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Cheese Stands Alone 

Kolbe's raising a stink over nothing.

Congressman Jim Kolbe has apparently gone insane. I think it's the pressure of trying to be a gay Republican. I mean, nobody gives a crap about his being gay. And, as for that Republican thing, well, he was in Vietnam, so we can probably explain it away as some kind of delayed stress syndrome. But being a gay Republican has got to try a man's soul.

Remember last year at the Republican convention when he got up to speak and some rednecks in the Texas delegation tried to turn their chairs around? But they found out that the entire row of chairs was bolted together and the morons didn't have enough leadership and/or collective intelligence to figure out how (and in which direction) to turn the row around. Here's a little hint: If you're a Republican, you'll want to do things in a counter-clockwise manner.

Anyway, Kolbe has been cruising along in his ninth term, minding his own business (if not always that of his constituents), gaining and losing weight like he's Luther Vandross, just doin' that congressman thang. But now all of a sudden, he's opening his mouth and commenting on all sorts of things. It's like he's got some kind of professional death wish.

There was an episode of Taxi where the Sunshine Cab Co. closed down and all the people had to find other jobs. Louie DePalma (Danny DeVito), for example, became a stockbroker who would call little kids and ask, "Do you know where Mommy keeps her checkbook?"

Meanwhile, Elaine (Marilu Henner) got a job as an executive assistant to a guy who had a do-nothing job high up in a corporate hierarchy. For 15 years the guy had collected a fat paycheck while doing absolutely nothing. People would pass him in the hallways and say "Hi," but no one knew his name, his title or what he was supposed to be doing. Unfortunately, Elaine persuaded him to speak up at the next board meeting and when he did, his cloak of anonymity was stripped away and he lost his job.

This is eerily similar to what is happening to Jim Kolbe. For years he sailed along, keeping quiet, voting the wrong way, and getting re-elected by huge margins. He could have been a graduate of Gallaudet University for all I knew. It wasn't until I heard him give a speech at a Girl Scout function I attended that I realized that he even had a voice. I always figured that after he left Congress he could become a lobbyist for Trappist monks.

But now, all of a sudden, he's popping off on just about everything. Heck, just last week, he made two major announcements. On one, he was just wrong. But on the other, he was absolutely out of his mind. Maybe he's been told that his district will be gerrymandered out of existence or maybe he has a new assistant who looks like Marilu Henner or, well, you know ... the male equivalent thereof, and he's taking some bad advice.

First he popped off about the Border Patrol. He used to be one of its biggest backers. (Big, as in looking like Divine in Hairspray.) He never said much, but he always voted in favor of more money and more manpower for the overwhelmed agency. But now, all of a sudden, he's into micro-management. He's questioning the location of their checkpoints and he wants to know how much gasoline they're using.

Look, Congressman, this situation is not about nitpicking. It requires broad strokes. As I've gotten older, I realize that often the simplest idea is also the best. When it comes to the border, either open it or close it. I really don't care which. All it takes is the resolve to go all the way. Each option has upsides and downsides, but the way things are now, it's like trying to be sort of a virgin.

It's like the Border Patrol guys are playing tag, one against 50, and the 50 are allowed to touch the ones who are frozen and set them free again. Yeah, that's just what this grim, life-and-death situation needed--a discussion of fuel costs.

That was just dumb; the other thing is suicidal. Congressman Kolbe wants to get rid of the penny. He says the government makes a lot of them and people just put them in jars. Yeah, well, what's your point? That's where pennies go, at least until that night when you're really hungry but you don't have any folding money, so you take the jar down to Albertson's and overload that money machine, the one that rips you off by only paying 91 cents to the dollar, but it really doesn't matter because they're only pennies!

Jeez, Congressman, didn't you ever study economics?

He says he wants to eliminate the penny and have merchants round their prices off to a nickel. You're asking for civil war here. People will pay $18.72 for a medium popcorn and a small soda at the movie theater without batting an eye. But tell them that because a Republican sponsored a bill it's now going to cost $18.75, and you've got a fight. (And you know that it won't go to $18.70.)

Indeed, therein lies the crux of the matter. The average guy will see it as an attempt to let businesses gouge people a few pennies at a time. And the average guy will be right.

Plus, isn't it blasphemous for an Arizonan to attack pennies? Don't some pennies sort of consist of a small amount of a copper-like substance? That's a big source of pride in these parts. Why, if I'm not mistaken, copper used to be one of Arizona's Four Cs, along with construction, cronyism and convicts. Next thing you know, Kolbe will want us to stop building new prisons at the rate of one a month.

Congressman, you'd better get all this talking out of your system now. You've got a re-election campaign coming up next year.

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