When I wrote about the Democrats’ pathetic showing against Bill Barr last week, I thought the Dems had sunk as low as they could possibly go. (Proving what a naïve optimist I am at heart.) But I spoke too soon. Because losing a debate to a taciturn, composed opponent is one thing.
But being soundly trounced by an opponent who doesn’t even show up is quite another.
I speak, of course, of Chicken Gate. (I had an alternative name for this political scandal. But upon further reflection, I am far too classy to use the phrase “Cluster Cluck.”) (You’re welcome.)
After having gone through one day of listening to Crazy Mazie and the Dueling Dicks (Durbin and Blumenthal), Barr decided not to show up for an encore performance. (By the way, if you ever get the chance to see Crazy Mazie and the Dueling Dicks in concert, take a pass, because they are terrible. I wouldn’t go to one of their shows even if they shared the bill with Elvis Costello and the Attractions and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.) (And I love both of those bands.) (RIP Tom Petty.)
When he heard that Barr wasn’t going to show up, Democrat Steve Cohen decided that this was his big chance to finally win a debate, for once in his miserable life. So he gathered his props, and made his bid for forensic immortality.
He placed a ceramic chicken on the table where Barr would have sat, and he put a bucket of fried chicken on the table in front of himself.
In doing so, he forgot the immutable laws enshrined in the Democrat party platform:
Never let a crisis go to waste.
Never take a black voter to your Klan rally.
Never take Elizabeth Warren to a powwow. (#wemustneverstopmockingher)
Never take a ceramic chicken to a Senate hearing.
They are all clichés for a reason, Stevie.
When a reporter asked him to interpret the deep meaning behind the chicken props, Cohen said, and I quote, “Chicken Barr should have showed up today. It’s a sad day for America.”
Which gave me two thoughts:
- When you’re trying to project gravitas, evoke a funereal, somber tone, and warn of a great nation in political twilight, it doesn’t help establish the mood if you do so… WHILE HOLDING A CERAMIC CHICKEN! (Cue Sam Kinison scream: OH! OOOHHH!)
- A Chicken Bar sounds like a pretty sweet entrepreneurial idea. I’m picturing a wide selection of imported and domestic beers, happy-hour white-or-dark-meat specials, dart boards along one wall with Steve Cohen’s big, dumb face on them. To quote another illustrious Simpson: “Mmmm, chicken bar.”
So if you’ll just give me a moment, I’m going to apply for a trademark on “Chicken Bar.”
This stunt was so dumb that I think it deserves a place among the all-time best TV moments that emblazoned themselves in our consciousness by adding a phrase to our national lexicon.
The best example to date has been “jumping the shark.” For those of you too young to remember, the coolest guy on tv in the 1970s (with the possible exceptions of Jim Rockford and the Six Million Dollar Man) was Fonzie on Happy Days. When that show had exhausted all creative story premises, an episode aired in which the Fonz – who had previously been voted the tv personality least likely to ever water ski –jumped over a shark while waterskiing, in a leather jacket. (Because everyone knows that chicks dig leather jackets over life jackets. Duh.)
Hence “jumping the shark,” meaning that you’ve stooped to a desperate stunt which inadvertently sounds the death knell for a doomed enterprise.
I propose that we now replace “jumping the shark” with “pulling a ceramic chicken.”
Before I go on, I’d like to apologize to Mayor Pete. I am not up on gay slang, so if the phrase “pulling a ceramic chicken” has any double-entendre meaning, it was not intended. So mea culpa to the Pence-Slanderer from South Bend.
Good lord! I tried to put myself in Steve Cohen’s mind, to figure out what he could have been thinking. (If you’re curious, it was very dark and cold and cramped in there, with lots of cobwebs and tumbleweeds, and the sound of wind blowing through empty passageways.)
Does he think that there is a long tradition of animal figurines being deployed as devastating trump cards in debates?
Does he believe that when Roman orators Marcus Aurelius and Cassius Clay (in addition to gay slang, I am also not super-knowledgeable about Roman orators) were debating the relative merits of a Republic vs. an Empire, Aurelius carried the day when he produced a small, bronze sheep? (To which Flavius Somebody-or-other said, “Clay may have command of Aristotle’s Rhetorical Triangle, along with a powerful right jab. But Aurelius has a graven farm animal! Huzzah!”)
Is Cohen under the impression that Lincoln was losing the Lincoln-Douglas debates, until he famously said, “My rotund, slavery-supporting Democrat friend makes a formidable argument, but has he considered…” then, with a flourish, from beneath his frock coat he sprang his surprise, lifting a wooden object high above his unattractively angular head, proclaiming, “this magnificent OAKEN COW?!!”
(Spoiler alert: the crowd went nuts, he won the presidency, and eventually defeated the slave-state Democrats in the Civil War, thanks in large part to what many later called “The Bovine Proclamation.”) (True story.)
Nicely done, Steve Cohen and Senate Democrats! You’ve performed the equivalent of stepping into an empty boxing ring, slipping on a piece of fried chicken, and falling onto your own fist, knocking yourself out cold.
You have started with chicken soup, and ended up with chicken poop.
You have truly “pulled a ceramic chicken.”
CO Nation, please share this column, and spread the word about the phrase that should replace “jump the shark.” I will consider my entire life well-lived if, during the Democrat primaries, one candidate accuses another of pulling a ceramic chicken.
(Doesn’t have to be Mayor Pete.) (But it would be hilarious if it were.)
Go forth now, and speak my truth!