is still too far ahead of its time to be movie-ized. Perhaps some avant-garde French director will show Hollywood, how it can be done.]

What brought this to mind while we were hypnotized by a tea kettle making ominous seductive noises at Oh-dark-thirty in the morning was the recent bit of political philosophy disorientation produced when a nominal member of the Democrat Party used a page right out of the Bush Family White House Instruction manual and sent thousands of bombs and cruise missiles into Libya to protect that country’s citizens from being killed by its leader.

The Democrats are recycling all the Republican pro Invasion of Iraq arguments to answer the Republicans’ recasting of the old “Bush is a war monger” Democrat talking points from earlier in this century. Talk about bringing “Turnabout” to life on the evening news broadcast.

For example, when a fellow member of the Berkeley Brigade of Bloggers (at the Berkeley Press Club?) asked this columnist to explain why Barry Bush (AKA code name “Obama”) had authorized the use of depleted uranium ammunition in the new jingoistic military adventure, before we could take a deep breath, we had blurted out this question: “If the American goal is genocide, doesn’t it make sense to use radiation to sterilize the males that can’t be killed?”

All the confusion brings up a question with disturbing psychological implications: “Are the Republicans being hypocritical when they use old recycled anti-Bush material to disparage Obama?

If some Republicans assert that Obama should be impeached for ignoring the Constitution which specifically states that Congress should vote to authorize any new wars rather than letting the President use the military in a “king’s army” capacity, do they realize that they are opening themselves up to the allegation that Bush committed an impeachable offence when he ordered up a search for Iraq’s non-existent WMD’s?

If the Republicans are using old Democratic talking points inadvertently, then they would seem to be blissfully ignorant of the nature of Bush’s offences, but if they are fully cognizant of the fact that they are spouting old Democratic talking points then that means they could be doing so with extreme sarcastic intent.

Are Democrats that anxious to believe that the Republicans who, under the direction of Field Marshal Karl von Rove, have spent years preparing for the time when a conservative majority judicial system might come in handy, have now made an inept and impulsive error? Could it be that plans for a Democratic party dupe (knowingly or unknowingly?) who would use the Bush strategy to start a new and unauthorized (by Congress) war, were at the ready when the first day of “Shock and Awe” was presented on network Television?

Perhaps the recycling of old Democratic talking points was part of a long term strategy and it is being implemented now with an extra added amount of “rubbing salt in the wounds” enthusiasm just for spite?

At this point giving Republicans credit for being sly as a Fox (news?), while playing “dumb,” to make a subtle point might remind some fans of the comic strip “Peanuts,” of the series where Charlie Brown, on the pitcher’s mound, tries to out-think the opposing team’s batter. “If he knows that a fast ball would work well now, but he knows that I would figure out that a fast ball would work well now, and I know that he knows that I would figure that out . . .” Strategy gridlock? Isn’t war for completely humanitarian reasons a bit of an oxymoron?

On Tuesday, March 22, 2011, Uncle Rushbo was asking if any listeners could tell him why the United States is “in Libya.” If the Democrats and Conservatives run the emotional level of discussion up enough, could there be a Twilight Zone type twist ending waiting in the wings? When the Democrats start delivering fever pitch defenses of the Obama decision to defend Libyans would it be a Rod Serling ending if the Conservatives suddenly say: “We fully agree with the Democrats, we just wanted to hear them enthusiastically promoting a new war in the Middle East.”?

If America uses a private company to provide support services to the military and if a new war will produce greater gross revenue for such a private company, what (if any) are the drawbacks for a new and profitable military venture . . . especially if it can become a perpetual war providing that company with an infinite supply of profits?

Isn’t it time for some clever editor to write a “Yes, Virginia, Americans are still ‘the good guys’” editorial? Of course a conservative might want to wait until a Republican is elected President to “straighten out the Obama mess” before running such a hypothetical opinion. The Republicans have all the time it will take, if the wars become perpetual.

Isn’t a perpetual war a lot like increased radiation levels? You either learn to live with it or die in the attempt.

In “the Bishop’s Jaegers” (Pocket Books Inc. November 1954 17th printing paperback edition [25 cents for “the complete book” {“Illustrated with many wonderful drawings by Herbert Roese”}]) on page 64, Thorne Smith wrote: “It was this latter possibility that brought Peter to a full realization of his position. For the first time he saw himself as indubitably he would appear in the eyes of others. He saw himself not as an innocent man but simply as a stark naked coffee importer dazzlingly greeting his guests at the door of his ancestral home.”

Now the disk jockey will play “Lady Godiva,” “Night train,” and Janice (“It’s all the same f*****g [Remember what Col. Kurtz said about that word?] day, man”) Joplin’s “Get it while you can.” We have to go apply for press credentials for this year’s Nudestock Music Festival. Have a “let it all hang out” type week.


  1. Actually, Turnabout was made into a movie in 1940 — directed by Hal Roach starring Carole Landis and John Hubbard.

    Comment by SterlingNorth — March 23, 2011 @ 5:58 am

  2. Mr. Patterson,

    The huge difference between the invasion of Iraq & the action in Libya is that the US is acting in concert with the UN & a number of NATO allies.

    Another difference is that the problem in Libya is obvious to all; while the presence of WMD in Iraq was open to dispute even before the invasion.

    A third difference is the presence of an active opposition group in Libya (see return of downed pilots); while no one in Iraq suggested that US Troops would be welcomed as liberators.

    You seem to see this as a replay of Iraq. I see it as similar to Korea (1950).

    Are the Republicans being hypocritical? Sure. You can go back to the 1990s & find quotes from famous Republicans opposing Somalia or Kosovo that they called treason when used about Viet Nam. It all makes sense though once you accept that Republican Wars are good, Democratic Wars are bad.

    Comment by db — March 23, 2011 @ 6:00 am

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