Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sarah Palin Takes On Mr. Snuffleupagus and the President

Posted By on May 22, 2012, 6:20 PM

Half-term former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin thinks presidential hopeful/wishful/prayerful Mitt Romney should dredge up the Jeremiah Wright issue in his campaign against President Barack Obama (apparently because it worked so well for Palin and Sen. John McCain in 2008). ---

Now, a neurological condition prevents me from watching Palin on Fox News -- the sound of her voice, coupled with the spectacle of her various tics and folksy mannerisms, tends to induce seizure activity in my brain, bringing on bouts of nausea, uncontrollable vomiting, and obscene Tourette's-like outbursts. It's an ugly scene which nobody should witness.

But, for those who can stomach Palin's Monday-night appearance on Hannity, here's a clip:


During the same interminable interview, Palin complained that the Republican Party is too easy on President Obama: "Some of these GOP operatives, Sean, they seem to have the fighting instinct of Mr. Snuffleufagus [sic]."

For Palin, the mangled mispronunciation of any polysyllabic name is par for the course, so most transcriptions duly and forgivingly render this quote using the corrected spelling without comment. Still, in certain circles, "Snuffleufagus" is regarded as a major gaffe. It's a mistake commonly made by lisping younger stepsisters and rather dull second-grade schoolchildren -- the same ones who, in the 1970s, conflated Jim Henson's oeuvre with a popular nursery rhyme, and insisted on referring to The Muppet Show as "The Muffet Show."

Since then, the vast majority of those younger sisters and second-grade schoolchildren have, through remedial linguistic training and careful attention to personal development, outgrown such verbal atrocities.

But not Sarah Palin.

click to enlarge comicbookguy.jpg
She was referring, of course, to Mr. Snuffleupagus -- that's "upagus" with a P. (Boo-yeah! Take that, Palin! Your accidental speech apraxia won't go unnoticed or un-overanalyzed by this hypervigilant blogger! I say: "Worst 'Snuffleupagaus' pronunciation ever!")

The really baffling thing about Palin's statement, though, is her choice of metaphor: the fighting instinct of Mr. Snuffleupagus. Mr. Snuffleupagus, for crying out loud! What could Palin possibly have against Snuffy? Well, obviously she meant that Republican campaign strategists are too timid, and that they should use every lame, out-of-context quote by every one of President Obama's past associates to smear him in their desperate attempt to capture the White House.

But why would she consciously bring a PBS children's-show character into the debate -- especially considering the fact that Palin opposes public broadcasting on principle?

And still, why would anyone, regardless of political philosophy, choose Mr. Snuffleupagus of all things as an emblem of political ineffectuality? There must be many, many more apt metaphors than that! Come on, Sarah -- you're supposed to be a national leader of a wacky conservative movement. Surely you can do better!

Mr. Snuffleupagus is a loveable, morose woolly mammoth who, for quite some time, was invisible to everybody on Sesame Street except Big Bird. Mr. Snuffleupagus is slow and sincere, with a strange otherworldly detachment and a kind of sprightly hitch in his gait. But Snuffy isn't particularly known for lacking a "fighting instinct" any more than any other Muppet. By and large, denizens of The Street are peaceful creatures not prone to mounting political attacks.

Palin describes Mr. Snuffleupagus thus: "He would hide, he would back down, he would run the other direction." Now, I'm not sure which Sesame Street she was watching, but it wasn't the one the rest of us grew up on.

Yes, until the mid-1980s when he became generally visible, every Mr. Snuffleupagus scene ended with his lumbering offscreen immediately before any humans entered. But Snuffy never ran off or hid himself -- he never expressed fear of humans; he never intentionally avoided being sighted by them. He always left calmly and deliberately, for his own inscrutable reasons, and it became a running joke that Gordon and Susan believed Mr. Snuffleupagus to be a figment of Big Bird's imagination. That was the humor of Sesame Street during the Jim Henson era.

Let's play a game. Specifically, Match Game, a commercially funded CBS program that reached its height of popularity in the 1970s. For readers who are not ancient and decrepit enough to remember this hilarious bit of television history, this is how it went: Ultra-suave host Gene Rayburn asked a panel of six drunken celebrities (typically including Brett Somers, Richard Dawson and the deliriously campy Charles Nelson Reilly) to complete a fill-in-the-blank statement secretly in writing on a card. Then, a contestant attempted to guess the panel's most popular solution -- for each "match," the contestant received a point.


So, in our game, Gene Rayburn starts Round 2 by saying, "Dumb Dora is so dumb ..." This is a familiar call-and-response trope, so he pauses for the audience to enthusiastically shout, "How dumb is she?!" Then, Rayburn begins again: "Dumb Dora is so dumb, she went on Fox News to say GOP operatives have the fighting instinct of ... blank."

Wokka-wokka porn music plays while the celebrities fill out their cards. Charles Nelson Reilly mugs for the camera, rolling his eyes, Brett Somers furrows her brow, and Richard Dawson humorously pokes some minor Hollywood starlet with his magic marker.

Now, it's time for contestant Sarah Palin to match the panel. Rayburn repeats the statement: "Dumb Dora is so dumb, she went on Fox News to say GOP operatives have the fighting instinct of ... blank."

Palin answers in a timid, questioning voice: "Mr. Snuffleufagus?" The audience groans.

One by one, members of the celebrity panel reveal their answers. Brett Somers: "a mouse." Bzzt! Vicki Lawrence: "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia." Bzzt! (Audience groans again.) Charles Nelson Reilly: "Paul Lynde." Bzzt! (But it gets a good audience reaction.) One by one, the remaining celebrities fail to match Palin's bizarre, random answer. But Richard Dawson comes up with the best solution -- the one name that, in 1974, was guaranteed to elicit guffaws of derisive laughter: "Richard M. Nixon." Bzzt!

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