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For Brain and Funny Bone: Blogging Pat Schroeder’s Talk in Brandon

When politicians make us laugh, it shouldn’t be because we’re laughing at them.

Want a laugh?

Just google “Gingrich giraffe” and then start grinning (and groaning) at this gem from the GOP’s leading self-proclaimed intellectual (or read his words of wisdom below).

While it’s fun to guffaw at Zany Newt’s 1995 pseudo-scientific case for excluding women from full-fledged military service, imagine what a rare treat it is to laugh at intelligent, insightful, truly witty political commentary from a real American icon like twelve-term Congresswoman and former presidential candidate Pat Schroeder.

Schroeder was in Brandon on Dec. 10 to serve as keynote speaker at the holiday party of the East Hillsborough County Democratic Club, where she was joined by Florida political bigwigs Alex Sink, Bill McBride, Betty Castor, Helen Gordon Davis, and others eager to hear her unique take on society and politics.

Always unflappable, with a deadpan sense of humor, the doyenne of American liberals had the audience roaring with laughter as she recounted having mistakenly booked a vacation on the ship which the National Rifle Association was using for its annual “Freedom Cruise,” inadvertently joining Newt, Oliver North, and other headline conservatives for what she had expected to be a great escape from Washington.

Hearing Schroeder joke about the irony of Californians thanking Florida Governor Rick Scott for the huge sums reallocated to California after Scott rejected $4.3 billion in federal funds for building a jobs-intensive high-speed rail line brought a spark of absurdist levity to what is actually a very sad situation — and that’s not easy to do.

Beyond being a great speaker, Schroeder’s legislative and other accomplishments are too numerous to recount with anything near completeness.

The first woman to make a serious run for the presidency, today we take it for granted that women’s nameS — names like Geraldine Ferraro, Elizabeth Dole, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Jennifer Bachmann, and Sarah Palin — can appear on ballots across the nation. (This past Saturday, Schroeder caught good-natured flak for paving the way for the last two.)

For better or worse, we also take it for granted that every campaign season (are we ever not in a campaign season?) will bring us plenty to laugh about. But with Herman Cain’s “[t]he more toppings a man has on his pizza, I believe the more manly he is,” Rick Perry’s forgetting what three federal agencies he would eliminate, Michelle Bachmann’s “[c]arbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful, but there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas,” Mitt Romney somehow overlooking the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan when he described President Obama’s economic stimulus as “one of the biggest peacetime spending binges in American history,” and Sarah Palin’s “[i]f God didn’t intend for us to eat animals, how come he made them out of meat?,” the laughs are more often because of the ignorance and bumbling of the speaker, rather than an actual talent for humor. (Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator, may be the anomaly, a politician noted not only for his finely honed sense of humor but for his remarkably loose grasp of facts; his two terms have sometimes been dubbed “Reagan’s Reign of Error.”)

But where are the political leaders with both intelligence and a sense of humor? Regardless of what you think of their policies, we need more of Pat Schroeder, Al Franken, Barney Frank, Anne Richards and — lest you think this is only about liberal politicians — the inimitable Winston Churchill.

Politicians who make intelligent jokes do more than credit the voting public with having smarts: By straying from the scripted, focus-group-tested, consultant-approved sound-bites and “messaging,” they recognize the voters as real people who, especially in trying times, occasionally need a real smile.

And now here’s the Gingrich/giraffe quote you’ve been waiting for:

“If combat means living in a ditch, females have biological problems staying in a ditch for thirty days because they get infections and they don't have upper body strength. I mean, some do, but they're relatively rare. On the other hand, men are basically little piglets, you drop them in the ditch, they roll around in it, doesn't matter, you know. These things are very real. On the other hand, if combat means being on an Aegis-class cruiser managing the computer controls for twelve ships and their rockets, a female may be again dramatically better than a male who gets very, very frustrated sitting in a chair all the time because males are biologically driven to go out and hunt giraffes.”

Address entitled "Renewing American Civilization," at Reinhardt College, January 7, 1995. For this and more treats, see http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Newt_Gingrich.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Kevin Brady December 17, 2011 at 05:17 AM
great article for those of us who could not make it to the event - thanks Gail
Jason Bartolone December 18, 2011 at 02:09 PM
Hi Scottrey, It's actually a blog post, as Gail is one of Brandon Patch's "Local Voices" bloggers. Anyone is welcome to become a blogger on Patch - email me at jason.bartolone@patch.com if you'd like to become one and share a different point of view!
Roxie December 18, 2011 at 10:14 PM
loved this! i think @Scottrey is a "harmful gas" that has infected florida
Angie Angel January 20, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Really enjoyed your blog, Gail. (Sorry it took me so long to get around to reading it.)

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