The good, the bad and the ugly

Burt Prelutsky Contributor
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There are times when I find myself thinking that all of America’s loons are to be found lurking on the far left, but then something like the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) takes place and I have to rethink my position.

Never having attended one of those events, I have no idea how they’re arranged. But one thing I do know is that any gathering that results in a straw vote victory for Ron Paul should send shivers down the back of most conservatives.

What I don’t understand is why any potential presidential candidate who doesn’t happen to be Ron Paul shows up for these annual circuses. Forget that Donald Trump got booed for merely stating the obvious fact that Rep. Paul can’t win a presidential race. The truth is, most people can’t win a presidential race. That is especially the case if you will be 77 years old on Election Day in 2012. That is especially true if you’re someone who, in spite of raising a sizable war chest in 2008 and still campaigning long after McCain had locked up the nomination and everyone else had gone home, wound up with only a paltry number of delegates. For someone who purports to be fiscally responsible, spending in the neighborhood of a million dollars per delegate sounds like something only a drunken liberal sailor would do.

I realize that Rep. Paul is regarded as close to godlike by his fanatical followers. Candidates on the fringe often are, whether they’re Henry Wallace, George Wallace, Ross Perot or Ralph Nader. There’s nothing that brings out this sort of zealotry quite as much as the realization that your favorite politician has no more chance of being elected president than your pet canary. And just because Rep. Paul keeps getting re-elected to Congress doesn’t make him a viable national candidate. I mean, does anyone in his right mind think that Nancy Pelosi, Henry Waxman or Dennis Kucinich could wind up in the Oval Office except by invitation?

What really astonished and disturbed me about the Conference was that after Paul’s acolytes actually booed and heckled Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, Mr. Paul did not take a moment when he was at the rostrum to apologize for their boorish behavior or to admonish the louts for behaving like liberals.

Frankly, outside of Texas’s 14th congressional district and CPAC, the only other competition Ron Paul could ever hope to win is the Mr. Magoo look-alike contest.

Speaking of crazy people, in case you didn’t hear about it, the Berkeley, CA, City Council would like to roll out the red carpet for two Guantanamo detainees. It sounds like the set-up for a very funny movie, but the Council, as usual, is dead serious. My guess is that after a couple of weeks, the jihadists would go running back to Gitmo, begging for political sanctuary, screaming, “Those people are crazy!”

The other day, I found myself thinking about two of the 19th century’s most influential men. Karl Marx was born in 1818 and died in 1883. John D. Rockefeller was born in 1839 and died in 1937. So far as I know, they never had occasion to meet. But they would have been aware of each other, and each would have thought the other was a dangerous lunatic. Only one of them would have been right.

For much of the world, then and now, Marx was a benevolent visionary, while Rockefeller would be dismissed as an avaricious villain.

Still, it was Rockefeller who helped create Standard Oil, thus providing jobs, homes and oil for hundreds of millions of people here in America and around the world. In addition, his charitable contributions to medical research led to the eradication of hookworm and yellow fever.

Karl Marx, on the other hand, never did anything that helped propel a car, turn a rotor, heat a home or fuel the world’s industries. His writings were productive, I suppose, but only in the sense that they helped to produce the likes of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, Che and Kim Jong-il.

I suppose if one wished to be charitable, you could credit Marx with helping to create employment opportunities for executioners, gravediggers and gulag guards.

For the record, Rockefeller believed in the profit motive. He was a realist and a pragmatist who understood the best and worst of human nature. For his part, Marx believed in a stateless, classless society. He believed that the only thing that prevented men from being perfect saints and angels was capitalism. He was a complete nincompoop. Which is just another way of saying that Rockefeller was a conservative and Marx was a left-winger.

Burt Prelutsky is a humor columnist, a movie critic and a writer for TV. He’s written episodes of MASH, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Family Ties, Dr. Quinn and Diagnosis Murder. He is the author of “Conservatives Are From Mars, Liberals Are From San Francisco” and “Liberals: America’s Termites or It’s a Shame That Liberals, Unlike Hamsters, Never Eat Their Young,” along with two collections of interviews, “The Secret of Their Success” and “Portraits of Success.” He blogs at BurtPrelutsky.com.