Opinion: Most wasted of all days: one without laughter

Most American political leaders would agree with the poet e.e. cummings, who wisely wrote: “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” For example, then-presidential nominee George W. Bush garbled in La Crosse, Wis., on Oct. 18, 2000, “Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream.” Once elected, Bush 43 was able to laugh at himself at a press dinner by approvingly quoting humorist Garrison Keillor, who had written: “George Bush’s lips are where words go to die.”

As King Henry VIII said to each of his six wives: “Don’t worry. I won’t keep you long.” Almost certainly the funniest needle I received this year was from the “fan” who wrote, “Please know, Mr. Shields, that each of your columns is better than the next.”

During the White House talent search for a new chief of staff to replace the departing John Kelly, I have had, perhaps influenced by my own weakness for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, a personal favorite candidate — hefty former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose campaign slogan could be “a waist is a terrible thing to mind” or whose elevation could remind us of the fail-safe test to determine whether we are fighting a losing battle with the scales, viz. If you’re sitting in the bathtub and the water level in your toilet begins to rise, then yes, you do have a weight problem.

Our federal budget has not produced a surplus since Bill Clinton was president. Real shortfalls have increased every year since fiscal 2015, swelling, because of the Trump administration’s tax cuts, to 4 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product in fiscal 2018, which, according to the Congressional Research Service, “is larger than the average deficit for the preceding 50 years (2.9 percent of GDP from FY1968 to FY2017).” Maybe the president and his band of merry men are simply suffering from a case of “deficit attention disorder.”

Former President Barack Obama was not unmindful of his own abilities. He often appeared to be a total stranger to self-doubt. Insisting that he was accessible to the press while president, he noted: “I even sat for an interview with Bill O’Reilly. … That was a change of pace. I don’t often get a chance to be in a room with an ego that’s bigger than mine.”

After reading the court proceedings in the Mueller investigation and the continuing indictments of colleagues and cronies of President Donald Trump’s, you begin to feel that the operating premise of the Trump campaign was, “OK, so maybe two wrongs do not make a right, but how about three?”

With the possibility that there will be two dozen Democratic White House aspirants in 2020, it is a reminder that the only thing that is known to be a completely effective cure for the presidential virus is embalming fluid.

The current Oval Office occupant is not known for either his sense of humor or his laugh — which I cannot recall having heard. Perhaps Trump could get a humor tutorial from his old GOP nemesis Mitt Romney, who will be a freshman senator from Utah in a few weeks. Romney, you may remember, when asked once about his position on same-sex marriage, answered, “As a Mormon, I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman and a woman and a woman.”

— Mark Shields is a columnist with Creators Syndicate.


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