Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns contain satire and parody based on current events and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

No doubt this has been said before, but it bears repeating:

Disagree with a conservative and he will think one of three things, in ascending order of severity: (1) You have considered the arguments and come to a different conclusion than he; (2) you are ignorant; (3) you are stupid.

Disagree with a left-winger and he will come to only one conclusion: You are a bad person.

This comes to mind after a conversation I heard last week between a conservative and a self-described left-winger. The topic was California’s budget deficit, somewhere in the stratosphere above $30 billion.

“I’m a left-winger,” said the left-winger. “I think we need to raise taxes.”

“Any other ‘business’ would retrench,” said the conservative, “but the Legislature will never consider laying off any of the 37,000 new employees the state hired in the last four years. That’s what I would do.”

Came the disdainful reply: “You would.”

Message received – conversation over. Obviously, only a bad person would consider depriving somebody of a paycheck, and no matter that retention of said employee might drag the business under.

This is the mindset of the Golden State’s Democrat-controlled Legislature. And although the minority party is holding the line against tax increases, the GOP has shown no stomach for pruning the dead wood.

It’s like the two Democrats who bumped into one another in the state Capitol rotunda.

“You can’t believe what a Republican colleague just told me,” said the first.

“And what was that?” asked the second.

“He said that for the good of the state, I should fire Jimmy – that he was a worthless layabout who didn’t even pretend to have useful work to do.”

“No!” said legislator No. 2. “And what did you say?”

“I said ’twas true, but ‘who are we to criticize?'”

The “outrage” over the chief executive’s carrier landing drones on. The latest phony kvetch from the carping left: He delayed the carrier’s docking. Well, at least he wasn’t getting a haircut. The real complaint: “How dare George Bush look so … so … presidential?”

Political observers have been falling over one another, trying to be among the first to compare today’s nine Democratic Party presidential hopefuls with the “seven dwarves” of the ’88 campaign. We’re above such an unseemly scramble, because we write just once a week and don’t have a chance of beating the daily purveyors of punditry to the punch.

However, we can invite you to draw lines from the names of 2003’s Nugatory Nine and what you think is each one’s diminutive doppelganger:

Carol Moseley Braun Bashful
Howard Dean Doc
John Edwards Dopey
Dick Gephardt Grumpy
Bob Graham Happy
John Kerry Sleepy
Dennis Kucinich Sneezy
Joseph Lieberman Nasty
Al Sharpton Greasy

Send us your picks, and we’ll let you know the preponderance of opinion when we have a decent tally. And if we don’t have a decent tally, we’ll make one up. (No, you may not call them all “Dopey.”) More audience participation: Exposure of a man’s outrageous lies and reckless libel should make a poor political foundation, but there’s the Rev. Al, in a seat of honor at the Democratic Party table. The prize of hearty congratulations will go to the reader who best explains – seriously or in jest – the Sharpton phenomenon.

Howard Bashford was among those sniping at Bill Bennett after the former Cabinet secretary’s gambling was revealed.

“That moralizer!” he snarled. “I’ll never forgive him!”

“I’m surprised,” I said. “I never took you for a Bennett admirer. Why is it you feel betrayed?”

“I don’t feel betrayed,” he said.

“Well,” I pressed, “are you angry that he may have let down all the good people who did admire him?”

“That’s not it, either,” he said.

“Then why will you never forgive him?” I demanded.

And Howard replied, “I’ll never forgive him for being right about so much for so long.”

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