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Published in The Oklahoman Friday, March 23, 2007

 

Political humor almost writes itself

By Robert Haught
Potomac Junction

Bob HaughtWASHINGTON — At the Will Rogers Writers' Workshop in Oklahoma City, I gave some instruction on how "Political Humor Almost Writes Itself." Citing Rogers' familiar saying, "All I know is what I read in the papers," I used a story from a recent issue of the Washington Post as an example. As a class exercise, I asked the students to write something based on the facts in the article.

Having issued that challenge, I decided to give it a try with this column:

Out at the National Zoo, two elephants — Donald Trunk and his wife, Rosie, were having dinner. Rosie was reading the Washington Post.

"What's in the news?" asked Donald. "Probably another feature about those @#%!$ pandas."

"Not today, surprisingly enough," said Rosie. "They do get a lot of attention."

"Well, I'm glad the news media don't report every detail of our mating habits."

"There's a story here about a big scandal at the Smithsonian Institution."

"Hey, the zoo is part of that museum complex. What does it say?"

"This is shocking! It says a government official used taxpayers' money for personal expenditures."

Donald almost choked on his hay as he shook his head in disbelief.

"Who could do such a thing!" he roared.

"None other than Lawrence M. Small, the Smithsonian's chief executive. An audit showed he had nearly $90,000 in unauthorized expenses."

"Small?"

"Not to me. Ninety grand is not peanuts."

"What did he spend it on?"

"A chartered plane, a trip to Cambodia for his wife, catered meals for staff and some expensive gifts, it says here."

"Who exposed this Small man?"

"The Smithsonian's inspector general, a woman named A. Sprightley Ryan."

"Is that her real name, Sprightley?"

"Rightly so. And Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa has blasted what he called Small's ‘champagne lifestyle.' The Post reports he has called the Smithsonian Board of Regents on the carpet. Grassley is quoted as saying the board ‘seems to be rubber-stamping the actions of Secretary Small and turning a blind eye to the very serious issues raised by the inspector general.'"

"How many cliches can one senator cram into one sentence?"

"He also said that tax dollars and taxpayer-subsidized donations make up a lion's share of the museum's budget and that an IG like A. Sprightley Ryan is a much-needed watchdog for the public."

"Is the Smithsonian board doing anything?"

"Roger Sant, chairman of the audit and executive committees, announced the regents will create a committee to review expenditures and executive compensation."

"So justice will be served, thanks to Sprightley, Grassley and Sant. Sounds like a law firm."

"I happen to know that A. Sprightley Ryan formerly was an associate with Beveridge and Diamond."

"That's irrevelant."

"No, that's a Washington law firm. You're an elephant."

"Say goodnight, Rosie."

"Goodnight, Rosie."

[email protected]

 

* * * * * 

Robert L. Haught is a former UPI correspondent and bureau manager who took a detour into politics and government and returned to writing. In 1987, Haught became the first Washington-based editorial writer for The Oklahoman. Haught retired as senior editorial writer in 1995 but continues to produce the column.

He has been recognized for his journalistic achievements by induction into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.  As a member of the National Society for Newspaper Columnists, Haught was editor of the organization's newsletter, The Columnist, for three years before becoming NSNC Secretary in 2004. 

 

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