The White House Ornament That Almost Was…

2 12 2008

ornament1

I really never anticipated writing more than one post about Christmas ornaments, but this one is hard to resist.

From the Washington Post:

Laura Bush asked members of Congress to pick local painters to decorate ornaments for this year’s 20-foot Fraser fir in the Blue Room. The globes (to be unveiled by the first lady tomorrow) are supposed to showcase something special about each congressional district. Washington state’s Rep. Jim McDermott contacted a local arts organization, which asked Lawrence, a collage artist, to create the local entry.

“I was at first nauseated, then realized it was an opportunity,” said Lawrence, 55, who frequently combines politics and satire in her work and saw this as the perfect way “to highlight Jim McDermott because he’s a hero of mine.”

The nine-inch ball is covered with swirly red and white stripes — and, in tiny glued-on text, salutes the Democratic congressman’s support for a resolution to impeach President Bush. (Also showcased: Washington state’s 1919 labor strike, its suffrage movement and the violent anti-World Trade Organization riots of 1999.) Lawrence sent it off to D.C. in September and was very surprised it was accepted for the tree — and that she was invited to this afternoon’s White House reception for the artists, which she flew to D.C. to attend.

“Apparently, they didn’t read it — or Laura Bush is more progressive than I believed,” Lawrence told us.

How I wish I could tell you that the story ended there.  But, alas, when our sneaky artist filled some friends in on the hidden message in the ornament, the news spread like wildfire, and found its way to the White House and the ear of the First Lady.  The ornament will not hang on the tree after all.

“Oh, dear,” said Seattle-based artist Deborah Lawrence, who created the red and white ornament that salutes Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and his support for a resolution to impeach the president. “This doesn’t really surprise me. But it’s disappointing that I won’t get to see it on the tree.”

Lawrence did attend the artists’ reception, but did not get to meet the hostess.  I wonder if somebody slipped one of those “Thanks, Santa” Obama ornaments in there.  I think I would have had to…





Palin vs. Murkowski….Another Epic Battle?

2 12 2008

athenaToday an article in Huffington Post has picked up on what could be, in Alaska, an epic battle come next year. In a tale worthy of Greek Mythology, Sarah Palin could be preparing to take on Senator Lisa Murkowski for her seat which becomes available in 2010.

Our story begins In 2002, when Frank Murkowski decided he’d had enough time in the Senate, and came home to Alaska to run for Governor. Murkowski, who had held the senate seat since 1981, won the gubernatorial bid. But who was to take his now vacant place in the senate? In his first wildly unpopular decision as governor, Murkowski appointed his daughter Lisa to the seat. It also became increasingly obvious over time that Frank was not cutting the mustard. Gas pipeline debacles and battles with the Legislature caused his popularity to plummet like a lead balloon. Adding insult to arrogance, he purchased a private jet to fly himself around the state and elsewhere. There was a radio contest to name the jet, and the winning entry was “The Bald Ego”.

Here’s where you picture Frank in a toga, being fed grapes, and fanned by his staff. Every once in a while, he’d make some bombastic proclamation that made the villagers angry, but other than that he had a pretty good life up on Mt. Olympus. Now and then, he’d wave over to the next mountain top where his daughter Lisa was actually not doing such a bad job being a senator according to the villagers. She wasn’t quite so conservative, appeared to be more ethical, worked harder, and actually seemed to care. Go figure.

Then came a young upstart from one of those outlying provinces from whence heroes always come. She was young, ferocious, and beautiful, and she had her eye on that throne. It was promising to be an epic battle. Troops on both sides rallied. Murkowski’s minions dropped their wine jugs and their platters of figs, and grabbed up weapons. They looked at the rag-tag team of outlanders, and decided that maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. All they had to do was keep the power they already had. They had the advantage. How hard could it be? But then the primary battle came, and in David vs. Goliath fashion, with one well-placed stone flung by her sling, Murkowski was struck smack between the eyes by the young woman from the village, and went down like a bag of dirt with a 19% approval rating.

After the stunned silence, the rejoicing began. We did it! One of US beat the grape-eating guy who was making everyone miserable! Sa-rah! Sa-rah! Sa-rah! And the Bald Ego went up for sale in the public marketplace, and Sarah reassigned the grape-peeler to another job, and the villagers loved her. They loved the idea of her. It was perfect. We needed a hero and we got one. Of course, over the months, many of the villagers began to see things they didn’t like. The new Queen started to pull people in from the obscure outlying province and put them in positions of power that they weren’t qualified for. People from the village started disappearing, banished to the hinterlands. She got rid of her humble toga, and started dressing more and more like a grape eater. She started visiting other kingdoms far away where people cheered for her, and attending parties far and wide, while her own kingdom suffered. Some of the villagers who were paying attention started to get a little nervous, and then a little disgruntled, and then downright mad.

But others remembered that humble young girl who flattened Murkowski, and refused to give up their dream. Heroes don’t come easy, and heroic tales must stay as they are written, otherwise it would just be too depressing. Alaskans have lost other heroes lately to greed and corruption and hubris, and this one would be just plain heartbreaking.

And now our Queen is looking around. She’s scanning the horizon, looking at other mountain tops, and new thrones, and new lands to conquer. She remembers Lisa, daughter of Frank the vanquished. Lisa rules the mountaintop over there, closer to all those parties, and cheering crowds. That throne might be nice…

But Lisa feels the gaze of the restless Queen, the one who flattened her father with a stone. She has been holding a white-hot hatred for the Queen who is now known as “Murkowski slayer.” It’s uncomfortable to live one mountain away from someone with that nickname when your own name is Murkowski. She’s been stifling her desire for vengeance, but this frontal assault on her own mountain would be just too much.

Murkowski says a run against her would be fraught with risk. If Palin lost, her stock would drop just ahead of a potential 2012 presidential run. And if she won, she’d be a backbencher in a chamber that is dominated by seniority — and would have to begin her presidential campaign as soon as she took office.

“If she wants to be president, I don’t think the way to the presidency is a short stop in the United States Senate,” Murkowski said.

Asked Monday to respond to Murkowski’s comments, Palin’s communications coordinator, Kate Morgan, said only, “The governor has never stated her intention or desire to run for that office.”

True, she has not stated her intention or desire to run for that office. But there’s an awful lot of activity on Mt. Olympus these days. The blacksmiths are busy, the horses are being counted, and the royal court has a strange glint in their eyes. And one thing we do know is that Queen Sarah’s restless nature is no longer content on her own mountain. Her destiny lies elsewhere. She likes the thrill of the battle, and the villagers know that Queen Lisa’s mountain is the most advantageous to conquer.

So what will the villagers do when 2010 comes? Whose side will they choose? The discontented villagers who’ve been paying attention to Queen Sarah and seeing the same arrogance and hubris that took down her predecessor will rally behind Lisa who has been doing better than her father. Others, who love their heroes, will remember how Lisa got to be Queen of her mountain, and they will remember her father the grape-eater with the jet, and the epic saga of the battle won for the people by that unlikely girl with the sling.

And others of us are still waiting for a brand new, and as yet unknown hero to arrive, and slay them both.