Politics & Other Mistakes: Whole new ball game
John Frary is a politician in the same sense that I'm the commissioner of Major League Baseball.
That's not a perfect analogy. Remaking Frary into a campaign-savvy huckster in a trendy suit would result in an incalculable loss of late-19th-century culture and wardrobe. Putting me in charge of the national pastime would produce such beneficial results as:
• Abolition of the designated hitter.
• Demolition of ballparks with artificial turf.
• Lifetime bans on Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire for dishonoring the game.
• A 30-day suspension for any player who refuses a kid’s polite request for an autograph.
• Torture-the-umpire night.
• Every team would play one game a month at which the most expensive ticket would cost $15 and a 16-ounce beer would sell for three bucks.
• No tofu dogs. Ever.
Hmmm, I may have wandered from whatever subject I intended to discuss. Something to do with politics. Or mistakes. Or …
Oh, yeah, Frary, the Republican candidate for Congress in Maine’s 2nd District. Unlike every other congressional hopeful in the nation, he refuses to pretend he’s a sports fan, which further erodes the thin conceit on which this column is based. If the guy would just fake some interest in baseball, I could compare him to legendary nonconformist and Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee, noted for sprinkling marijuana on his pancakes and throwing the “eephus” pitch, a slow, loopy curve, effective because it was completely unexpected.
Frary enjoys his flapjacks with traditional condiments. But he, too, employs the eephus concept. In one of his weekly newspaper ads, he tossed out this gem: “[T]he professional politician loves Truth about as much as a Muslim mullah loves a pork roll.”
So much for the Islamic vote.
He’s called his opponent, incumbent Democrat and former mill worker Mike Michaud, an “oleaginous congressmammal” and compared him to Mr. Potato Head. His Web site contains a satirical graph charting Michaud’s intelligence against that of a “Bright Baboon.” Michaud comes out ahead. Slightly.
But Frary will still have to kiss the votes of polite society goodbye. Too bad, because they’re the only ones who might know what “oleaginous” means.
In another ad, Frary admitted his “prospects of victory rest rather precariously on the possibility that Mike Meeshoo (sic) will defect to North Korea with the secret plans for a high-tech forklift.”
That eliminates any North Korean votes, not to mention those of sensitive Franco-phones. I also wouldn't be looking for donations from fork-lift manufacturers.
Frary isn’t concerned about who he alienates. In a yet-to-be-aired TV spot, he says, “Most voters claim that they’re sick and tired of the usual baloney. I suspect some of you are lying.”
He’s also not worried about finding the cash to get that ad broadcast. As campaign manager Robert Shaffer joked in an e-mail he probably shouldn’t have sent to me, “If we go belly up broke October 15th, no big deal - I'll just have Frary arrested at a bordello, and we'll dominate the last two weeks of free press. (There will even be time for a conversion, to bring the Religious Right back on board:).”
Let's see, that precludes the votes of prevaricators, prostitutes and the pious. Anybody left?
The Bangor Daily News thinks not. In an Aug. 20 editorial, the paper claimed Frary’s antics were threatening the viability of the Republican Party. “If Mr. Frary is as serious about trying to unseat Rep. Michaud as he insists,” the editorial said, “there is a lot of evidence to the contrary. It’s a confused message at best, and a vain attempt at comedy at worst.”
Setting aside the question of whether the BDN is capable of judging comedy (this is, after all, the newspaper that once edited the jokes out of Dave Barry’s nationally syndicated columns because it feared they were too risqué for Bangor), let's address the remaining two points: Frary's candidacy is destroying the GOP, and Frary has no clear message.
Between 1976 and 1986, the Democratic Party ran these candidates in the 2nd District: Leighton Cooney (20 percent of the vote), Harold Silverman (21 percent), Chipman Bull (23 percent) and Richard Charette (23 percent). Not only did the Dems survive, they've owned the seat since 1994.
Apparently, a prolonged period of nominating unelectable fruitcakes for high public office does a political organization no permanent damage. Good news for the Greens.
Which is not to say Frary is a fruitcake. He’s eccentric in his dress and directness. His campaign suffers from the enthusiasm of amateurs. But his ideas – build an oil refinery at the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, allow off-shore oil drilling with the same environmental safeguards used in Norway, admit (unlike any other candidate) that he has no idea how to solve the health-care crisis – can hardly be categorized as irrational. They could even be considered refreshing.
Like instant replay in baseball.
I'll answer your e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org when the game is over. The Sox game, I mean.