langue de bois = wooden language, wooden tongue, tongue of wood

= french expression denoting a rigid, ideological, vapid manner of political speech.

Political Satire from the 2008 campaign trail and around the world.

all content by DS unless noted
links to corroborating news sources marked in blue

October 5, 2008

Palin Issues, Rescinds Claim to Have Seen Africa from her Window

Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s running-mate, was forced to retract a statement made earlier in the day in an apparent bid to boost her foreign policy credentials. Asked in an interview several weeks ago about her experience in the field of international affairs, Governor Palin offered the fact that she could see Russia from her window as a qualification for higher office. A subsequent interview with CBS’s Katie Couric failed to elicit a clear explanation of how the view from Palin’s residence would inform her approach to national security and diplomacy. A press statement issued today at 11 a.m. local time continued to duck that question while reporting that the Governor had “succeeded in spotting Africa” from her bedroom window earlier in the morning. Upon further investigation, it was found that what Governor Palin had in fact seen was a member of Alaska’s very small African-American community on a neighboring sidewalk. Sources inside the Governor’s office report that an earlier, unreleased memo describing Governor Palin’s apparent sighting of “Japan, China, or possibly Korea” was the result of a similar incident involving another passing pedestrian.

July 17, 2008

Obama Campaign Caricatures "New Yorker" Mascot

Angered by the New Yorker magazine cover depicting Barack Obama and his wife as an Osama Bin Laden-loving terrorist and a black power guerilla (BBC), respectively, the Obama campaign has now fired back in kind. At a Thursday afternoon press conference, the candidate unveiled a “parody” New Yorker cover of his own.

Above: The New Yorker's July 21st edition cover.

Tensions over the cover of the venerable magazine's July 21st issue have risen during the past week. New Yorker editor-in-chief David Remnick has repeatedly stated that the magazine’s intent was merely to parody Republican use of fear tactics and has urged that the cover be understood in this light. Previous campaign statements branding the cover art “unfunny” and “aggressive” have failed to quell the controversy and signal that the Obama camps regards with concern the publication of an illustration – however humorous its original intentions – that could “fuel misperceptions” and revive troubling rumors about the candidate’s racial and religious identity.

The campaign’s “parody” cover fights fire with fire, presenting Eustace Tilly, the 19th century dandy who serves as the New Yorker’s defacto mascot, as a member of the Klu Klux Klan. While Eustace inspects a butterfly through his monocle, white crosses burn in the background.

Above: The Obama campaign's "parody" cover.

“That’s The New Yorker for you,” Obama said at Thursday’s press event. “While I try to get this country out of Iraq and work on establishing universal health care, they’re off inspecting butterflies. We have problems to solve and they are engaging in borderline racism. They should hereby consider my subscription canceled. I only read it for the cartoons anyway. And most of them aren’t even that great.”

June 3, 2008

Primary Season Comes to an End, or Does It?

The anticipated victories of Illinois Senator Barack Obama in today's Democratic primaries in Montana and South Dakota will bring him closer to, but still short of, the delegate count needed to clinch the right to represent the Democratic Party in the November general election. According to the official electoral schedule, today’s votes also represent the last opportunity for Obama rival New York Senator Hillary Clinton to close the delegate gap before the nomination fight is thrown fully at the feet of the party’s superdelegates, a significant number of whom remain officially uncommitted.

The odds against Senator Clinton’s candidacy have steadily lengthened, but she nevertheless remains publicly unbowed. Already behind in the delegate count, Senator Clinton’s campaign was dealt another blow over the weekend when the Democratic Party Rules Committee settled the issues of whether and how to seat the delegations from Michigan and Florida, both of which technically lost their right to participate when the nominating contests were held early in violation of party rules. Senator Clinton won both contests handily, aided by Senator Obama’s decisions to forego campaign appearances in either state and to remove his name from the Michigan ballot. The Clinton campaign had hoped to secure the two state delegations’ inclusion in the party convention in a manner reflecting the electoral results; party leaders, however, have decreed that the voting weight of the delegations will be reduced by half and have awarded a significant delegate share to Obama.

Out of time and denied use of the Florida-Michigan gambit, the Clinton campaign has decided upon the logical, though highly unorthodox, route of seeking to extend the primary season by expanding the federal union. Asked for a statement of the obvious that would nevertheless possess the imprimatur of intellectual authority, Stanford University political scientist Joe MacArthur commented, “There has historically been a direct correlation between the number of states and the number of primary contests. If a candidate wants to increase the number of primaries, increasing the number of states is a sure-fire, albeit difficult, method to do so. It has never succeeded before, but that may only be because it has never previously been attempted.”

The Clinton campaign has clearly arrived at the same conclusion. In a bill proposed in the Senate, Senator Clinton has called for Iraq, Afghanistan, Taiwan, and Haiti to be incorporated into the United States; a separate proposal filed with the Democratic Party has requested the immediate organization of primaries in these countries in advance of the party’s August nominating convention.

Above: Senator Clinton paid a visit to U.S. soldiers during a campaign swing through Iraq.

“The people of Iraq and Afghanistan are as subject to the authority and decisions of the United States President as any other citizen of the United States,” Ms. Clinton declared from the floor of the Senate. “They should have a say in the general election as well as in who represents the great traditions of the Democratic Party in that contest. Iraqis and Afghans, George Bush tried to make your countries democracies; I will make you Democrats. To deny you the right to voice your commitment to the Democratic party – and to my campaign – would be unconscionable and un-American. It would be, in short, the very sort of policy that my opponent Senator Obama would support.”

Asked about Taiwan’s inclusion in the bill, Senator Clinton suggested that granting membership in the United States to the island nation could serve to dampen recurrent diplomatic and military tensions in the Pacific Rim. “The Chinese definitely don’t want the Taiwanese to declare their independence and have said that they would regard this as a causus belli. We can make sure that such a situation never arises.”

As for Haiti, Ms. Clinton suggested that inclusion in the union was an appropriate form of compensation for the United States’ partial responsibility for the country’s poverty, corruption, and episodic anarchy. More cynical observers suggest that the desire to include Haiti in the election is motivated by less magnanimous and more Machiavellian considerations that center on the Haitian population’s susceptibility to outside influence. Sources within the campaign have confirmed that Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who ruled Haiti as a brutal dictator in the 1970's and 1980’s, has already signed on as a Clinton campaign consultant. Senate staffers also report that Clinton’s draft bill contains fine print that clears the way for drastic cuts in US aid to Haiti should the Haitian population fail to endorse Clinton’s candidacy by a wide margin.

Above: Clinton campaign adviser, former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier

When reached for comment on the bill, Senator Obama responded bluntly: “I’ve got three words for you, Hillary: Give it up! And no, I don’t want you as my Vice President.”

May 21, 2008

Yale Rescinds Diplomas Awarded to Bush, Lieberman

Across the nation this week, caps and gowns are on parade, “Pomp and Circumstance” is being played in seemingly endless loops, and mortarboard tassels are being transferred from left to right en masse upon command. Graduation season is upon us. Yet while college seniors and honorary degree candidates around the nation step forward to receive their diplomas, Yale University has taken the unusual step of subtracting from, rather than adding to, its list of illustrious graduates. This move is all the more noteworthy in that the recently de-degreed are a sitting president and a long-serving Senator of the state where Yale is located.

Yale University President Richard Levin announced on Tuesday afternoon that both George W. Bush and Joe Lieberman had been stricken from the roles of Yale College graduates. Because a bachelor’s degree is a requirement for admission to Yale Law School, Lieberman has also been stripped of his diploma from that institution. Asked for an explanation for this unusual action, Mr. Levin cited Yale University trustees’ unanimous opinion that the two men’s actions in recent years “reflected levels of intelligence vastly inferior to what we expect in Yale applicants, let alone graduates.”

President Bush was more specifically faulted for his consistent inability to form sentences that adhere to the rules of standard English, his total mismanagement of the Presidency, blind commitment to a calamitous policy in Iraq, and years of evading the staggering scientific evidence in favor of global warming.

Above: George Bush at Yale, a dim bulb even then.

The move may have come as a shock to the public at large, but many of Mr. Bush’s college classmates see the President’s loss of degree as a form of retroactive justice.

“George was never the brightest bulb in the chandelier,” a former fraternity brother of the president recalled. “In fact, you know those ‘How many Harvard students does it take to screw in a light bulb? …. How many Yale students does it take to screw in a light bulb?’ jokes? Well, if one of the Yale students is George Bush, it would definitely require at least one more. And that’s not a joke. I speak with the experience of one who had to help him change many a light bulb back in the day. I actually feel like my Yale degree means something now that I know he doesn’t have one.”

Other Bush classmates have offered further evidence of what one called the President's "sub-human intellect." Many recall seeing the President engage in such acts as eating arts and crafts paste for breakfast, repeatedly sticking his tongue into electric sockets, and inserting tens of jelly beans up his nostrils.

Above: Two ex-Yalies

Senator Lieberman, for his part, cemented his place on Yale’s roll of dishonor only recently. Though University officials had long viewed him as an obnoxious dullard, they had been prepared to tolerate the Senator’s Yale affiliation until his parroting of Mr. Bush reached the point of “criminal inanity."

“Senator Lieberman’s knee-jerk jingoism and whole-hearted support of the so-called ‘war on terror’ nearly cost him his Senate seat in the 2006 election,” Mr. Levin noted. “I’m sorry that they did not do so. But they have now cost him his status as a college graduate. I would gladly bump him back to elementary school if it was in my power to do so.”

Mr. Lieberman’s fate was sealed, according to Mr. Levin, by recent remarks in support of President Bush’s address to the Israeli Knesset on the occasion of the Jewish state’s 60th anniversary. Mr. Bush used that opportunity to issue a thinly-veiled criticism of Senator Barack Obama, the leading Democratic candidate for the White House, for his willingness to consider entering into direct diplomatic dialogues with the leaders of pariah states like Iran and North Korea.

“As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.’ We have an obligation to call this what it is,” President Bush proclaimed. “[T]he false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.” (LAT)

Despite protests from his former comrades in the Democratic Party, Senator Lieberman, now an Independent and vigorous supporter of Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, was quick to signal his agreement with Mr. Bush. “The President,” Mr. Lieberman noted in a public statement, “got it exactly right.” (LAT)

That comment was the nail in the coffin of Mr. Lieberman’s Yale degree, Mr. Levin noted. “I’ve looked back at some of the President’s history class term papers and can say with confidence that he couldn’t even tell you what century World War II was fought in. This is not a man who is qualified to give history lessons, much less offer counsel on the ways of diplomacy.”

May 14, 2008

Bush Unveils Plan for Energy Independence

On the eve of his departure for the Middle East on a final regional tour and destined-to-be-fruitless peace mission, President Bush also announced an equally pointless domestic initiative. As fuel prices continue to climb at the pump, the Bush Administration has settled on a novel – and wholly irrelevant – line of attack on the country’s dependence on imported oil. The plan centers not on changing American driving habits, stiffening fuel economy standards for auto manufacturers, or increasing domestic oil production. Rather, the new policy aims to curb America’s use of petroleum jelly.

The American Household Lubricants Association, an industry trade group sometimes referred to as “Big Jelly,” estimates that the average American purchases five pounds of Vaseline or similar products in his or her lifetime. Supporters of the President’s new plan are quick to note, however, that this rate of consumption drastically overstates actual use. Administration officials have stated that they know of no individual (or even family) that has ever used a jar of petroleum jelly in its entirety. It is widely estimated that more than 80% of all petroleum jelly purchased ends up sitting unused in the country’s medicine cabinets until discarded and subsequently replaced with a new jar of the ubiquitous product.

The problem: dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

Within hours of its announcement, the policy had already been roundly criticized as ineffectual. “What do you people want from me?" President Bush asked in response. "It seems like I get it both coming and going. First, I tell Americans to support the war on terror through increased shopping and personal consumption. And of course I get blasted for not asking them to make real sacrifices for the good of the country. And now I get criticized when I do ask them to make personal sacrifices. Drier lips and more diaper rash are the costs that some Americans are going to have to pay to achieve greater national security for the nation [sic]. And what the hell are the rest of you using this stuff for anyway?”

Industry insiders have defended their product by publicizing the many potential uses of petroleum jelly, from promoting the disappearance of scars to removing corrosion from car batteries.

The alleged solution: a reduction in the use of Vaseline and similar products.

“There is simply no reason that the US has to import its petroleum jelly products," said Mr. Bush. "Petroleum jelly independence is within our grasp. And I intend to make this a priority for the remainder of my administration. I intend to lead by example on this issue. To that end and in my capacity as Commander in Chief, I have ordered that the burn units of our military and veterans hospitals immediately cease their use of petroleum jelly to ease the suffering of our brave warriors. Having fought terrorism abroad, our valiant soldiers should not be made to support the very petroleum suppliers that provide aid and comfort to the evil doers.”

May 5, 2008

News in Brief: Clinton Campaign Faces New Obstacles

In a statement on Monday afternoon, New York Senator and Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton declared her campaign financially, morally, and intellectually bankrupt. The Senator nevertheless vowed to soldier on.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, Senator Clinton was caught attempting to slash the tires of a campaign bus belonging to Democratic party rival Barack Obama. Senator Clinton will be forced to appear in an Indiana court on criminal mischief charges.

Cheney Plans Move to Retirement Community, Eyes Presidency

Vice-President Dick Cheney has circulated at the highest levels of American political power for more than three decades, gaining a reputation as a skilled bureaucratic infighter on the way to becoming the most powerful executive branch number two in the history of the office. An Assistant then full Chief of Staff in the Ford White House, Mr. Cheney spent most of the 1980’s as a Congressman from Wyoming before going on to serve as Secretary of Defense in the administration of George H.W. Bush. Initially placed in charge of vetting potential running mates for George W. Bush in 2000, Mr. Cheney gained the younger Mr. Bush’s confidence in the course of the selection process and emerged as the then-Texas Governor’s preferred candidate. Under a chief executive who signaled early on his willingness to delegate significant authority to subordinates, Mr. Cheney stepped into what many have characterized as a kind of American premiership.

Though he may have considered running for the White House at an earlier stage of his career, the Vice-President has in recent years consistently denied harboring any ambitions to stand for the Oval Office. If personal inclination had not already induced Mr. Cheney to concede his earlier aspirations, reality likely would have done so. The Vice-President, like Mr. Bush, has incredibly low public approval ratings, is closely associated with the administration’s unpopular policies in Iraq and the “war on terror” more generally, and has suffered a number of heart attacks. Even some staunch Republicans have at times expressed a certain unease with having such a man “a heartbeat away from the presidency,” let alone in the presidency itself. Given the current circumstances, the White House seems fully out of Mr. Cheney’s reach and his national political career appears to be in its final months.

Above: Soon-to-be retiree Dick Cheney

Mr. Cheney and his wife Lynne are now preparing to do what many of their generation have long since done: retire, downsize, and move to Florida. A vice-presidential spokesperson has confirmed that the Cheneys recently put down a deposit on a condo in the Boca Breeze Retirement Village of Boca Raton, Florida. Besides the pleasant climate and access to beaches, shopping, and golf, the Boca Breeze also holds another strong attraction for a political animal like Mr. Cheney: a soon-to-be-open presidential seat on the Village’s governing council. Mr. Cheney may yet wield ultimate executive power, albeit over a smaller bit of real estate.

The Vice-President has not yet officially declared his candidacy, but his actions clearly indicate that his hat is in the ring. Former Chief of Staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby – a close confidant sometimes called “Dick Cheney’s Dick Cheney” for his loyalty and reputation as a Machiavellian political operator – has been dispatched to Boca Raton to begin laying the groundwork for the Vice-President’s campaign.

Another Cheney aide, who wished to remain anonymous, has indicated that preparations for taking the Boca Breeze presidency are well underway. “Scooter is in place to direct the troops, the campaign posters have been ordered, and a fleet of campaign golf carts is charging its batteries as we speak.”

Cheney has also gotten prominent surrogates to swing through the Village to speak on his behalf. President Bush himself, accompanied by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, recently played a round of golf in the neighborhood and then dropped in at the Village Recreation Center to call a game of bingo. Mr. Bush took advantage of his control of the microphone in order to talk up his man.

“Ok, folks. We’ve got, let’s see…i-14: that’s ‘i,’ as in ‘Dick Cheney did not get us into I-raq,’ fourteen.”

“Next,” the President called,” we’ve got…b-2: as in ‘Dick Cheney be an excellent political number two.’ Anybody got bingo, yet?”

Above: Presidents Bush and Karzai aboard Golf Cart One
during a visit to Boca Breeze Retirement Village on behalf of Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Mr. Cheney has directly tested the political waters at the Boca Breeze during several thinly disguised campaign stops. His candidacy polls strongly in the key – indeed, only – demographic of old white people. His appeal may be attributable in part to this cohort’s experiences of the Cold War and World War II, which serve as powerful resonating boards for the good vs. evil theme of much of the Bush Administration’s rhetoric. He also has the advantage of high name recognition based on his rise to national prominence well before this electorate entered senility.

Indeed, rather than play down his association with the unpopular sitting president, Mr. Cheney has openly cast himself as a defense hawk and fiscal conservative in the Bush mould. “We are combating terrorism over there,” he said to a semi-comatose crowd in the Village dining room in reference to the ongoing military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, “in order to preserve your right to eat dinner at four o’clock at home. That’s what America is all about!”

Sources close to Mr. Cheney indicate that he is likely to run on a platform involving steep cuts in condo fees, combined with increased expenditure on Village security. While certain to appeal to a population living on fixed incomes and susceptible to fears of crime and encroachment by unwelcome ethnic minorities, this set of policies has been branded “fiscally irresponsible” by many economists.

The Vice-President, a strong believer in the theory of executive primacy, has spent much of the last eight years attempting to recover for the executive branch the powers that he and many fellow conservatives believe were lost to other branches of government in the wake of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. He may not speak openly of his intentions during the campaign, but sources indicate that Mr. Cheney is weighing a radical revision of the Boca Breeze Retirement Village’s by-laws in line with this philosophy. The central provision of this so-called “nuclear option” would abolish the governing council in favor of a life dictatorship.