Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sondheim sing-along at the GOP watering hole

SceneFriday night, February 18th, 2011.  The end of another week on Capitol Hill. Speaker of the House John Boehner is sitting alone at an elegant bar, leaning on an elbow, martini near to hand.  The bartender stands near him, wiping out a brandy snifter.  A piano player sits at a piano, singing a Tony Bennett tune.  The clientele is mostly solitary drinkers, including several members of Congress.  But most everyone is keeping to himself.

Bartender:  So, how's it feel to be called "Mr. Speaker?"

Boehner (giving a sidelong glance):  Don't you start, too, eh?

Bartender (chuckling):  I'm sorry, sir.  I just couldn't resist.  But, really... I mean, "So be it?"

Boehner:  I don't see you up in front of any microphones.  You think pourin' drinks for guys like me is tough?

Bartender:  "Read my lips?"

Boehner stammers, then laughs. They both laugh. The bartender notices another client approaching, quickly regains his composure.

Bartender:  Leader McConnell!  What will you have, sir?

Senator Mitch McConnell is there, standing with his hands clasped in front of him.  His jacket is buttoned fast, as if he were even then, in the well of his beloved Senate.

McConnell:  Would you mind fetching me a mint julep, son?  You know how I like the mint along one side?

Bartender:  I know just how you like them, sir. [Exit.]

Boehner:  I wondered how long it would be 'til you showed up.  [Tilts his glass at McConnell.]  Thanks for not keeping me in suspense.

McConnell:  Why, John, my friend, is that any way to treat your old friend from Kentucky?

Boehner [shouting to the bartender]:  Go 'head and start me another!

McConnell seats himself on a nearby stool.

McConnell:  You see, John?  Being a leader is not easy.  Probably not as easy as you must have hoped, back when you were handing out tobacco lobby checks on the floor of the House. 

Boehner stares into his drink.

McConnell:  Do you remember how it was in the 111th, John?  Remember how I held my caucus together?
Boehner: Go ahead and get your yahyahs, if it makes you feel better.  I've got more important things to worry about.

McConnell:  Let me ask you, John.  Do you suppose you will be able to pass any legislation this session?  I'm asking because I'd really like to know the answer.  It would be nice if we had something to debate in the Senate.  You know how Senators are if they don't have enough to keep them busy.

The bartender returns with a tray and the two drinks.  Boehner snatches the martini, sloshes some onto his pant leg.

Boehner: Alright, Mitch.  Have your fun.  But, don't forget, I'm from Cincinnati.  I know all about you Kentucky folk.  And even if I didn't know you, I'd hear it in your pipsqueak voice.  Just like at the football game.  Nobody watches what happens away from the ball.  Wait until the public gets a good look at Rand Paul and Mike Lee.  Then, it'll be my turn to laugh.  I want you to remember tonight when that time comes, Mitch. 

Mid-rant, Boehner slouches onto his elbow, sullen.  McConnell sips at his julep.  

Boehner: Aw, hell, Mitch.  Never mind.  It's not your fault. 

Senator Harry Reid approaches, though neither man notices.

Reid:  You fellows mind if I join you?

McConnell:  Harry!  By all means, have a seat.

Reid:  I really can't, Mitch.  I just came by to wish you both a good weekend. 

Boehner: Harry, can I offer to buy you an orange juice?  Fresca?

Reid:  Seven-Up, John.  "Never had it.  Never will."   But I really can't. I'm on my way home for the weekend.

McConnell:  What's the occasion, Harry?  Is that wonderful Tabernacle Choir giving another performance?

Reid:  Something like that...  Oh, bartender!  [He hands a note to the bartender.]  Give this to the piano man, will you?   

Bartender:  Certainly, Senator.  Have a wonderful weekend, sir.

Reid[to McConnell and Boehner]:  Gentlemen, I'll see you next week!  [Exit.]

They sit silently, listening to the singer finish "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."  

Boehner:  Mitch, can we be real with each other for a minute?

McConnell:  Sure, I'll play along.  For now.

Boehner:  How do you feel about Harry?  I mean, really.  Love him?  Hate him?

McConnell:  I love him.  I've never blamed him for making me look like a fool.  I'd do the same to him, if I had the chance.  It's all part of the job.

Boehner[nodding]:  I feel the same about Nancy.

Singer:  I've just received a special request from the distinguished majority leader of the United States Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada.  The honorable senator has asked me to send this out to his two dear friends, Senator Mitch McConnell, and the Speaker of the House of the United States Congress, Mr. John Boehner.

This is a beautiful song by the great Stephen Sondheim, and it goes a little something like this...

Isn't it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air.
Send in the clowns.

McConnell finds that he is singing along, raises his voice and puts on a harmony.

Isn't it bliss?
Don't you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can't move.

McConnell leans over as he sings, and rolls his eyes to Boehner, who glumly joins in.

Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.

Suddenly, another voice rings out from across the room.  It belongs to none other than former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich!

Just when I'd stopped opening doors,
Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours,

From out of nowhere, former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin appears!

Making my entrance again with my usual flair,
Sure of my lines,
No one is there.

The piano softens.  And then, it is just McConnell.  He seems to be singing directly to Boehner.

Don't you love farce?
My fault I fear.
I thought that you'd want what I want.
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don't bother, they're here.

At last, the lights dim, and there is only John Boehner, tears streaming down his face.  This is not the Speaker of the House, nor the most powerful Republican in the country, nor even the guy on the links with the 77 handicap.   At this moment, he is John.  Just John. 

Isn't it rich?
Isn't it queer,
Losing my timing this late
In my career?
And where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns.
Well, maybe next year.

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