Republicans today are a humorless bunch. They can't take a joke, let alone say one. I don't know exactly how this came about. But puritanism has infiltrated their world-view. They are a self-righteous confraternity. Their grim moral universe is heavily weighed down by its gravitas. There is little room for humor's stock in trade: the absurd, the incongruous, the laughable.
The hero of the Right, President Ronald Reagan, had a remarkable and refreshing sense of humor. Before being operated on after the assasination attempt in 1981, he allegedly quipped to the medical team: "I hope you're all Republicans." His wit was quick and self-deflating. It was the bellwether of his charm and good nature. He was even not above making himself the butt of the joke. "Thomas Jefferson once said, 'We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works.' And ever since he told me that I stopped worrying."
But Republicans around now are stolid stuff shirts next to the Great Communicator. Take the deficit. (Anyone, please.) To them it's absolutely nothing to sneeze at. It leaves them stone-faced. But Reagan stood that view on its head. "I am not worred about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself."
Or take the outrage of the Republicans over Robert De Niro's light-hearted jest at a Democratic fundraiser featuring the First Lady. "Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white First Lady?"
The audience uproariously laughed. And Reagan would have too.
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