Thursday, January 3, 2019

Resolving to be president? Ask W.C. Fields -- Jan. 3, 2019 column


The first Democrat out of the gate to formally explore a 2020 presidential bid is traipsing around Iowa this weekend.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a foe of big banks and big business, promises to end the corruption in Washington and be a champion for the middle class.

She has called President Donald Trump a “thin-skinned racist bully.” He calls her Pocahontas.

Warren is the first of thousands of earnest Democratic presidential hopefuls who soon will be out campaigning. OK, it’ll only be dozens, but it will feel like thousands.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont are among those weighing bids.

Meanwhile, Trump never stopped campaigning, as his every appearance demonstrates. 

Some state Republican officials say they might cancel GOP primaries to keep Trump from facing a challenge from within his own party.

Democrats are determined to send Trump back to New York after one term, but with no clear front-runner, party leader or unifying message, at this point anyone could become the Democrats’ nominee.

The Democratic National Committee will sponsor six candidate debates this year, starting in June.

We’re facing countless breakfasts, lunches, dinners, tweets, emails and untold Russian influences before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses in February 2020.

Candidates will try to outdo each other with campaign resolutions aplenty. So, we need to pace ourselves.

What we need is W.C. Fields. Really. 

I ran across a parody the comedian wrote that can lighten and enlighten our long campaign season. In “Fields for President,” he announces his candidacy and puts forth his thoughts about resolutions – campaign and New Year’s.

The year was 1940, and Franklin D. Roosevelt had just been elected to an unprecedented third term. A book nearly 80 years old, “Fields for President” is silly, often sexist and surprisingly on point. It was republished in 2016 with a forward by TV talk show host Dick Cavett.

Fields, whose comedic persona was as a hard-drinking misanthrope, writes: 

“Campaign resolutions are nothing more than overgrown New Year’s resolutions: They are thrown together hastily at the last minute, with never a thought as to how they may be gracefully broken.

“Now, I am a candidate with years of experience in the making and breaking of New Year’s resolutions, and what I can accomplish with those, I can certainly accomplish with campaign resolutions.”

That’s as good an explanation as I’ve seen why campaign promises vanish into thin air.

This is the time of year for making New Year’s resolutions, and of course reporters ask presidents for theirs. When Fox News asked Trump his personal resolution for 2019, he replied: “Success, prosperity and the health of our country.”

You wouldn’t expect Trump to admit he needs to change anything, would you?

Few presidents are like Jimmy Carter who conceded after his first year in office he’d underestimated Congress and would try harder in the New Year.

President George W. Bush said at the end of 2001, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, “All in all, it’s been a fabulous year for Laura and me.” He also said he didn’t regret even one of the decisions he’d made.

To be fair, Bush enjoyed an approval rating of nearly 90 percent at the time.

But Bush also came forth with a personal resolution: “Eat fewer cheeseburgers.”

Fields says: “Ninety-three percent of New Year’s resolutions fail because they are based on frustration. Tell a person he must no longer eat pomegranates, and he’ll be a nervous wreck until he does eat them.”

What he called the Fields Plan takes the opposite approach. “Instead of prohibiting a person from doing what he’d like to do, force him to do what he’d like to do,” he 

We’re about to see each candidate develop and pitch a plan he or she hopes will match what voters would like to happen. But, as boxer Mike Tyson said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.  

So we’d best take all these resolutions with a healthy dose of skepticism and a grain of salt – just not on our pomegranates.

©2019 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

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