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

Evidence suggests early Britons ate roasted toads.

So read the headline on an Associated Press story about an archeological dig near Stonehenge.

Amy Handleman thought this would be a good conversation starter for her lunch with Dr. Howard Bashford, who directs the Department of Irrelevant Data at the Smithsonian Institution.

She related the story and chuckled, “Can you imagine? Eating toads!”

Dr. Bashford merely shrugged.

“I can top that,” he said. “Evidence suggests that early Republican leaders had backbones and walked erect.”

“No!” Handleman exclaimed, nearly spilling her low-cal decaffeinated mocha. Then she caught herself. “Wait a minute! I read somewhere that early Republicans rid the nation of the scourge of slavery … freed the slaves, in fact.

“Later, a guy named something or other Roosevelt came along and gained a reputation as a ‘trust buster.’ If that isn’t backbone, I don’t know what is.”

“That was Theodore Roosevelt,” said Bashford, with a superior air. “He was president more than 100 years in the past. He and the mid-19th century Republicans are regarded by scholars such as I as practically pre-Cambrian.”

“But isn’t it true that as late as the 1980s some guy named Reagan gained a reputation as a tough customer?” Handleman sallied.

“That would be Ronald Reagan,” Bashford sneered. “He even believed in the Constitution. But the ’80s were 30-odd years ago. At the rate our culture is changing, that might as well be the Neolithic.

“No, what vertebrae remain among the Republican leadership are vestigial. At the Smithsonian we’re debating whether or not to drop them back into the notochordata. You know, those creatures having a longitudinal nervous system chord, but without supporting bone structure.”

“Of course, I know,” Handleman sputtered. “The noto-whatevers were mentioned in my college course on ‘Feminism and the Lower Orders.’ You know, fish, reptiles, amphibians, men.”

“Tut, tut,” said Bashford, unperturbed. “Don’t feel you have to justify yourself. Ignorance such as yours is widespread among your generation. The point is, earlier Republicans once were able to stand up and fight for what they believed. Now, they either can’t, or they’d just rather not.”

“Fighting is bad!” said Handleman. “Compromise is good.”

“It could be,” sighed Bashford. “Unfortunately, the word has more and more come to fit its definition in The Blind Partisan’s Dictionary. Here, let me look it up for you.”

The good doctor rummaged in his briefcase, emerging with a dog-eared copy of the little volume. He thumbed through it and said, “Here it is: ‘compromise‘: n, an agreement, mutually arrived at by two parties, that Party A is right and Party B is wrong; v, the process by which two parties negotiate an agreement satisfactory to the stronger party.’

“You see, it has nothing to do with the force or rectitude of one’s arguments. It’s all about two factors: There’s power, of course, but there also is the willingness to fight hard. With the latter that the other side will give a little to minimize battle damage.”

“That’s, that’s terrible!” said Handleman. “It can only make you enemies; it can only keep you from getting along. People don’t like fighters. They like people who can compromise, no matter how you define the word. And that’s the kind of person I want to be.”

“OK, OK,” said Bashford. “By the way, you’re a Republican, aren’t you?”

“No way!” said Handleman huffily. “I’m leaving. You get the check.”

“I thought we’d split it, 50-50,” said Bashford, as Handleman rose and headed for the door.

“We’ll negotiate that next time,” she said over her shoulder.

“But that will be after I’ve paid for the whole thing,” Bashford muttered. “She’s a born Democrat.”


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