Recoveryday, Jesterary 28, 40 A.B.

"The burden of the incommunicable."

- Thomas De Quincey, 
"Confessions of an English Opium Eater"


     No, I haven't been eating opium again but I may as well have been.  Instead of that tasty narcotic, 'twas an overdose of politics in recent days which led to a restless night and a fever dream that I'm sure is as incommunicable as anything De Quincey ever tried to describe with quivering pen in hand.
     The State of the Union address, the Iowa caucuses, the looming New Hampshire primary, the endless debates - all came to a head as I attempted to get some rest last night after a day marred by seven errors in judgment.  
     Little did I realize that finally falling asleep would constitute an eighth....

     The fever dream began, as near as I can recall, with Jester gaveling to order a joint appearance of all the presidential candidates and then asking them the following question:

     "Gentlemen, imagine that you have been elected and inaugurated as President.  During your first night in the White House you are awakened with a call from your chief of staff informing you that there's a report of three little kittens having lost their mittens.  What do you do?  Mr. Gore?"

     "Let me just say this: This is exactly the sort of problem serving 8 years as vice president prepares a person to face.  Some even say that it is the only problem it prepares a person to face.  I'll leave it to the historians to argue whether they're right or whether they're wrong.  But I do want to remind everyone here that I was on the commission which wrote that report.  I called it 'Kitty Mitten Misplacement: A Clear And Present Danger.'  Indeed, I headed the commission that wrote that report and personally reported the results to President Clinton.  And I was present when he extended the Family Leave Act to include women who must take a leave of absence to help their kittens find those mittens.  No woman, after all, should be forced to choose between her career and doing what's best for her beloved family pets.  In fact, I had just such women in mind when I invented the Internet so that every hard-working American might easily find the best and most affordable replacement mittens online without having to drive all over town, adding to global warming in the process.  And the minute a call comes in such as you just described I as President will be prepared to instantly send to Congress a plan to give a $500 tax credit to those people making less than $75,000 a year who - through no fault of their own - suddenly discover their kittens have been rendered woefully, heartbreakingly underdressed.  That, after all, is what I believe the Democratic Party is all about."

     "Umm, Mr. Bradley?"

     "Thank you, Jester.  I'd just like to begin by saying that I deeply sympathize with anyone whose kittens have ever lost their mittens.  As President, I would immediately call whoever it is who may have suffered this tragedy and offer the full resources of the U.S. Government to aid in their recovery.  But let's not kid ourselves.  This is an unpredictable world.  Kittens will lose their mittens, and the U.S. Government won't always be able to recover them as rapidly or as completely as we might wish.  That's why the real issue here is, 'What happens when those mittenless kittens come down with a cold or pneumonia?'  What then?  Can we continue to stand idly by and watch with indifference as the family bankrupts itself to pay for the necessary medical care?  I say no.  I say it is high time we institute a complete crawlspace-to-shoebox system of national health insurance for every American kitten regardless of color and pedigree before such a call as you've just described  is ever made to another President.  That's the real answer."

     "Mr. Bush?"

     "There are no mittenless kittens in Texas.  If there were, don't you think the governor would know it?   As President, if such a call came in, I would say to whoever was claiming such a thing, 'Prove it.'  I wouldn't just open the window and throw money at a problem that doesn't even exist.  Maybe the kittens want to be mittenless.  Maybe they should be.  We need to stand back and look at the whole range of possibilities.  And then, if we discover there really is a problem, transfer the caller to the states and let them solve it as the Founding Fathers decreed.  A President, after all, needs his sleep so he'll be well-rested for when the real issues come along, like sitting down the deficit thing, or making sure Hua Fat Long or whoever it might be decides to take a crack at those Taiwan folks we're treaty-bound to defend, with big-type bombs if necessary.  That's what I think, and you can count on me to be just as clear and reasonable as President as I'm being right here tonight."

     "Mr. McCain?"

     "Well, Jester, I'm afraid that the sad fact of the matter is that no such call will ever get through to the President unless we enact complete campaign finance reform.  Why?  Because as things are set up right now only the fat cats with lots of mittens in bank accounts both here and abroad can call Washington and expect anyone to answer.  Poor kittens without mittens will just get a busy signal, or no signal at all - if they can even find out what the number is, or how to use the phone now that the fat cats that own the telecommunications industry have had laws passed that prevent the little guy from even figuring out his bill.  Ummm, excuse me - I think my beeper is going off.  Just a sec...."

     "Mr. Forbes?"

     "Tax cuts.  A trillion dollars over ten years, carefully calibrated to guarantee that the people who this country needs the most and who have done the most for this country can continue to afford to stockpile millions of mittens so that their kittens will never be mittenless no matter how many mittens they lose taking risks investing in our future.  Most likely, they didn't lose 'em at all but had to hock 'em to pay the oppressive taxes on their inheritances, stocks, bonds, and other capital gains.  Eliminate the taxes and you eliminate the problem.  Next question, same answer.  It's just that simple."

     "Mr. Keyes?"

     "The issue isn't kittens without mittens.  The issue is kittens deprived of the chance to ever wear mittens in the first place by Roe v. Wade.  If I ever got a call like that as President, I'd yell, 'Wake up, sucker!  There have been 36 million kittens aborted in the last 25 years and you're worried about whether or not your particular pussy has chilly paws?  Get real!'  Kittens don't need to find their mittens.  This country needs to find Jesus!"

     "Mr. Hatch?"

     "I'm sorry.  I only got 16 votes in Iowa.  I no longer give a fuck about kittens.  I'm outa here.  Thank you.  Goodbye."

     "Mrs. Dole?"

     "I'd just like to interject that as a woman and the former head of the Red Cross, no one here is as qualified to help kittens without mittens as I would be, but I'm not going to be given a chance to prove that.  Not unless I'm picked and elected as Vice President and someone offs the President.  Just wanted to share that thought.  Thank you."

     "Mr. Quayle?"

     "I'm sorry - I forget.  Am I in or out of the race?"


     "Oh.  Does that mean I can't ask 'What's a kitten?'"

     I awoke with a start, sweating and shaking and repeating over and over to myself that old Dennis Miller observation from 1996, "None of this would be happening if Bob Dole were still alive.  None of this would be happening...."

     Tonight I'm taking Sominex with Southern Comfort just to be on the safe side.

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(©Now by the next resident of the United Kingdom, Dan Birtcher)