I recently heard Bill Maher on Larry King's show ranting about the Tea Party. He was spewing the usual hate: that Tea Party members are buffoons who have crawled out of the backwaters onto the national stage, that they are reactionaries, retrogrades; racists with little education and less political acumen. As I was listening, I began to wonder what he might have said about earlier backwoods upstarts.
Imagine now that it is 1860; America is at a crossroads, disaster looms, and so do elections. And imagine that Maher is being interviewed on a proto-television show by a mid-19th century Larry King...
King: There's a lot of talk about a fellow named Abe Lincoln running for president on the Republican ticket--
Maher: Oh, come on! Who can take that stovepipe shyster seriously?!
King: Evidently the Republicans can--
Maher: Well, that should tell you something. I mean, he's a perfect fit for them, isn't he? This guy spent so little time in school, he mistook the back of a shovel for a copybook. The only book he ever read was the Bible and he thought it was a history book. I mean, do you really want a president who thinks that a slide rule is something you post on a playground?
King: Are you saying he's ignorant?
Maher: Ignorant? Hellloooo?! He didn't even graduate from grade school! He tried to get a GED because he thought it meant Get Even Dumber. Just look at the guy -- those gangly arms, that droop-eyed expression, that rag of black hair -- he looks like an anorexic gorilla on a banana binge. And he must be, what?, eight feet tall. I'd say he couldn't play basketball 'cause he's white, but have you seen him? His skin is green! He's got some kind of disease; probably whatever was killing off the elm trees in Sangamon County when he was born.
King: Folks say he's a good orator--
Maher: Come on, Larry! Have you ever heard him speak? His accent is so thick you could put it on your hoecakes - if you ate hoecakes, which I don't but I'm sure he does. He doesn't seem to know any words of more than two syllables, and his voice -- well, all I can say is I've heard asthma attacks that sound better than he does. I mean, Larry... the guy should be running the Hicksville horse and buzzard show, not running for president.
King: What about his views on slavery--?
Maher: Oh, come on! He says right out in public that the Southerners have the Constitutional right to keep their slaves! And that the Congress has no right to take them away!
King: Isn't he legally correct on that, Bill? I mean, the Constitution--
Maher: Who cares if he's legally correct?! Slavery is morally wrong, so what difference does it make what the Constitution says? If a president feels like something's unfair and the Constitution stands in the way, then he should have the power to say damn the Constitution. If Horace Greeley were president - which he should be - he'd go right in and take those slaves away and to hell with the Constitution! Lincoln clings to the Constitution like it was one of his split rails in a Mississippi flood.
King: But Lincoln agrees with you that slavery is a moral issue, doesn't he? Hasn't he said so all along?
Maher: Yeah, but have you heard why he says it? I mean, have you heard what he says about religion? Come on! This guy actually believes that God is involved in running the country's affairs. That God manages things like some Georgia plantation owner. And by the way, those Georgia peanut guys are doing a heckuva lot better job with their slaves than God is doing with his.
King: So you don't accept Lincoln's views on religion in public life--?
Maher: Come on, Larry, what are we talking about here?! It's the middle of the 19th century. I mean, sure, if you think that medieval superstition is a valid political point of view, then I guess I'd have to agree. Look, this Lincompoop character comes straight from the backwoods, right outta some hick town in Kentucky. I mean, he was born in a log cabin that had hot-and-cold running inbreeds. He gives bumpkins a bad name. What else would you expect?
King: He has a lot of political experience--
Maher: If you call two terms in the House a lot, yeah! And remember, he wasn't even re-elected in his own district. I mean, even the boonies turned against him. He lost to Steve Douglas for Senate after people heard him try to debate. Debate? It was more like sedate; I mean, I couldn't keep my eyes open. The only government job he was qualified for was postmaster in his hometown, where half the people couldn't read and the other half thought a stamp was something you did to a roach. And that wife of his... have you seen that broad?
King: Mary Todd--
Maher: Mary Odd, if you ask me. Built like a whale and spends like the sailor that harpooned her. And she's a Southerner! Are we really gonna elect as president a man who's married to some shiksie from Dixie? Her family probably sold ice skates to Simon Legree.
King: Do I get that you're suggesting Lincoln is Jewish?
Maher: C'mon, Larry...anybody named Abraham... I mean, draw your own conclusions.
King: So you don't think Lincoln should be elected?
Maher: Look, Larry, I think the minimum qualification for president should be that you've managed to evolve successfully from a lower species. Which leaves old Abe somewhere in the Jurassic. Come on... with that green skin and those long, bony fingers, he looks like he just crawled out of some mesozoic swamp in search of oxygen. I mean, look at those ears -- they look like gills.
King: So you're saying you'd vote for Douglas?
Maher: I'd vote for my granny's cat before Abe-baboon Lincoln. And frankly, Snuggles has more of a chance of being elected. I mean, Steve Douglas may be bland, boring and bald, but he's a like a fifty-year-old hooker: at least you know what you're in for. Look, Larry, this Republican Party is nothing but a bunch of backwoods baboons. They think we ought to return to the 18th century when men were white and slaves were three-fifths and women were knickknacks and a bunch of old guys in powdered wigs thought that amounted to equality.
King: But if Lincoln is elected, he'd be the first Republican president--
Maher: I may not have an overinflated view of the intelligence of the American people, Larry, but really, they're not that stupid. This whole Rebooblican Party gas attack will blow itself out, and Lincompoop will be gone with the wind.
King: Is that a prediction, Bill?
Maher: Larry, you want a prediction? I'll make a prediction: If Clueless Abe gets as far as the front lawn of the White House, somebody's gonna shoot him. Hell, I might do it myself.