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A Captain Bligh Moment Could it be that nobody's there at the helm?
by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
Zepp's Commentaries
April 17, 2004

In a lot of the old adventure flicks, especially those dealing with ships or the military, a popular theme was that of madmen or incompetents in positions of authority. At some point, the Captain Bligh moment would arrive. An example might go something like this.

The captain hauls the ship's cabin boy up in front of the first mate. "Number one," the captain growls, "this worthless wastrel failed to shine my boots properly. Have him whipped to death."

There's a slight pause, and the first mate stammers, "Sir, begging your pardon, but whipping the lad to death is probably a violation of ships' code, and besides, he's the only cabin boy we've got. Perhaps if we put him on bread and water for two years..."

Whereupon the captain turns to the cabin boy, eyes far too bright and flickering, and wearing a big, brittle grin, and says, "Cabin boy, have the first mate whipped to death."

At that point, everyone has a Captain Bligh moment. The captain probably isn't the right man for the job, the audience realizes, and leans forward, trying to guess who is going to get whipped to death and in what order.

Usually the captain gets dumped on a desert island, or eaten by a whale, or some damned thing, and everyone wonders why anyone not in their right mind would want to be a captain to begin with. In the Vietnam version, the First Looie gets fragged when he interrupts the squad in the middle of a fire fight to make them do the required 50 early morning jumping jacks and the Viet Cong pick off all but two of them -- enough to frag the Looie.

I hope a lot of people watched the press conference Putsch threw Tuesday night, because a many, watching him stammer and repeat nonsensical sound bites and never answer any questions, probably had Captain Bligh moments.

I suspect Karl Rove and Condi Rice had, if not Captain Bligh moments, at least the epiphany that this moron probably isn't going to win in November, because the media and public aren't going to give him a free ride this time. He'll actually have a record to defend, and even if that record was particularly defensible, he wouldn't be up to the task.

The camera lit on them about two-thirds the way through the conference, and while both were doing an admirable job of keeping their faces utterly expressionless, their body language showed their discontent with how the press conference was going. One observer remarked that he could almost hear Condi composing her resume as Putsch spoke.

At lot of liberals and Democrats tuned in, for the simple reason that we were expecting something like this to happen.

Still, we were all incredulous, shaking our heads at one another and grinning, even though it really wasn't very funny. Everyone had their favorite moment. Some liked his response to the question about why he and Dick Cheney would be appearing together in front of the 9/11 commission. Because they wanted to talk to us. Well, yes, George, that's very good, but what the reporters really wanted to know is why the President of the United States had to sit in the Vice President's lap with the Veep's arm up the back of his shirt so George could talk to the nice people on the commission. They should make Dick drink from a glass of water while Putsch is speaking.

A lot of folks probably squinted and tilted their heads when George was asked if he wanted to say he was sorry to the victims of 9/11, and he started babbling happily about Saddam Hussein. Yes, George, we know there are evil doers out there, and many of us regard you as one of them. But in this maddingly complex world, Evil Doer "A" isn't Evil Doer "B" -- not even when they speak the same language and live in the same time zone.

But for me, the highlight -- or lowlight -- was when the one reporter asked George what he considered his most regrettable move as president. There's a lot of ways to finess a question like that. "I regret I didn't get Congress to balance the budget." "I regret I didn't move to kill Osama bin Laden in the first eight months of my administration." "I regret telling Laura she looked fat in that dress and blaming it on choking on a pretzel." Any adept politician could have handled a question like that while shifting blame. Nixon was a master of the "It's-his-fault-mistakes-were-made" genre of accepting responsibility by blaming others.

George couldn't even manage that, and instead groused that he wished the reporter had submitted that question in writing before the conference so he would be prepared for it.

He can't even pretend to be anything other than a vacuous puppet

Clinton used to joust with the press. They would ask him a bizarre question, such as "How does the agricultural output of Bulgaria compare with export deficit levels in Albania?" and he would rattle off, seemingly without effort, a detailed ten minute analysis, apparently without error. It was amazing to watch. Putsch, asked the same question, would say something like, "I don't think it's vulgar to make fun of albinos."

As with the Chris Matthews interview a few months ago, Putsch showed he was vacuous, hollow, ignorant. The worst part is that he, and his followers, seem so proud of it.

"Oh Captain, my Captain! Oh, who is my Captain? Could it be that nobody's there at the helm? Can they dare call it reason in the growing treason That the king has somehow abdicated his realm?"

-- Porto Limon Jack Hardy

Posted: April 18, 2004


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