Reveling in the clichés of the campaign season.
Frank Sullivan, the now forgotten New Yorker magazine humorist, invented a character he called the Cliché Expert, known as Mr. Arbuthnot, whom I ran into the other day after many decades. I feared he had passed on.
“You’re looking well for a man of your advanced years, Mr. A, but I presume you’ve been closely following the current Presidential campaign.”
“I have indeed,” he said. “It’s a battle for America’s soul.”
“So I’ve heard. It sounds as if you’ve still got your ear attuned to all of the current political banalities. What do you make of the situation in Washington these days?”
“I’ve never seen it this bad,” he said. “The country is more polarized than anytime I can remember. In the old days, Tip O’Neill would battle Ronald Reagan from the floor of the House and then they’d go out and have a drink!”
“That sort of camaraderie just doesn’t exist anymore,” I remarked.
“You took the platitude right out of my mouth. You might call it Congressional gridlock.”
“You might — and indeed you did,” I said.
“It’s going to be a very dirty Presidential campaign, the worst in memory,” he said.
“Yes, it’s always the worst in memory,” I noted. “What else have you noticed?”
“Obama doesn’t have a plan,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “Also, the country’s patience is running out but Congress has turned a deaf ear to all of his proposals.”
“Any other conventional political wisdom you care to deliver?” I inquired.
“Romney hasn’t got a plan either,” said Mr. Arbuthnot. “Nobody has a plan.”
“You’ve read the polls, I presume?”
“The polls don’t lie,” he said. “They all say America is headed in the wrong direction.”