“Well, gawwww-ley Ned!!!”
Actor Jim Nabors once entertained America portraying a good ol’ boy from Mayberry named Gomer Pyle. A minor character on The Andy Griffith Show, Nabor in his performance as a not-so-smart country boy so captured audiences that in typical TV-style he was given his own show which immediately shot to the top of the ratings. The premise of Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. was that Gomer decided to enlist in the Marines. Nabor’s trademark expression of surprise and innocent wonder, always delivered in a slow rolling, deeply Southern twang, laced itself into the American vocabulary of the day. To say it — and it was said at water coolers and school playgrounds everywhere — was recognition that something new if not shocking had just been discovered. Something that was endlessly new and shocking only to Gomer, as he was usually learning something that his peers or exasperated Sergeant Carter had understood forever. To say that someone was a real “Gomer” was to say that the individual was dim-witted, or in today’s language someone who doesn’t get it.
As it happens, the word “Gomer” has come to have another meaning. “Gomer” is a popular acronym in the medical world uttered by a doctor when being told he must treat a patient with, say, a painful hangnail, while he has another patient hemorrhaging from a gunshot wound to the chest. In this version the word “G-O-M-E-R” stands for “Get Out of My Emergency Room,” a snappy term used by sarcastic and irritated doctors to mean that the hangnail patient is an unwanted hospital patient taking up valuable time when there is a real emergency at hand.
Whether one leans to the Gomer Pyle version or the medical definition, it is abundantly clear that America — and the world — is rapidly being divided into Gomers and non-Gomers. The non-Gomers are those who understand the terrorist threat, who “get it” in a visceral fashion that America is at war with Islamic fascists for whom this is a death struggle. The Gomers, of course, are those politically naive and dim-witted enough to crowd into the emergency room of national security complaining about a lack of funding for some recycling program, all the while wondering what all the fuss is about as doctors with names like Bush or Blair or Cheney or Lieberman are trying to perform operations to stop, say, 24 British-born Muslims from blowing airliners out of the sky.
How richly ironic it is that Connecticut’s new Democratic Senate nominee is actually named “Ned,” the very name Gomer Pyle used and that so vividly captured his bewildered naivete. Had these latest attacks gone off as planned, one wonders how many Gomers would have become numbered as the latest terrorist victims because they had decided to do nothing more ordinary than get on a plane? How many Gomers, having protested everything from the Bush administration’s surveillance methods to interrogation procedures and detention programs, are looking at the discovery of the latest plot to mass murder Americans and actually saying “well, gawwwwwwwwlly Ned!”?
Not the Gomers at the New York Times editorial board. No, the Gomers there “want to understand as much as possible about what the terrorists were planning.” Helloooo?? Hellooo?? Is anybody home? These terrorists were planning, according to the Deputy Police Commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police, to “commit mass murder on an unimaginable scale.” Gawwwwwwwwwlly Ned! The Times wants to “talk about airport security and how to make it better.” Well, gawwwwwwwwwlly Ned! Might we break out some excellent sherry, close the boardroom doors and discuss airport security? Then publish the details on the front page! Well gawwwwwwwwwlly Ned!
The Times and its fellow Gomers remind of nothing so much as all those British members of Parliament who spent the 1930s insisting Hitler was not a problem, and on a fine May day in 1941 came to work to find the House of Commons itself had been destroyed by German bombs. If one of these airliners had made its way to New York and plowed into the Times itself while the gang was smart-setting its way through martinis one suspects they still wouldn’t get this.
Yet it would be a serious mistake for the rest of us to believe that Gomers are limited to the Dons and Divas of the smart set at the Times or residents of Connecticut. Not long ago I gave a speech in Pennsylvania about another topic. Afterwards a member of the audience took me aside and made it clear that he thought the idea America was involved in a “war on terror” was ridiculous, and so was the President. This from someone who identified himself as a Republican! Presumably he is looking at the latest news from London and saying gawwwwwwwwwlly Ned! But don’t count on it.
If there is one central fact in America’s current situation it is that we are dealing at all times — just as our parents and grandparents and others well before that did — with human nature. Not only will there always be a new set of tyrants or evildoers in the world, there will always be a certain amount of credulous people — Gomers — who simply are unable to grasp the facts of life. As in the 1930s this will play itself out politically.
Gomers will appear in many guises. There are smart Gomers and sophisticated Gomers. Nice Gomers and arrogant Gomers. There are genuinely befuddled Gomers and plain old vanilla frothing-at-the-mouth-Bush-hating Gomers. But they are Gomers one and all.
Most dangerous of all are Gomers who actually get nominated for a United States Senate seat or are holding one now. Ditto for the House. They are dangerous because they actually have their hands on the levers of power — funding power, voting power, the power of free publicity. This danger is multiplied a million times over if a Gomer is given the ultimate power — the seat behind the big desk in the Oval Office. Working with non-elected Gomers like the ACLU or MoveOn.org they will use every ounce of their power to withdraw or underfund troops, disrupt, leak or publicize surveillance programs, misrepresent interrogation procedures or supply oxygen to the most blatant of anti-Semites, whether they be Hezbollah or Al Sharpton. They are, one and all, a danger to both themselves and the rest of us.
The goal of the 2006 election — and in 2008 and for as far into the future as it is possible to see — is to make absolutely certain that non-Gomers well outnumber the Gomers. So it is no small thing to understand that the rush of the Democratic establishment to embrace big-time Gomer Ned Lamont makes it now vividly apparent that the Democratic Party has officially decided to become the Gomer Party.
Well, gawwwww-lly Ned!