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Barbara's Bi-Weekly Column


The Patriot Ledger
Saturday, September 26, 1998

Laughter's the Best Medicine, Or Is It?
By Barbara Anderson


"Born with the gift of laughter, and the sense that the world was mad."

Rafael Sabatini


This favorite quote is never far from my mind, but lately it's been parked in my active consciousness.

Bill Clinton must have seen it when he attended Yale, where it's carved over a doorway. The architect explained he wanted to appeal to the sense of humor of the gods, to make them forget that his type of building had been designed to allow defenders to pour molten lead through slots onto their enemies below.

Personally, as an architect of Proposition 2, I see nothing wrong with pouring molten lead on someone who's trying to steal one's home, and I'll bet the President enjoyed seeing his enemies screaming about hot videotape while his popularity remained high. Some observers say he seemed embarrassed; what I observed was his attempt to keep from laughing out loud. "Here I am", he seemed to be thinking, "the Leader of the Free World, sitting before a Grand Jury discussing drycleaning, the definition of the verb 'is,' and cigars."

Between the cries for "impeachment" and "leave him alone" echoes the laughter of those of us who don't take government very seriously in the first place. Hello, newsflash! Politician refuses to admit perjury to a Grand Jury which is investigating his lies in a trial for sexual harassment that wouldn't be a crime in the first place were it not for the feminists who, by the way, still defend that lying politician even though they wanted to eviscerate a Supreme Court nominee for telling jokes.

At least Clarence Thomas had a sense of humor. Jokes are what keep us sane in a mad
world.

Some jokes are for real. Did you see the recent Building 19 ad that features a caricature of Bill Clinton on the front page? It includes the words: "Listen to me carefully ... I'm gonna say this again. I NEVER SHOPPED IN THAT STORE ... Building 19 ... I NEVER BOUGHT ANYTHING IN THAT STORE," followed by the Building 19 promise: "We'll never betray your intimate shopping secrets, even if we're subpoenaed."

Have you seen the look on the faces of world leaders who had to sit through press conferences with the U.S. President while he was asked about his sex life? Yes, honored guests, American reporters still insist on treating the President with no more respect than the rest of us get if we lie to them. If we peasants can't lie under oath about sex, neither can he.

Sometimes the things that happen in politics really are funny: witness the molten lead poured on a 1994 state campaign finance law this past week by the Massachusetts Libertarian party .

The law states that any candidates who agrees to a $1.5 million cap on spending get state matching funds. But they are allowed to spend up to the highest cap agreed to by any candidate for the office. Traditionally, lesser-funded candidates piously agree to a cap to embarrass their better-funded opponents, who pay lip service to the concept but naturally refuse to play the disarmament game.

The four Libertarian statewide candidates, who have only a few thousand dollars for their campaigns, chose a cap of $19.5 billion, which is now the limit for everyone! Lt. Governor candidate Elias Israel joked that "we picked the most ridiculous spending limit we could think of, the size of our bloated state budget." Dean Cook, the candidate for Governor, made the point that campaign spending limits effectively limit political expression, and therefore the first amendment right of free speech.

Keep laughing; there will be an expanded campaign finance question on the ballot this fall. Question 2 will prevent us from giving as much as we want to people we agree with, while forcing us to fund those with whom we passionately disagree.

But "the world is mad" prize for the funniest ballot question goes to Question 1, which will set the present legislative pay in the state constitution, and then make our state legislators, as far as I know, the only human beings in the history of the world to get constitutionally-guaranteed payraises! Right up there with freedom of speech and religion, and the right of trial by jury: the freedom of politicians to have taxpayer funded pay hikes. Are the founding fathers laughing yet?

Laughter is the best medicine. Then, when we feel better, we can get serious and do something about all the madness that is laughing at us.


Barbara Anderson is co-director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government. Her bi-weekly column is syndicated and appears in the (Quincy) Patriot Ledger, (Salem) Evening News, (Attleboro) Sun-Chronicle and the (Worcester) Telegram-Gazette.

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