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THOSE DARNED REPUBLICANS JUST HAVE NO SENSE OF DRAMA ABOUT HOW TO THROW A COUP

The early morning headline said it all: "Gingrich removes lieutenant for role in failed coup attempt." Republican forces opposed to the rule of Newt failed in their attempt to topple him, and heads were beginning to roll.

What a great story to read with morning coffee -- much better than the convoluted Senate hearings on campaign finance reform.

Here, at last, we had a simple plot line with a small cast of characters and easy-to-understand actions: Bill Paxon and his buddies tried to replace Gingrich as speaker of the House, but Newt found out about it and in "Et Tu, Billy?" mode demanded a letter of resignation from my congressman.

Interesting stuff, but all the news reports had one essential fact wrong. This wasn't a "coup" -- not even close. Those of us who have spent years watching movies and reading novels about violent transitions of power in foreign lands know that the Gingrich-Paxon story fails on every level of comparison.

First, there was no drama for us, the masses (or rabble -- depending on your ideology and your tax bracket). True, there were late-night meetings and behind-the-scenes plotting sessions, but that's not nearly enough. For a real coup we need more -- much more. We require, at a minimum, street-fighting and the background sounds of gunfire and singing of revolutionary anthems.

Paxon should have shown himself in front of the Washington Monument, standing on a tank with Wife Susan and Baby Susan Ruby in tow. A glittery uniform would have been a nice touch as well. Holding up the bloody severed head of Newt would have been a bit much -- far too violent for family television viewing -- but he might have waved a poster with a diagonal red line slashed across the frowning face of the newly departed speaker.

Second, a successful coup requires that all unfriendly media outlets be silenced immediately. Paxon should have led the attack on the printing presses of the Washington Post while his trusted fellow plotters destroyed the Internet servers located in nearby Virginia. From sea to shining sea we would hear only the voice of Rush Limbaugh cheering on the valiant rebels.

Refusing to vote funds for dirty pictures and the National Endowment of the Arts doesn't quite make the grade.

Third, as a registered Republican it pains me to have to point out the obvious: Hey, guys -- you have to figure out who's in charge before you begin to hack away at the person in power. You pick your leader first and then line up your troops, not the other way around.

You just can't have a committee leading an assault on the corridors of power.

One clear and undisputed leader -- that's the way to do it. You're not going to win with Curly, Larry and Moe running around in silly circles, each one pretending to be the guy in charge.

I thought you knew that.

Finally, the story has to have a recognizable end. In a true coup, Paxon would have simply disappeared from sight. Wife Susan and Baby Susan Ruby would be seen standing in front of an ancient stone prison, weeping and begging us citizens for prayers and forgiveness. In one magnificent act of compassion, Supreme Leader Gingrich could spare the life of his chief adversary and sentence him instead to life imprisonment within the confines of a National Public Radio studio.

But that's not what we've been given. This sordid little tale will never end. For years we'll be subjected to endless analysis of "He-said-No-he-said" culminating in furious shouts of "Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!" It's going to be a long winter of Republican discontent, that much is clear.

How much more fun it would have been if we'd been treated to a real "coup." I would have happily joined the dancing in the streets -- slugging rum and slinging rose petals and singing "Viva Newt! Viva La Republican Republica!"

Instead, all I'm going to get is sour stultifying lectures by the likes of George Will.

It's just not fair. Oh, well, maybe next time . . .

MANYA WARN lives in Williamsville.
For guidelines for columns appearing in this space, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Opinion Pages Guidelines, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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