WILSON: Political upheaval (revisited)

Big John Hudson burst through the front door of the diner, tossed his ball cap down on the big round table, and hesitated for a moment before shaking his head and quietly proclaiming, “I’ve got nothing.”

The Circular Congregation Breakfast Club informally met at Sarah’s Diner every weekday morning for coffee, conversation and whatever chaos might transpire. Usually, the conversation got a kick start from Big John as he bounced through the front door and made some ridiculous comment about a topic of improbable relevance. However, on this particular morning, John’s well of preposterous commentary was bone dry — leaving the remainder of the membership to take up the slack.

“How’s the campaign going?” Harrison Winkle asked Arnold Tobin. It was the type of question that would usually generate several minutes of politically irrelevant rhetoric. Arnold was a perpetual candidate for any elected position that might accidently fall into his lap. However, he was not a fan of the effort required to mount a serious political campaign — or any effort related to actually getting something accomplished (the last part was usually considered standard operating procedure for most politicians).

“I’ve given up on the idea of running for president,” explained Arnold. “Too many people hate the President for doing what he said he was going to do, and the rest of them hate him for not doing what he said he was going to do.”

“I think that was an example of talking out of both sides of your mouth,” opined Jimmy. Politically, Jimmy usually chose to ignore the circus and made up his mind based on which candidate would give him the most things to complain about during the course of the next four years. He was a huge first amendment supporter – if he couldn’t publicly complain about the government, what was the point of having breakfast with this bunch of guys? He might just as well sleep in.

“I’ve decided to run for Vice President, instead,” explained Arnold. “It suits me better. All the Vice President does is go to funerals and sit behind the President during the State of the Union Address…and look good.”

“That leaves you out,” laughed Big John, oblivious to what his own mirror reflected.

“If good looks were a requirement for VP, how did Spiro Agnew ever get the job?” snorted Tommy Jones, the group’s most senior member.

“What’s a Spiro Agnew?” queried the befuddled (and much younger) Big John.

He was Richard Millhouse Nixon’s Vice President, for about an hour and a half.” Explained Tommy. “But, it turned out he was a crook.”

“Aren’t they all?” snorted Jimmy, happy to be able to exercise his first amendment right.

“Probably,” mused Tommy, “But Agnew got caught being a crook and had to resign. Nixon nominated Jerry Ford to replace Agnew. Then Nixon got caught being a crook…”

“I thought Nixon told everyone that he wasn’t a crook,” interrupted Arnold. “He said it right on TV with his little dog Checkers as back-up.”

“Turns out, he misspoke,” smirked Tommy, as he continued with the impromptu history lesson. “Nixon, then, also resigned in disgrace. Ford became President and nominated Nelson Rockefeller to take his place as Vice President.” Tommy took a moment to enjoy a slow sip of his freshly refilled coffee, and let some of his words sink in. “Ssssssoooooo…to sum things up, Nixon and Agnew won in a landslide, both resigned in a mudslide, and we ended up with a President and Vice President that couldn’t navigate a playground slide. The United States of America was led by two guys that hadn’t received a single vote for either office.

Big John Hudson sat uncharacteristically quiet for a few moments as he absorbed the realities of American politics from the not-so-distant past.

“Well” he began slowly and thoughtfully (very unusual for Big John), “If the country could survive all of that, we can probably get through just about anything the current bunch of Bozos have to offer.”

Larry Wilson is a mostly lifelong resident of Niles. His essays stem from experiences, compilations and recollections from friends and family. He can be reached at wflw@hotmail.com

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