Friday, February 13, 2009

Politics as Comedy

Brian McNeill pulled the comedy beat at the Daily Progress this week.

His byline appears on the lead story on Friday's front page, "A life-size map of Virginia, and other modest proposals," which reports on various suggestions made on Governor Tim Kaine's new web site,

McNeill also was assigned the task of reporting on a comedy roast of gubernatorial candidates at the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association dinner in Richmond.

Add to that McNeill's story on gay couples' seeking marriage licenses at the Charlottesville court house, and you know he had a busy day as a journalist.

The stimulus web site solicits suggestions by Virginia taxpayers with regard to how the Commonwealth should spread the largesse it gets from the federal government. (You may have heard about the bill that, despite spending more than all the cash in circulation in the United States, will be passed by both houses of Congress without giving any senator or representative sufficient time to read it and understand it.)

Some of those suggestions are less funny than they seem on first glance, but they still bring a smile to the reader, if not an LOL. I especially like these three:

No. 428: Beer Stimulus Initiative

This project will encourage small business development by giving a six-pack of locally-made beer to every adult in the Commonwealth. This project will take one year to finish. The final stimulus amount assumes an average cost of $7.99 per six-pack, plus a 10% administrative fee.

No. 273: Torch It

Buy a Bic lighter, should be less than $1. Use the lighter on the 700+ pages of the stimulus package....

No. 357: Hemp Industry

[Gov. Kaine] touched briefly about reducing the nonviolent prisoners. Take it the needed step forward and decriminalize marijuana for private use and return to the ability granted Dr.s to prescribe marijuana. Allow hemp to replace tobacco. If you feel I’m wrong, convince me by showing how this current policy is beneficial to the people and the state.
Some of the jokes told by the four major-party candidates for governor -- Republican Bob McDonnell and Democrats R. Creigh Deeds, Terry McAuliffe, and Brian Moran -- appear a bit more snarky on the printed page than they probably sounded to the VCCA audience in Richmond on Wednesday night. But they are funny nonetheless. Take these examples:
“I want to actually commend Brian because he’s made a very strong campaign commitment to alternative energy,” McDonnell said. “I was talking to Brian about what the details of his plan are. He was pretty excited about it. He’s actually testing a new campaign car that runs on an energy source that is indefinite and renewable — and that is Terry’s hot air.”

McDonnell went on to mention Moran’s environmental platform that includes opposition to a coal power plant in Surry and any drilling for oil and gas off Virginia’s shores.

“Brian, no one’s going to accuse you of looking past the primary,” he said....

“Brian said the other day that Virginia doesn’t need a fundraiser,” McAuliffe said. “He’s right. Virginia doesn’t need a fundraiser. Creigh needs a fundraiser.”

Yet McAuliffe reserved a few digs for himself, joking about how critics say he is a carpetbagger who nearly ran for governor of states other than Virginia. He read from what he said was the first draft of his campaign announcement: “Thank you. It’s great to be here in Tallahassee. Come on folks, I’m kidding. You know, I love running for governor of New York, I mean Virginia.” ...

“Between me and Terry, we have President Obama covered,” Moran said. “Terry has audacity. And I have hope.”

Moran also highlighted McDonnell’s backing from such prominent Republicans as John McCain, Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani.

“They’re sharing with you all their winning strategies,” he said. “Follow those strategies.” ...

“Bob’s going to move Virginia forward by leaving office,” Deeds said. “I couldn’t agree more.”
Few politicos in Virginia have forgotten that Deeds lost the race for Attorney General to McDonnell by just over 300 votes in 2005, in a year that more than two million people voted in that contest.

Note to Brian McNeill: Hollywood is calling. They need fresh comedy writers.

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