Alex Massie

Republican Party Busboy

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Um, whatever happened to PJ O'Rourke? Once upon a time he was funny, even deliciously so. Of course it's harder for a humourist to shine when his side is in power and O'Rourke's jaded sardonicism is a style especially ill-suited to team-play. Perhaps that explains his sadly drab, unconvincing piece in the latest issue of The Weekly Standard. It's all a long way from Republican Party Reptile and Parliament of Whores.

Ostensibly an account of a day O'Rourke recently spent aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, O'Rourke makes the mistake of trying, rather too hard - and none too successfully - to use his trip as the foundation for a Mass in praise of John McCain.

But it's the, hmmm, flaccid writing that saddens. The rot sets in early. Landing on an aircraft carrier "was the most fun I'd ever had with my trousers on". Oh dear.

A US aircraft carrier is indeed, in a literal sense , an awesome piece of engineering. But does recognising that require this sort of Wayne's World appropriation of awesomeness in the modern, colloquial use of the word?

"The Theodore Roosevelt and its accompanying cruisers, destroyers, and submarines can blow up most of the military of most of the countries on earth. God has given America a special mission. Russia can barely blow up Chechnya. China can blow up Tibet, maybe, and possibly Taiwan. And the EU can't blow up Liechtenstein. But the USA can blow up .  .  . gosh, where to start?"

Ah yes, Chechnya and Liechtenstein. I have no objection to jokes at their expense - or to poking Moscow, Beijing and Brussels for that matter - but it would be preferable if these jokes were, like, funny. Dude.

Some say John McCain's character was formed in a North Vietnamese prison. I say those people should take a gander at what John chose to do--voluntarily. Being a carrier pilot requires aptitude, intelligence, skill, knowledge, discernment, and courage of a kind rarely found anywhere but in a poem of Homer's or a half gallon of Dewar's. I look from John McCain to what the opposition has to offer. There's Ms. Smarty-Pantsuit, the Bosnia-Under-Sniper-Fire poster gal, former prominent Washington hostess, and now the JV senator from the state that brought you Eliot Spitzer and Bear Stearns. And there's the happy-talk boy wonder, the plaster Balthazar in the Cook County political crèche, whose policy pronouncements sound like a walk through Greenwich Village in 1968: "Change, man? Got any spare change? Change?"

I guess you have to write "in a poem of Homer's" rather than "in Homer" to prevent readers from assuming you're referring to The Simpsons, but the rest of this is simultaneously over-written and under-observed. It suggests the spark has gone, leaving only the kind of flat insult-by-numbers favoured by the most tediously bellicose type of saloon-bar bore who, in increasingly rare moments of self-awareness, wonders why there seem to be fewer people listening than once there were in younger, happier days.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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