One GOP friend would rather not talk politics

Coda • GREG BEAN

Iemailed my old writing buddy, Dave Simpson, a while back, crowing over the latest debacle in what used to be the national Republican Party, and he was less than amused.

“I get so upset about this Fairness Doctrine thing that I think it may be better if we avoid discussing politics altogether,” he said. “Things have gotten so raw and intense that for the first time in my life, I don’t want to talk about politics. I’d rather have an old friend than a new argument.”

So for the time being at least, our 25-year conversation about our once-favorite topic is off the table. These days, when we write each other, we talk about fishing and home improvements.

I miss the old days.

Regular readers of these newspapers remember Dave. For over a year, he was the conservative voice in our Red State/Blue State column, and he could always be counted on to supply a witty, and often snippy observation about the liberals. His comments stung because they were often laugh-out-loud funny and they contained at least a grain of truth, and often more than a grain.

Trying to slap him down week after week kept me on my toes. It was like sparring with Sugar Ray Leonard. You might make it through 10 rounds and even win by a decision, but you always knew you’d been in a scrap.

I remember writing one impassioned response to something he wrote, and his only comment was, “Where funny?”

Seems I’d broken one of the cardinal rules of our writing partnership, which was to talk about politics in a way that made people smile (we hoped) and not come off sounding like tent preachers or zealots. There were enough of those around, we figured.

The only thing that kept me getting back in the ring was our friendship. We’d been friends for so long that he’d given up holding my more liberal views against me, and I’d given up holding his conservative views against him.

Friendships are like that. You take the good with the bad.

But like many Republicans these days, Dave can’t find much to laugh about the way he could when the Republicans were in charge (and ruining the country, in my opinion) and the Democrats were in disarray and marginalized. Which is too bad, because there are a lot of amusing things going on these days. For example:

• House Majority Leader John Baynor’s skin. I don’t care which party you sympathize with; you had to wince every time this prematurely orange Republican politician came on television. We all knew George Hamilton “The Tan Man” got his bronze from a tube or a tanning bed, but at least he never turned up with Hunter Orange cheeks the way Baynor (R-Ohio) did. “Maybe the sun is different in Ohio,” someone once theorized. But it was just weird. Lots of Republicans got all tetchy when Barack Obama made a joke about Baynor being a person of color, but it looks like he took it to heart. Last time I saw him on TV, his orange was about three shades lighter than it was before. Maybe he’s going to Michael Jackson’s dermatologist.

• Ex-Gov. and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s talk show on Fox. Have you seen that thing? It’s so bizarre it’s incredibly entertaining.

Watching Huckabee interview Dan Rather was great television, if you could get past the scary feeling that you’d dropped through a cosmic worm hole and turned up in a parallel universe. And there’s no better place to see your favorite old-time musicians.

Where else would you see Neil Sedaka perform these days? Or hear the band Yes performing “Owner of a Lonely Heart?” You won’t see that on “Good Morning America.” Fact is, I’ve become very fond of Huckabee since the presidential primary. He’s funny, and earnest, and he talks about conservative politics and values in ways that make sense. If the GOP is really looking for future leaders who can draw voters from middle-of-the-road America, they ought to be thinking about Mike Huckabee. The man is so likeable that the writer of an article about him in Esquire said that “he’s so damn folksy and self-deprecating that the liberal media (i.e., me) just want to hug him.” Someone like that is a force to be reckoned with.

Instead, they’re in a tizzy about:

• Soon-to-be-ex-Gov. Sarah (No Mas) Palin. Making fun of Gov. “I’m Outta Here” is about as much sport as playing keep away with blind puppies, so I won’t pile on like the rest of the media, which she says has destroyed her. But come on! Her interview wearing chest waders on that remote beach in Alaska with a perfectly coiffed Andrea Mitchell of NBC was absolutely legendary television! Palin’s statements and explanations made so little sense I think they must have been processed through a Salad Shooter. It will likely take me all fall and winter to translate them, so all I can say is, thank God, the whole interview is on YouTube, where I can watch it over and over. That interview will get me through more dark December nights than a million reruns of “Dancing With the Stars” or the latest update about Jon and Kate’s turbulent and child-intensive relationship. I still don’t really know who Jon and Kate are, to tell you the truth, but I’m told they were featured on some reality TV thing.

And last, but not least:

• Gov. “No-Show” Mark Sandford of South Carolina, who David Letterman said didn’t enjoy the Fourth of July this year because he left his favorite firecracker in Argentina, and Republican Sen. John “Say Yes to Fishing Off the Company Pier” Ensign of Nevada. That guy is apparently so twisted even a lot of notoriously kinky Brits are jealous. “God never intended for us to do this,” Ensign wrote to his ex-mistress, the wife of his friend. This, from a hypocrite who called on Bill Clinton to resign because of his infidelity, is a longtime member of the evangelical Promise Keepers, and opposed the federal marriage amendment because the sanctity of marriage vows is “the cornerstone on which our society was founded.”

Ay! Yi! Yi! Cherry Pie! Sopa de Tomate!

You know, it’s no wonder Dave Simpson no longer wants to talk politics.

Gregory Bean is the former executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at gbean@gmnews.com.