When Barack Obama says he wants to “kick somebody’s ass” over the Gulf oil spill, we presume he may be willing to settle for a mule, since mules are easier to find than asses and provide bigger targets. But he has to be careful whose ass to kick. Pick the wrong one, and he’ll get a swift kick in return.
The Secret Service would shoot the offending ass and ask later whose it was. But still, it’s undignified for a president of the United States to suffer an ass-kicking. The president is an elegant Ivy Leaguer, after all, equally at home at a student seminar or a Sunday brunch with the Georgetown elites. He’s not just a vulgar dude off the street, brawling in South Side Chicago.
Some of the president’s friends, obsessed as usual with race, accuse certain reporters of dissing the president by reporting his use of what they, always looking for a gaffe, regard as the language of the street. A writer in Time magazine accuses the Drudge Report of playing to the “bigotry” of its readers (who include just about everybody in America) with a “racist” headline.
Mr. Obama told a television interviewer he’ll have to ask “experts” to tell him which stubborn ass deserves a presidential kick. He didn’t say who among the BP executives may be keeping an ass. He could just dispatch Rahm Emanuel to Columbia, Tenn., “the mule capital of the world,” to get advice from old-timers who were once on intimate terms with the progeny of an ass.
You wouldn’t expect an experienced ass-kicker to call in experts to identify the right one for the hearty kick. Anyone who has dealt with an ass or his progeny would know instinctively which one to kick. Harry S. Truman, Mr. Obama’s distinguished predecessor, would have known better than to kick a Missouri mule, which has the reputation for being the meanest and most stubborn of all, and as a young man, Mr. Truman struggled behind one to keep his furrows straight. But this president is a city boy and might not even know the difference between jack and jenny. A horse and an ass are both necessary to produce a mule, who as a hybrid has little pride of ancestry and no hope of posterity, and this lack of breeding gives him the manners of a rock musician.
“A bad mule is bad news,” writes Bob Duncan in the official program of Mule Day, celebrated annually in Columbia, which is also the ancestral home of James K. Polk, the 11th president of the United States. “A mule has both the endurance and the evil wit to wear a poor man down if he does not kill him outright with a lightning-fast kick to the head. A bad mule will tear up your crops, rip up his harness, destroy your plows and tools, harass your other animals and kick down your gates and fences. A bad mule is a devil on four legs and his reputation will spread faster than kudzu. You can’t sell him because nobody will buy him. You are stuck with him until death.”
The most unexpected people can be familiar with the ass. A little known fact is that the late Teddy Kennedy kept a pet ass at Hyannis Port. When he challenged Jimmy Carter in the Democratic presidential primaries in 1980, Mr. Jimmy was so enraged at this affront to his dignity that he, seeking revenge, famously boasted that “I’ll whip his ass.” Mr. Kennedy took the animal to an undisclosed location for safekeeping, and Mr. Jimmy left office never having whipped or kicked anybody’s ass.
Mr. Obama obviously wants to kick a British ass, but it’s not clear that the CEO of BP even owns one. Ass-kicking is not a sport particularly beloved by the Brits. But the president has made his point: The Financial Times reported Thursday that British industry executives are “alarmed” by “inappropriate” and “aggressive” presidential rhetoric aimed at BP. Richard Lambert, director general of a British management group, said that “apart from anything else, BP is a vital part of the American energy infrastructure. So the United States has an interest in the welfare of BP, as much as the rest of the world does.”
If he thinks about it, the president might not have a kick coming. Maybe he could better use his time encouraging those with the job to actually “plug that damn hole.”
c Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.