The big guy at the bar looked down upon the little guy at the bar and roared, “Are you calling me a liar?” “Oh, no sir,” replied the little guy, “I’m just telling you what a liar I am if you’re telling the truth!”
OK. I’m not calling those who run our government Nazis. I’m merely telling you how closely my feelings resemble those of a friend who was a POW of the Germans and subject to exclusively Nazi information from shortly after D-Day until he miraculously escaped. Hang on tight because this next line may throw you. He was captured by the Germans in France and sent to a POW camp in England. That’s right. How many of you can unpuzzle that? A little-known fact of World War II was that Germany occupied English territory. The Channel Islands, including Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney and Sark, fell to the Nazis along with France in 1940, and it was on Alderney that they constructed the only Nazi concentration camps on British soil.
The Germans provided their British and American prisoners with a daily newsletter pretending to offer news from the fighting fronts. Every day’s newsletter told of another “great German victory,” which was disconcerting to our men until they caught on that every “great German victory” took place farther east than the one before! The Allies were advancing. The Germans were retreating. But that didn’t affect German bragging about all their “great victories.”
Where am I headed with this? Our leaders (maybe “cheerleaders” would be more accurate) keep issuing self-serving and self-praising statements along the lines of, “The recession is ending”; “Economic recovery is now upon us”; “It was dicey for a while, but, man, did we ever pull this thing off!” Meanwhile, New York’s Tavern on the Green just went belly-up!
If you were a friend of mine visiting New York I would not permit you to leave without having lunch or dinner at Tavern on the Green. Overpriced, mediocre cuisine, long waits, but walking from the entrance to the dining room was second in excitement only to the walk down the aisle to the matrimonial altar. All the Tiffany lamps and elegant cut-glass fixtures and mirrors took the light and exploded it into a million rainbows. And the restaurant itself was nestled, like a diamond with doors, in the emerald setting of Central Park. Their last meal was New Year’s Eve.
To talk of victory over recession and joyous recovery, and then to witness the end of Tavern on the Green is a little like pretending college football is in great shape, and then all of a sudden the Rose Bowl is canceled for economic reasons. The demise of any other of the hundreds of over-priced restaurants in New York would not carry the same meaning. Tavern on the Green ranked up there with the Statue of Liberty, Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden and the Broadway Stage as a tourist icon. You can talk about recovery. And you can talk about the closing of Tavern on the Green. But you can’t talk about them both.
And look a little more carefully at those “newsletters” offered by our leaders – and major media ever-eager to give them mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and open-heart massage. The “good economic news” doesn’t talk about more jobs. It talks about the loss of jobs happening more slowly than expected. They don’t talk about fewer people getting unemployment checks. They talk about new applications for unemployment benefits being fewer in number than the wise men had predicted. In other words, things are not always as bad as they are sometimes.
Who was it who, when caught in mid-infidelity by his wife, denied the affair saying, “Who do you believe: me or your own lying eyes?” As I walk through my neighborhood on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and notice all the shuttered businesses, I feel like a candidate watching the returns on TV around 10:30 on election night when he’s getting clobbered. It used to be, new businesses would almost instantly move in and replace any that shut down. Now all the closed businesses come across like ghosts of prosperity-past standing there with folded arms and a flint-faced frown, saying to government and media: “Recovery? Yeah, yeah, sure, uh-huh!”
I propose the minting of a new award, like the Oscars, Emmys, Tonys and Golden Globes, for today’s cheerleading, sycophantic media. We’ll call it the “Ludwig,” named after Hitler’s favorite broadcaster during the war, Ludwig Sertorius. German newscasters began having a hard time toward the end of 1942 with sharp and fatal reverses in Russia and North Africa. None of them could spin as prize-winningly as Ludwig Sertorius.
When British Gen. Bernard Montgomery counter-attacked German Gen. Erwin Rommel’s advance at El Alamein in Egypt, sending his “Afrika Korps” into history’s longest and fastest retreat, old Ludwig faced the microphone and – with the Germans fleeing at top speed, mind you – told the German people, “All British attempts to interfere with our systematic advance to the rear have been successfully frustrated, defeated and smashed!”