As the Lame Duck Quacks


By Elizabeth Burke
Special to the Clyde Fitch Report

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“Lame duck session.” What does this mean? We’ve been hearing about it pretty much since the polls closed on Election Day. Why a duck? Why does it have to be lame? A hurt, injured waterfowl is the image chosen to describe a body of elected officials? Or maybe it’s a singular elected official (Gov. Paterson, feel free to use up your remaining vacation days) who come to work but blatantly get nothing done. When I was young, my family moved rather frequently. Once the word was out that we were moving, I pretty much stopped working at school. I figured, I’m leaving in a few weeks, what’s the point? What’s the school going to do, fail me? Or in world of Congress, “unvote” for me? That would be lame.

But for those of you who have no idea what “lame duck” means, it refers to the period when either chamber of Congress meets in an even-numbered year following a November election. Since some lawmakers weren’t voted back in, they’re just playing out the remainder of their term. Or, like me in elementary school, waiting for the moving van.

But where did the odd term “lame duck” come from? The phrase was coined in the 18th century at the London Stock Exchange to refer to a broker who defaulted on his debts. In the literal sense, it refers to a duck unable to keep up with its flock, making it a target for predators. Interesting comparison…

And speaking of targets…

The How Could She Award
The winner for the new “How Could She?” Award for obeying her husband’s orders is Cindy McCain, who, for just a quick moment, showed us the true better half of John McCain. Here’s a woman who rarely steps out into the limelight, who reluctantly went on the stump for her husband during his innumerable campaigns, who always seemed to be a ghost, a fleeting image on the side of a stage, looking fidgety, uncomfortable and a bit fussily dressed, who stepped out of the hazy shadows of the Arizona mesas and became, well, just Cindy!

She went from this…

to this…

Well, last week Cindy came out in support of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, via a video blasting the military for sexual-orientation-based discrimination.

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Frankly, I never could figure out who Cindy was or what she thought. She’s one of those women who intimidates me with her creamy, ethereal, sharp beauty, her utter perfection in all she does, strands of her hair never out of place on that perfect, strangely painful-looking coif.

But then, Cindy, looking all cropped and super-glam, slammed bullying and the intrinsic unfairness of DADT, forcefully and unequivocally coming out in support of all the men and women who want to serve our country and give back without fear of being fired and humiliated. “Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future,” she says in the spot. “They can’t serve our country openly.” Our Cindy opened her arms and heart and stepped out of her husband’s dark light into her own sunshine-y beach house on Fire Island! She’s one of us!

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And then, faster then you can say “I’m putting my campaign on hold,” the beach house was washed away, darkness fell and Cindy backpedaled, claiming that she supports her husband’s hateful, anti-gay bias. Not quite 24 hours later, Cindy tweeted “I fully support the NoH8 campaign and all it stands for and am proud to be a part of it. But I stand by my husband’s stance on DADT.” Seriously? What, Cindy thought no one would notice? It’s a lot easier to figure out her hair.

Oh, what happened in the McCain house? Look, we all know what a mean, angry, bitter, old man John McCain is. But is he…threatening? He must have something real good over his wife to make her do a 180 on something so public and so personal. I’m embarrassed and humiliated for her. It seems bullying and harassment isn’t just an LGBT issue.

But Cindy McCain wasn’t the only lady slapped last week. Our favorite Tea Partier, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), failed in her bid for a leadership spot within the GOP. After weeks of fighting to keep her seat in Minnesota’s 6th district, Bachmann put herself up for the number-four spot in the House. Alas, she was up against Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), a strong Conservative who agrees with Bachmann in many areas. It came down to high school politics — and who the power players like better. Apparently Bachmann was not just unlikable to newspaper-reading, pro-kitten, ivory tower-leaning, library card-holding liberals like me, but to the rest of the GOP establishment.

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Then again, there are always vice presidential dreams to keep her going.

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Clearly the Shrubbery
I’m not going to say much about George W. Bush’s “memoir” because I have not read it. Although I do hear it’s a good action adventure account of one man’s Presidency. It may even make a good film, with George Clooney disarming hijacked planes with seconds to spare, using dialogue taken from other movies, or some other action star discovering that those WMDs turned out to be actual yellow cake, with cream cheese frosting. Or maybe George thwarts a Hurricane caused by Lex Luther, who is hell-bent on destroying the world’s beignet supply. Or maybe there will be a beautiful First Lady — played by Sarah Palin — with a mama grizzly slung over her shoulder and TLC’s cameras filming every exciting moment!

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Finally, of course, next week is Thanksgiving. Turkey time! No, not Turtle Time — that’s after turkey time. There is a lot to be thankful for this year, and for me it’s having a great job, funny friends, happy family, living plants, and, thanks to Leonard and The Clyde Fitch Report, the ability to clear my brain every few weeks. I’m grateful that we have a political system that provides so much comic relief and natural term limits. I’m grateful that even though there were some very, um, interesting changes made to Congress due to the elections, the truly nutty candidates did not make it in.

Now if only Cindy could come out and play again, I’d be really grateful.

Elizabeth Burke, a New York-based actor, has been involved in politics since her first campaign at age 16. Burke’s Law does not necessarily represent the views of The Clyde Fitch Report.