When last we visited with Red, he was deep into enunciation therapy, a prerequisite to completing a comeback as my sidekick. For several weeks, he was making great strides, I thought. He had mastered that crucial first step of pronouncing one-syllable words so they might be recognizable to average readers--i.e., "bears" instead of "bawrs," and "we" instead of "weeze"--when Sarah Palin began her highly publicized book tour, and I'll be damned if he didn't slip right back to square one. Or, as it came from Red's mouth, "skwor whun."
"Red," I cautioned. "You have to get your nose out of that woman's coverage. Her influence is reverting you back to incomprehensible hillbillyese."
"Aww, Cope, yawr juzz jay-luss yewse Dem'crats ain't god nuttin' whad look so good in fishnet stockins as Sarah."
"You want to be my sidekick or not?" I said, sternly. "Besides, Sarah's fishnet stockings are just your wishful thinking ... probably."
So he reluctantly turned his attentions back to speaking clearly and not drooling so much in the process. But I have noticed another disturbing development. It first appeared as we were rehearsing a scene from the upcoming 2010 campaign season.
"Cope, It shore ... er, sure ... looks like it will be a cuh ... a cuh ... a ca-lam-it-ous year for Dem-oh-crats."
"Don't count on it, pal. We lost that one in Massachusetts mostly because the independent voters don't have enough long-term memory to think back more than a few days at a stretch. But things are starting to turn around now, so the attention deficit will work for us instead of against us. We just need to get serious about evoking Bush more."
"Bush. George Bush."
"Well now, Cope, I can't say as I ever heard of no George Bush before."
"Yeah, right. Like, the guy who botched things up so badly, it would take Jesus Himself several years to mop up his slop?"
"George Bush, you say? Nope. Don't ring no bell."
"For Christ's sake, Red, you were his biggest fan! Started the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, then let bin Laden get away! Oversaw the worst economic collapse in 80 years! Made more enemies for the United States than Red Bull makes jitters! Ignored the warnings before 9/11, then handed the national treasury over to Halliburton afterwards! Put our country into a dive we may never recover from! He was around for eight years, Red! He was president of the United States! Just 12 months ago! Don't you dare tell me you don't remember him!"
"Nuh-uh. Far as presidents go, I remember Ronny Reagan, what made America the best country ever. And I remember Bill Clinton, what made America hate Democrats like they oughta. But this fella ... uh, what'd you say his name was again? ... why, he sounds like something you saw in one of them scary movies you're always watching."
"Red, I know what you're doing, and you aren't going to get away with it."
"Get away with what, Cope?
"Your side doesn't have a damn thing to show for itself but Bush, so you're trying to pretend these troubles started with Barack Obama. But to do that, you have to make people either forget or ignore the record of abject failure the Bushies ran up. Well it won't work, chump. The only Americans dumb enough to fall for your little ruse are, not coincidentally, the same 30 percent who never stopped supporting Bush."
"Cope, I think I see what's going on here. You're looking for one of them scrapgoats to pin all the blame on, seeing as how this Bo ... Bob-am ... er, O-bam-a is the worst president in the history of the world."
"Dammit, I don't need a scrap ... er, scapegoat to pin the blame on! The blame is the Bush administration's and that's the history the sane people will remember!"
"Tell me something, Cope. Let's say there really was such a thing as this Bush feller your yakking about, and let's say he really did do all those screwy things what you claim he did. So 'zactly when does the blame for everything switch over to Obama?"
"Never. Obama makes his own mistakes, no argument. But the responsibility for Bush's disasters will never, ever fall on him. And here's why ... if you spill red wine on a white carpet, you never get to blame the janitor because he's not cleaning up the mess you made quickly enough. It'll always be your mess, no matter how many mistakes he makes in trying to get rid of it. Get it?"
"I ain't got no janitor and I ain't got no white carpet, Cope. And I don't drink no wine. So it couldn't o' been me what done that mess."
"I'm not saying you did. I'm saying Bush did it."
"Then according to you, this Bush feller did ever thing bad what's ever been done, including spilling that wine on my carpet?"
"Then you have a carpet, after all?"
"Yeah, but it ain't white, and it ain't wine. It's Ragu what made that splatch, and Bush didn't do it. He never once came by my house like I wrote him to."
"Ah, so you do remember Bush?"
Be prepared for more of the same, folks. It'll be the Republican songbook for 2010, you can bet on it: "We couldn't possibly have caused this, but we need to get back to whatever the hell was going on when it started so's we can get it to stop!"