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Monday, September 30, 2013

TIM LUND: OUR FONTRUM MOMENT

Years ago a late night talk show host on KOA in Denver was having dinner at a restaurant with a couple of his friends when a conversation at the next table suddenly became impossible to ignore. I have no clear recollection of who the two at the other table might have been but it was probably some young couple out on their first date. I could be wrong about that, but that seems to be about the way it must have been.

Anyway, if I'm in the right ballpark, there was some sort of faux pas -- the young man at the next table might have let something slip having to do with who he'd seen or where he'd been. That apparently contradicted something else he'd said earlier and so a clarification of sorts was needed and that led directly to a second major gaff. Shock waves had now begun to reverberate when the young man next said something so outlandish it's a wonder the glassware didn't shatter.

By now no one at the table with the guy from KOA dared risk swallowing a forkful of anything. They sat in silent terror at whatever the nitwit next to them might yet disclose -- how, they wondered, could they hope that this might end?

Yet end it did -- to everyone's surprise and everyone's relief the unfortunate fellow's mortified companion had the grace to changed the subject. The storm would from that point forth subside. The talk show host and the two he was with had somehow managed to keep from bursting into fits of giggles and their puzzlement at how they'd accomplished that now added to the weirdness that was now apart of the reemerging semblance of normality.

Finally one of the two friends sitting with the talk show host took out his pen and wrote a note that read, 'We get it. She gets it. The oaf has not -- how is this possible?'

Now they could laugh. On their way out, having paid the check, one of the friends of the talk show host said something to the effect that a word was needed for what it was they'd just gone through. The other friend suggested "fontrum'. The official definition is, as I've remembered it, 'The feeling of being embarrassed on behalf of someone who's too stupid to feel embarrassed for himself.'

I thought all of this again the other day as I tuned in to catch the end of the Ted Cruz filibuster. Apparently he'd been going on for hours and hours explaining over and over how important it was that Senate Republicans vote against ending debate on the House Bill cutting funding for ObamaCare. Harry Reid and the Democrats needed more votes than they had to end the debate, but once the debate had ended the Democrats could amend the House Bill, putting back the funding for ObamaCare. That required only a simple majority and that, of course, the Democrats had.

One now tends to suspect Harry and the Democrats may have had a couple of extra weapons in their arsenal as well, something no one other than the Edward Snowdens out among us are ever likely to prove they had. I can't imagine what exactly that could be, but if you can nail it down Mitch McConnell will wash your car and mow your lawn for as long as you can keep it to yourself.

This is the age of the NSA. Massive surveillance. One thinks back to the FBI files Hillary had in her hot little hands. This is not to say that the fix was in, but the fix was in.

But back to poor Ted explaining Senate procedure 101 for the fifteenth time in fifteen hours. One thinks of the Allen Drury novels no one's read in forty years. By comparison a dozen miles of slowly rolling Russian tanks can seem to pass like Lady Godiva going by at the gallop -- but then something happened no one writing fiction would ever have dared imagine : Bob Corker, Lamar's fellow Senator from Tennessee, arrived to ask a question so odd, so incredibly inept, I was suddenly put in mind of that incident in that Denver restaurant.

'How,' asked Corker, 'can I vote in favor of the House Bill, cutting off the funding for ObamaCare, if a vote isn't first passed to end debate?'

Cruz, now chanelling Mister Rogers, put it into babytalk. 'You see Bob, it takes sixty votes to end debate and we've got more than forty-one. So we can stop the Democrats from working any changes in the House Bill if we'll just find our thinking caps and put them on so we do this really simple little thing dot dot dot.'

Now. More than a few of you undoubtedly saw this on C-Span or later on You-Tube and so you'll know how rough an approximation of what had happened this account has been. In all fairness, no transcript of that exchange could do justice to the effect of Corker's voice -- a piece of pure comedic wonderment, a gift the like of which we haven't heard since Percy Kilbride passed away.

Back on the Senate floor Cruz struggled on, yet Corker couldn't be kept from grabbing at the sticks wrong end again and yet again. One might almost suspect so audacious a display of ignorance had to be an act. Within an hour of casting a vote to de-fund ObamaCare, once it didn't matter, Corker -- having only minutes earlier voted with Reid to insure the second vote would count for nothing -- was putting out a press release announcing he'd once more voted to stop ObamaCare.

Could anyone imagine there's anyone who'd think that Corker could be putting on an act -- that he hadn't somehow been detained in childhood? Like I say, I can imagine there are photos Mitch McConnell would do anything to keep the supermarket scandal sheets from printing, but would anyone subject the entire country to a fontrum moment over anything as petty as whatever one might get for pushing through ObamaCare?

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