We Need More Political Humorists Today
In 1968, Russell Baker was taking wicked aim at the political system. Why aren't we seeing more humorists with guts in today's papers?
The following article was written by Russell Baker on August 4, 1968 during the Presidential race. I have taken the liberty of substituting a the names of political candidates which were, at the time, Nixon, Humphrey, McCarthy, and Rockefeller.
POLITICAL HABERDASHERS PROVE CUSTOMER CAN'T BE CHOOSY
Jim Titus went to Bailey & Bliss, political haberdashers, to get a new President.
"I'd like to see something in a new President," he told Bailey.
"Of course," said Bailey. "Do you have anything particular in mind?"
"I'd like something in the new cut," Jim said. "Something that makes me feel better. Something I could wear beads with, or flowers. This old thing I've got now makes me feel 150 years old."
Bailey said he had just the thing and brought it out.
"This is our new Kerry," he said. "Everybody's going to be wearing it this fall."
"I'm not," said Jim. "It's the same model I've got now except that they've taken all the buttons off the lip. I want something new."
Bliss intervened politely. "I think what the gentleman has in mind is our new Bush," he said, and whisked it out with flourish.
Jim glanced at it without interest. "It's all right," he said, "but it looks like the same Bush you show me every time I come in here."
"Oh, not at all," Bliss objected. "This year's model doesn't fade on television."
"That's swell," said Jim, "but I want ot see some of the newer lines. What about that one in the showcase there?"
"That?" said Bailey. There was an icy edge on his sneer. "That is not available this year."
"I like it," said Jim. "What do you call it?"
"The Dennis," said Bailey. "But we're taking it out of production."
"Why?" Jim asked.
"We don't like it," said Bailey.
"Well, what about that one?" he asked, indicating a model that the porter was placing in the trash can. "Take that one out of the trash and I'll try it on."
"That," said Bliss, "happens to be the Dean, and nobody's going to try it on. Ever."
"But why not?" asked Jim. "If I like it, why can't I have it?"
"We don't approve of it," said Bliss.
This attitude irritated Jim, and he said: "If that's the way you fellow are going to do business, I'll go someplace else, someplace that will sell me a Dennis or a Dean without a lot of nonsense."
"Hah," said Bailey.
"Just try it, buster," said Bliss.
"Are you threatening me?" Jim asked.
"Of course not," said Bailey. "We're simply explaining the facts of life. We are the only political haberdashers in town."
"In the country," Bliss said.
"In the world," said Bailey.
"And yet," said Jim, "you won't let me have either the Dennis or the Dean."
"We don't like them," said Bailey.
"In that case," Jim said, "I just won't get a new President this year."
"Now wouldn't you look silly going to the office without a President?" Bailey asked.
"What would your friends say?" asked Bliss.
"This is still a free country," said Jim. "And if a man doesn't want to get a new President, nobody can make him get a new President. I'm tired of Presidents, anyhow."
"That's what they all say," said Bailey.
"We hear that from a million people a day," said Bliss.
"Sometimes," said Bailey, "it makes us so angry that we hold the customer down right here on the counter and have our tailors sew him into the Kerry or the Bush before he can leave the shop. They don't talk so big after that."
"Why don't we," Bliss suggested to Bailey, "have this bird sewed into a Bush right now so we don't have to listen to him again when he comes back in November?"
Forgunately, Jim beat Bliss to the door and escaped to the street. "You'll never get me into those tired old models!" he shouted.
"Let him go," said Bailey. "He'll be back in November."
"I know," said Bliss, "but sometimes I can't stand the abuse you have to put up with in this business."
"Courage," said Bailey. "Remember the motto of our trade."
"Of course," Bliss sighed. "Let's shout it in unison."
And they did. Outside, the street crowds shuddered as from Bailey & Bliss there came the joyous cry:
"THE CUSTOMER IS USUALLY WRONG!"
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