Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cantor AFSCME Flap

Funny How, Like I'm A Clown? I Amuse You

GOP House whip Eric Cantor is in the soup after his press secretary emailed out a parody video of a vintage commercial from public employee union AFSCME. I vaguely remember seeing this, and the script is close to the original... except it uses the voice of Legitimate Businessman Louie Kneecaps and the vocabulary of Rod Blagojevich. This is the unedited version.

Now, I'm both a government employee and union member (not AFSCME, though I was for a couple years), but I was amused. In fact, my favorite lightbulb joke is:
How many TEAMstas does it take ta screw in a LIGHTbulb? Twelve. (pause, threatening glare) You gotta problem wid dat?

But if you word-association test anyone under about my age (45) the response to "union" is "Jimmy Hoffa." And we all saw that ad against the Employee Free Choice Act that actually used the actor who played Johnny Sack on the Sopranos.

We all say things with our families, closest friends, and "in house" that take on different meanings in a broader, public context. The source of a communication changes its meaning. (See the entire career of Chris Rock for examples). These jokes are revelatory, and we get embarrassed when those outside our inner circle get let in on them.

Remember a few years back when Dick Armey got caught calling the current House Banking chairman "Barney Fag"? He did the fake apology act, but you know it didn't just slip out that one time. Clearly it was an in-house nickname, and that in Armey's world the mistake wasn't that he said it--it was that he said it to the wrong people. As Vito Corleone told Sonny, "never tell anyone outside the Family what you're thinking again."

Which returns us to dis here AFSCME video. The real importance here isn't the brief chuckle. What matters is that this was a speedy response to a reporters email, that Cantor's press secretary had clearly seen a few times, shared and remembered. What matters is that this reveals the inside talk of the inner circle around Cantor, who's in the inner circle of what passes for GOP leadership these days. Nice job youse got here, Cantor. Shame if anyt'ing happened to it.

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