Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Things I've Learned from the Republicans

I've got two words to say to you: chicken and sauerkraut soup. Which we'll get back to in a minute. But first ... some things I've learned from Republicans.

This is Smokey the Dog--one of my key people on the ground in Park Slope.



I got a call from Chuck (one of the people Smokey lives with) a week or so ago saying that he was going out of town. Because of scheduling conflicts, he explained, he was hoping I could help him out with Smokey. I, being a good friend, said yes, of course (all the while desperately hoping it didn't involve babysitting Smokey for two weeks. That dog, I am hear to tell you, likes a long walk).

The plan, as it turned out, was for me to sit in Chuck's house after Chuck had left for the airport and keep Smokey company until Laszlo from Upstate could pick him up and take him back up to his Catskills dog-boarding facility, where Smokey would run and frolic with like-minded dogs til Chuck got back. All this happened yesterday afternoon, and it went off without a hitch. Piece of cake, as they say.

But--and here's the Republican part of the business--I realized shortly after Chuck made his request that there was some hay to be made in the transaction. Asking for money for a service like this seemed cheap and tawdry, but an idea soon dawned on me.

Everytime Chuck would call me up (or vice-versa), I would respond to the very first thing he said (Let's say it was something like "Hey Geoff, let's go see Sherlock Holmes on Christmas Day") with the words "You know, Chuck, this dog thing is a tremendous imposition."

"Hey Geoff, let's go eat some Indian food," he would say. "You know, Chuck, this dog thing is a tremendous imposition," I would respond.

Do you see the pattern emerging? The communications strategy (first forged in the darkest depths of Mordor, then hammered to a sharp edge by people like that guy with the southern accent who used to play guitar but died at a young age--I can't remember his name--and Karl Rove) is a simple one. No matter what somebody says to you, you respond with a carefully calibrated statement that has a strategic objective. No matter how much a non sequitur such a response might appear to be, you hit them with your statement.

By way of further illustration, there was, for example, a period of time a while back when it was nearly impossible for a Republican spokesman to respond to any conversational situation without saying some version of "I've never actually seen proof of Barack Obama's citizenship. Perhaps it would be a good idea to at least review the documents." You may remember this particularly loathsome time in American politics? It didn't happen that long ago.

And, dear reader, its not like the Democrats don't try to do the same thing. They just lack the evangelical zealotry required to make it sound convincing (Note to self: Consider a post titled "What the Republicans learned from the Evangelicals"). Over and over again you smite them. Without the slightest hint of irony. Nary a wink, I'm telling you. You just keep beating them over the head with it.

Another one that makes me smile, now, in retrospect, because the danger it represented has waned substantially, went something like: "You know, Sarah Palin actually has more administrative experience than Barack Obama does."

Insert winky emoticon here.

So, getting back to the matter at hand, I was delighted to notice that after about the 100th time I said "You know, Chuck, this dog thing is a tremendous imposition," I could feel the man starting to crack under the pressure. He called me up on Sunday, just to confirm the plans, and the second after I hit him with my strategic verbiage he said, "Oh, and by the way, I've left about half a pound of slab bacon, two quarts of chicken soup and a quart of chicken stock in the back refrigerator for you."

Ahhh, victory!

So last night, on my way home from Chuck's house, dog in the van, booty in hand, I stopped into Brooklyn Bakery and bought a crusty baguette. Later that night I had a steaming bowl of Chuck's chicken soup into which I had dumped a lavish serving of the sauerkraut I'd made the day before and watched the Vikings/Bears game.

I eventually turned it off at halftime, not giving a damn about either of these two teams. But I continued taping it. And so, when The Times, in its majesty, reported that the Bears won in overtime, I spent lunchtime watching the last two minutes of regulation and the full five minutes or so of overtime required for the Bears to win, all the while munching on some more of my crusty baguette and eating the lentil soup I'd made earlier today. Made, I should say, with some of the slab bacon and about half of the chicken stock I'd gotten from Chuck.

Ahhh, as they say. Victory.

I washed it down with a bottle of Rolling Rock. Which always makes me think fondly of Dot and Bill Winter.

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