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On Ash Wednesday, the day after Pat Buchanan's upsetting win in the New Hampshire primary, it was announced that 648 Sisters of Notre Dame would be donating their brains for medical research on Alzheimer's. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see a causal link between Buchanan's New Hampshire primary victory and the urge to relinquish one's brain.

There was, by the way, no comment from the Vatican, which still has some pretty strict rules about the Judgment Day reuniting of body and soul. Temple of the Holy Ghost or Vessel of Sin? They'll be the judge.

No word either if the sisters' practically bionic kneecaps were to be donated to the National Baseball League's Yogi Berra Home for Retired Catchers.

The nuns' brains, untainted by trace elements of CNN, FNN, VH1, or MTV, are to be tagged with large post-its printed with the "Why I Want to Be a Sister of Notre Dame" portion of the application they had filled out in their teens.

Scientists hope to be able to establish that early linguistic ability (perhaps a teenage flair for hyperbole or imaginative use of symbol--"Then I looked down and saw the Baby Jesus lying in a bed of shredded lettuce in my hard-shelled luncheon taco and He beckoned me with the sweetest look to serve Him and be His Bride") is an indicator of a later onset of Alzheimer's. In other words, if you dint talk too good when you was a kid, then...

What was I saying?

I think the linguistic flourishes of the Republican Presidential candidates, the unopposed Democratic incumbent, and a host of pundits are an indication of brain drain. A national attention-deficit disorder. Someone has slipped some chlorine into the nation's think tanks. It's like being present at the death of language.

Bob Dole, punch drunk and only dimly recalling lost wages, resorts to the reflexive. "The real Bob Dole is going to go to North Dakota and that Bob Dole is going to fight to win the heart and soul of the Republican party." It's like he's reminding himself. "Pinch me, I'm running again." Pinch me, there's a heart and soul to the Republican Party? Bob's self-reflexivity bears an eerie similarity to that old "you won't have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore" line. Perhaps it's the effect of sleep deprivation. I think someone could use a nap.


Steve Forbes has a flair for repetition. "Hi, Steve, how's it going?" "Flat tax." "How are the wife and kids?" "Flat tax." "It's so cool that your dad was gay." "Flat tax." Flat tax, flat tax! Sidebar: Every day Steve looks more and more like the Norton Utility guy icon on my computer, arms crossed smugly across his chest just before the whole system shuts down.

Lamar Alexander, who spent his tenure as Secretary of Education trying to get rid of that department, has exhibited no noticeable linguistic flair thus far. He seems to favor the very large, vague concepts of "responsibility" and "family" and, my personal favorite, "contests of vision." I'm picturing Renaissance Fairs and Xena, Warrior Princess. Up to this point he has let his flannel do the talking for him.

No one remotely approaches the linguistic flights of Pat Buchanan. He's a loose Buchanan on the gunship of state. Even his sister and campaign manager, Bay Buchanan, looks worried when he gets cranking. She is a hovercraft lurking behind him, ready to step in at any time. She is Baywatch. The "peasants with the pitchforks marching on the castle" snapped her head around but good. When he started to careen demonically into an imitation of soldiers marching cross-country at the sound of the gun, she wisely took the microphone, which she's paid so dearly for, and stopped him before he talked about getting the trains to run on time or at least not into each other.

The headlines blared CLINTON SAILS TO VICTORY IN NEW HAMPSHIRE. It's a small coastline. Great news given that he ran unopposed. He's beginning to sound a lot like Reagan and is prone to sheer linguistic bludgeoning. Quantity not quality.

After New Hampshire, the pundits, those fat cats of factoids, conjured up images of feeding frenzies. The GOP eating its own. Not a pretty picture. Dan Quayle, now spokesman for Cliff Notes, looking cherubically ambassadorial with his grown-up greying sideburns, called some in the GOP "nervous Nellies" and was immediately denounced at another GOP gay-bashing rally.

The self-proclaimed linguist, William Safire, also hit new flights of flair in a column desperately spinning the prematurity of the news of the death of his beloved GOP. I am still trying to figure out what he meant when he penned, "Unity butters no primary parsnips." I know Noam Chomsky and you're no Noam Chomsky. Quit playing mind games with me, or I'll have to punch you out.

Instead of a V-chip in televisions, I think we should install P-chips in what's left of people's brains. It would shield them from the harmful effects of primaries, pundits, and politicians.
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Title Annotation:Unplugged; satire: 1996 primary election campaign
Author:Clinton, Kate
Publication:The Progressive
Date:Apr 1, 1996
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