Hard truths about Mitch McConnell | Fun facts about Gerald Ford| Charcuterie news!
Hello situation normies! It’s good to be back after the holiday hiatus. Christina and I went to Florida to see her family and celebrate Christmas. We were home for New Years, then we spent the first week of 2023 in Las Vegas to visit my mom and attend a convention (more on that Sunday).
Today’s post is weirdly political, emphasis on weirdly. A lot of the content comes from our time in Florida, so the weirdness tracks, I guess. But before we get to the good stuff, I need to acknowledge a HUGE debt.
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Everybody hates Mitch?
Whenever we see Christina’s parents, we try to avoid politics. By we, I mean Christina, me, and my mother-in-law, Cheryl. We’re team Don’t Talk About Politics because those conversations aren’t productive, unless your idea of productivity is vitriol and tears. But my father-in-law, Steve, is Team Talk About Politics Because It’s a Hoot to Own the Libs and Upset Your Kids.
Over breakfast at Perkins, where “care is baked into everything” they do, team Don’t Talk About Politics seemed to be winning. Despite several probing attacks, we held the floor by discussing news about the extended family, the mediocre play of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the quality of Perkins biscuits.
But then we dropped the ball. Christina dug into her biscuits & gravy, Cheryl poured a second cup of coffee, and I picked at my omelette. That’s when Steve pounced.
“I’ll tell you what the one problem is with the Republican party,” he said.
Steve’s comment was straight out of left field, except that he’s a right-winger, so metaphors involving left field were canceled, along with
French freedom fries, back in the early aughts.
I chewed on my omelette and tried to think of an innocuous non sequitur that might steer the conversation back to safety, but my curiosity got the better of me. After all, Steve had promised to tell us the one problem with the Republican party, and I wanted to know what that singular failing was. Could it be:
The white nationalists?
The anti-government wackadoos?
The religious zealots?
Or, the weak-willed enablers who just want their tax cuts?
“What’s the one problem with the GOP?” I asked Steve.
“The one problem is we’ve got about twenty members of Congress who are really Democrats,” Steve said.
That sounded like twenty problems to me. It also sounded like nonsense. But once again, my curiosity got the better of me.
“Who are the secret Democrats?” I asked.
“Mitch McConnell,” Steve said.
Steve’s comment sounded like a joke, but his tone was a perfect MAGA cocktail: bitter, angry, and totally disconnected from reality.
“He rubber stamps everything on the liberal wishlist,” Steve said. “McConnell is a Democrat.”
I was floored. My head spun. Mitch McConnell is a tax-cutting, judicial zealot-confirming, authoritarian-enabling Republican leader of the highest order. Only in MAGA world could Mitch’s conservative bona fides be questioned.
“Mitch has been in Washington for decades,” Steve continued. “He does whatever Joe Biden and AOC want him to do.”
I thought about telling Steve that Joe Biden and AOC don’t agree on much, that the Democrats are a circular firing squad where everyone is armed with water pistols, and that Mitch McConnell, who sometimes goes by “Mitch the Bitch” in our caucus, is a perennial bogeyman of the left—emperor Palpatine to Donald Trump’s Darth Vader. Then I remember that the right-wing media had promised my father-in-law a “red wave” for Christmas, but the Republicans had failed to meet their unrealistic midterm expectations. Now, Steve was pointing the finger at Mitch “The Grinch” McConnell. The way I saw it, I had three options:
Extend an olive branch
“Steve, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I agree that Mitch is a real problem. As a matter of fact, I think you’ve got more in common with the left than you probably realize.”
Now, it was Steve’s turn to look shocked, while I rattled off my concerns about Mitch McConnell. To his credit, Steve listened. We didn’t exactly agree on why America needed to ditch Mitch, but we did agree that turtle from Kentucky had to go. That was progress. Heck, by the standards of previous family political discussions, it was a Christmas miracle!
Fun facts about Gerald Ford
The last book I read in 2022 was The Invisible Bridge by Rick Perlstein. It’s his follow-up to Nixonland, which I wrote about in August. The Invisible Bridge tells the story of how Ronald Reagan put a happy face on the unhinged conservatism of Barry Goldwater, while consolidating the white discontent Nixon had worked so hard to nurture with his Southern strategy. Most of the book covers the years between Watergate and the 1976 election, which is why I learned more about Gerald Ford than I ever planned to.
One day, while we were watching college football, I turned to Christina and asked what she knew about Gerald Ford.
“Nothing,” she said.
“Come on,” I said. “You must know something about Gerald Ford.”
“OK, he was the President of the United States once.”
“Good start. What else do you know?”
“He had a mustache.”
“Gerald Ford did not have a mustache.”
“For some reason I thought he had a mustache. I told you I don’t know much about Gerald Ford.”
“Anything that comes to mind,” I said. “Anything at all.”
“OK, his wife was Betty. She was an alcoholic. The Betty Ford Clinic!”
“Yes, that’s true. What else?”
“I swear he had a mustache. Are you sure Ford didn’t have a mustache?”
“He didn’t have a mustache,” I said.
“Then who am I thinking of?”
“I have no idea.”
“He was in a movie,” Christina said. “Was there a movie about Gerald Ford?”
“No. Ford wasn’t exactly biopic material.”
“Well, I saw him in a movie, and in that movie he had a mustache.”
“Who else was in the movie?”
“Eddie Murphy and Judge Reinhold.”
Suddenly, Christina’s thoughts about Gerald Ford’s mustache made sense.
“You’re thinking of Beverly Hills Cop Two,” I said. “Taggart had a mustache. At one point, they go to a strip club, where Axel tells them that Taggart is Gerald Ford so they can get a good table.”
“Classic Axel Foley.”
“Why are you asking about Gerald Ford?” Christina asked. “It’s a little random.”
I brought Christina up to speed on The Invisible Bridge, including a few fun facts about how Gerald Ford became President. Hint for the trivia fans: Ford was the only person to serve as President without being elected to either the Presidency or the Vice Presidency. This happened because Richard Nixon didn’t just do crimes, he surrounded himself with criminals, including Spiro T. Agnew, who resigned and ultimately plead no contest to tax evasion because, apparently, the Justice Department can prosecute sitting Vice Presidents. To replace Agnew, Nixon nominated Ford, who was the House minority leader at the time. Later, Nixon resigned and Ford became President. As President, Ford pardoned Nixon, which established a kooky precedent that some people are above the law.
“Cool story, bro. But it’s still kinda random to bring up Gerald Ford while we’re watching… hey, what bowl game is this anyway?”
“It’s the Cobb Salad Bowl,” I said. “And there is a Gerald Ford connection.”
“Most Americans don’t know shit about Ford, but one thing they think they know is that he was a real klutz.”
“Now, it’s true he had a few very public accidents while he was President,” I said. “And those accidents were great fodder for SNL. Chevy Chase played Ford, and he really made a meal out of Ford being a klutz.”
“But he wasn’t really a klutz?”
“Nope. He played college football at Michigan. He turned down offers from the Packers and the Lions to play pro ball.”
“Yup. Ford was probably the most athletic person to ever serve as President. But it just goes to show you how powerful one joke can be. Chevy Chase totally changed Ford’s reputation.”
“Wow, the more you know,” Christina said. “Hey. Did Chevy Chase have a mustache?”
“He used to have one, but he lost his mustache in a shaving accident.”
Comedy in the wild
While traveling in Florida, I saw an amazing bumper sticker that might just offer a clue about solving civilization’s energy needs.
Back in Los Angeles, I snapped a photo of a formerly unhappy couple.
Meanwhile, my sister, Allison, and her partner, Craig, took a photo of an appetizing lawyer billboard.
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Stick around and chat!
You know the drill. I’ve got questions, you may or may not have answers.
How were your holidays? Did you do anything fun?
I’m toying with the idea of adding a new feature to the Wednesday edition called Crazy Sh!t My Father-in-Law Actually Believes. On the one hand, I don’t want to platform the poison that the right-wing media pumps into Steve’s head. But on the other hand, I want people outside of MAGA world to understand it’s no picnic inside the cult. Thoughts?
Do you think Gerald Ford would’ve been a better President if he had a mustache?
When Mitch McConnell parties with AOC and Joe Biden, do you think he wears a mustache to disguise himself?
The Cobb Salad Bowl isn’t a real college bowl game, but it should be! What’s your suggestion for a college bowl game name?
Are you going to make a mac & cheese charcuterie board?
The only thing I know about Gerald Ford is this:
All time great sketch
Hey Michael great post as usual. Especially given you talk about politics which for a political science student's bread and butter lol. Definitely in terms of weather you guys got it good with spending Christmas in Florida. Compared to hear n Canada where Christmas is usually celebrated during freezing cold temperatures (-25 was the temperature for Christmas 2022). Definitley shocked that you're father in law thought Mitch McConnell was a Democrat, although I guess if he's from the election denial or culture war issue wing of the Republican party, they probably think anyone who has a divergent opinion on those issues are "left-wing to them".
Anyways never knew you were a hockey fan, you don't see much of them in the States compared to here in Canada. I'm just hoping the Edmonton Oilers can reproduce that awesome playoff run like hey did last year. The city was electric when it was happening. Also too many good players on the Oilers side.