The Devil's Odds

The Devil's Odds
St. Martin's Press. To Be Released Feb. 28, 2012

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Back in 1988 televangelist Pat Robertson ran for president. One of the networks hired Harvard professor/former Kennedy advisor Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. as a commentator on the primaries. Robertson came to my home town, and Schlesinger tagged along in his wake. It is my belief that if anyone in the country could transcend Robertson in sheer jackassery, it is Schlesinger. Here is my take on the matter:

There were others making travel plans that day with Tyler as their ultimate destination. Two major networks were sending crews to town to augment the efforts of local affiliates, and American Broadcasting Company was sending its elite commentator, Professor Arthur M. Schlesinger to comment on the socio-historic significance of Pat Robertson’s visit. Professor Schlesinger was on the retainer of ABC News as a roving and occasional commentator on national, international and perhaps even interplanetary affairs for the New York based network.

Schlesinger, dean of the East Coast establishment liberals and Historian Extraodinair, had established his academic reputation with a series of books which proved beyond the doubt of any reasonable person that Liberalism was a divinely ordained blessing on the human race and that all Democratic Presidents (with the exception of course, being the earthy Lyndon Johnson) were noble apostles of progress, while all Republican presidents (with the exception of course, being the great Abraham Lincoln) had been little more than moronic tools for the forces-of reaction.

Professor Schlesinger taught for many years at a famous Ivy League university and had achieved the status of Exalted Adept in that ad hoc but nonetheless real fraternity of those who function in that grey wonderland, the government/higher education complex. This coagulation had been christened by one irreverent pundit "The Legion of Stratospherically, Situated Academic Honchos," and Schlesinger had well earned his membership. He had been an advisor to presidents and chairman of numerous prestigious commissions; he had headed task forces beyond the numbering of mere mortals; and he had advised congress on vast reams of crucial legislation. At one time of another he had been an unofficial governmental representative to everyone everywhere on the face of the globe, and at any given moment of time he knew absolutely everything worth knowing. He had served as Ambassador Plenipotentiary (with and without portfolio) to a plenitude of potentates both potent and impotent; he had organized international conferences and defused student rebellions; he had jetted off aboard Presidential aircraft pursuing missions of monumental import that were designed to save whole continents through the benevolence of the American tax dollar; and he had completely redefined the nature and purpose of representative government by advising congressmen that they must ignore their constituents "provincial concerns" and learn to "think globally."

In his long and productive life, Professor Schlesinger had enjoyed the unique privilege of never having committed a single intellectual error. Anyone wishing to prove this assertion needed to consult no lesser luminary than Schlesinger himself, though he would admit to having been misunderstand on number of occasions when same critic had become annoyingly convinced that something he had either written or said that seemed to mean something other than what he currently claimed that it meant.

The good Professor had been employed by the network because he was able to discourse fluently upon the political and historical significance of any event which had occurred during the entire history of human society from the very first moment of the Neolithic Revolution in 50,000 BC right on down to 3:23 P. M. Wednesday the last. He was particularly important to his employers because could discourse fluently regardless of whether or not he knew anything at all about the subject at hand. Indeed, he was at his most erudite and authoritative concerning those things about which he knew the least, and he rose to Olympian heights of certitude when pontificating upon matters of which he was totally ignorant. At age seventy and perpetually bow-tied, Professor Schlesinger was short, chubby, voluble, and prone to flatulence, but a fierce dedication to his high ideals had kept him faster than a speeding entitlement and he was still able to leap tall footnotes with a single bound. And he was coming, in all his Celestial Excellence, to Tyler, Texas, in order to philosophize upon the Pat Robertson rally for the edification and enlightenment of the American citizenry. As might be expected, he considered the famous televangelist to be a muddleheaded fascist, a fraud, and a pompous ass. Robertson in turn considered Professor Schlesinger to be a muddleheaded socialist, a fraud and a pompous ass. There is a high degree of probability that each was absolutely correct in his estimation of the other.