Watching Meet the Press is like watching Weekend at Bernie’s.

In that madcap, late-eighties romp, whose precise storyline I cannot now recall, our two protagonists’ fortunes depend upon the continued public perception that Bernie, their host at his beach house for the weekend, is still alive. But alas, he has died. Perhaps he comically choked on a piece of beef. Perhaps he had a heart attack. No matter; the task now falls to our two young protagonists to parade him around in public in a wheelchair or in the back seat of a car as if he’s just asleep or meditating or reading intently. The point is, for reasons I do not now remember, it is vitally important to the two young men that everyone believe that Bernie is still alive.

Likewise, it is vitally important to our protagonists on Meet the Press that everyone believe that the United States Government is still alive. Their fortunes depend on it, you see.

Yes, yes, I know that a certain ability to suspend disbelief is necessary when watching a work of fiction. But when I was watching Weekend at Bernie’s, I couldn’t help but to scoff. “That’s so dumb. No one would believe that this stiff is alive.”

Believing that the United States Government is still alive requires a suspension of disbelief that I simply can’t muster. I can’t help but to scoff at how anyone would believe –beyond a childlike wishful thinking, that is– that the United States Government is alive and kickin’. “Can’t you see the rigor mortis?! The look on his face that he’s goin’ home?! He never says anything! Do you honestly believe that he’s alive?! He’s been called over to the other side!”

The folks on Meet the Press, bless their hearts, want to believe so, so badly that the object of their affection is hearty and hale and that its prospects have never been brighter. They’re like employees at a video cassette factory who refuse to believe that sales of VCRs peaked about twenty years ago and that they’re pretty much a special order item now.

The market has moved on. Something better came along that didn’t eat tapes.

But who can blame the host of Meet the Press, and the esteemed guest panelists, and the cast and crew and producers for holding out hope that any person aspiring to even the barest modicum of decency would not vomit and set about forging a new mutual defense association upon beholding that rotted, diseased stiff in Washington? They’d have to sell their houses and take the kids out of school and move to Grafton. Who wants to go to that kind of trouble? Who wants to ruin a good thing?

But you can put all the sunglasses in the world on that corpse and it’s not gonna fool anyone. It’s dead. You can put a pen in its hand and forge its signature if you’d like, but that doesn’t make its words carry any weight.

So they perform for their audience as if the United States Government exists at law. “Welcome back from that commercial break, everyone! Up next we’ll be driving our bus around the country and beating the drums and reminding everyone that Bernie’s holding an election soon! And then after our cooking segment comes a special report from our Washington correspondent about the benefits of video tapes and how only terrorists and weirdos use DVD players! You don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist, do you? They’re smelly and they never get laid! And don’t even get me started on Blu Ray players! The people who buy those are on the Department of Homeland Security’s no fly list because they’re known domestic extremists! …Jim, what do you think about the Lord of the Universe, that common-government-employee-turned-religious-figure-inside-his-mind?”

“Well that’s a fascinating question, Bill. I’ll try to answer it with the same gravitas with which it was posed, assuming that you’re not carrying on some meta-ironic performance art piece in making like any decent person would accord a United States ‘law’ a degree of respect exceeding what’s necessary to drop a turd right in the middle of it. It does take some careful positioning of one’s asshole, you know. I mean, it’s not like you can exactly see back there. Did I answer your question?”

“All I know is that you were appropriately respectful of authority with that answer. Let’s move along. Mabel, give us your take on the rapt attention with which all good Americans should regard the non-events with that nondiction.”

“I want a whore name.”

“Wha?”

“I want a whore name. No one names their children ‘Mabel’ or ‘Fred’ or ‘Xavier’ these days. Give me a cool, modern, whore name.”

” ‘Brittany’ ?”

“Mmm… It’s not pole-dancerish enough.”

” ‘Krystal’ ?”

“Oh yes! I like that one!”

“Very well. Let’s start over. Krystal, tell us what you’re seeing on the ground. Are people paying their taxes and doing what they’re told because people tell them to do it, notwithstanding any presence or absence of a vivifying motive force of moral authority?”

“Of course they are! You’d be some sort of troublemaker otherwise, deserving of all the stops pulled out to see that you remain He Who Must Not Be Named lest your voice of reason cause this towering spire of fraud to collapse! We’d have to get whole new advertisers and everything! A lot of folks have got a lot riding on this charade, this empty husk of a political system.”

“Penetrating analysis, Krystal. …Up next: Fashion-forward smart chips implanted in the forehead with a pneumatic gun: Could it help you save money at the pump? We’ll find out right after a word from our pharmaceutical company sponsors. And remember: Only conspiracy theorists believe that food is necessary for good health. All disease results from a pharmaceuticals deficiency. You’re watching Meet the Press and we’re here to tell you that the federal government exists, the system exists, all is well, the country hasn’t collapsed, and happy days are still here again. We’ll be right back!”

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