We’re All Aliens on Planet Politics

Amid the great swirl of political activity that has managed, however briefly, to relegate news of celebrity couplings to the off-lead column, one question remains unasked: On what planet do our political leaders reside? They cannot be residents of our good earth, for their actions and words contain none of the characteristics we associate with our species. Clearly, they are aliens from another place, far, far removed from our daily lives-a place called Planet Politics.

For example, if we earth-dwellers heard that several of our friends had taunted a wounded Medal of Honor winner, certain human instincts would have kicked in: We would be ashamed, embarrassed, mortified. We would have taken the names of those responsible, seen to it that they were punished, and then we would have offered a heartfelt apology to the object of our friends’ derision. That is what we earth-dwelling humans would do.

If, however, we were citizens of Planet Politics, we would do exactly what Al Gore’s Presidential campaign did when Gore supporters were caught screaming “Cripple!” at Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, who lost part of a leg in Vietnam. First we would deny that the taunting took place. Residents of Planet Politics are known for denying what is evident to even the dullest earthling. Then, confronted with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we would assert that the taunters were simply exercising their rights according to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As residents of Planet Politics, we would be alien to such concepts as shame and embarrassment, not to mention taste. Besides, we would calculate that an apology could be construed as a sign of weakness, and that would never, ever do. Think of what the Sunday morning television panel guests would say!

It must be an insulated, parochial place, this Planet Politics. One resident, a spokesman for Mayor Giuliani named Sunny Mindel, recently insisted that “everybody in New York” is aware that she is, in fact, a spokesman for Mayor Giuliani. Again, the contrast with the behavioral characteristics of earth-dwellers is stunning. Most human beings employed as press spokesmen, even for so high and mighty a leader as the Mayor of New York, assume that they are known only among a small clique of reporters.

It is a well-founded assumption. Surely a survey of, say, 100 subway riders in Queens would confirm suspicions that most New Yorkers do not know the name of mayoral spokesmen and, indeed, are quite happy to keep it that way. If the human brain is an attic, as Sherlock Holmes once said, then one mustn’t fill it with irrelevant clutter, like the name of a mayoral spokesman. If there is any reason to know the name of the current mayoral spokesman, it is to reflect with some irony on the choice of somebody named “Sunny” to represent the views of a man not known for his sunny disposition.

On Planet Politics, residents make the very unhuman assumption that their autobiographies can be shaped, altered, distorted and exaggerated in the pursuit of the only issue that matters: a good story line. Ordinary earth-dwellers, if engaged in the task of running for high office, might seek to win votes by articulating issues or positions based on personal experience and beliefs. Residents of Planet Politics, however, long ago decided that issues are irrelevant, that personal narrative is all that matters. All history is biography, and all politics is autobiography. And so, when a resident of Planet Politics declares for high office, voters are treated not to a list of beliefs, but a videotaped parade of relatives recalling the warmth of long-ago family holidays, of stories filled with unverifiable anecdotes. This is supposed to substitute for a message. On Planet Politics, victory belongs to the candidate with the best story.

As final evidence of the alien nature of our political leaders, let us take the case of the politicians who sought to prevent democracy from breaking out in New York’s Presidential primary. Were they earthly aborigines, they clearly would have realized the absurdity of their antidemocratic scheming. Instead, blind to reason and deaf to argument, they bulled ahead, determined to transform an election into a coronation. The rules they followed were not the product of earth-dwellers; they were the work of fellow residents of Planet Politics.

There has been much said about the distance between politicians and voters these days, that rarely has the governing class seemed so remote, so out of touch with the lives of ordinary people. Many people have offered reasonable assessments of how this all came to be.

Nobody, however, has seized upon the obvious answer: Our politicians reside elsewhere, in some other part of the universe. They are all carpetbaggers.

That would seem to explain everything, don’t you think?