by Burt Prelutsky | Los Angeles

Back in 1954, a lawyer named Joseph Welch became famous virtually overnight when he looked contemptuously at Joe McCarthy and said, “Have you no decency, sir, at long last?”  As clumsy as the line was, he said it so effectively that the next thing we knew, Otto Preminger had hired him to play a judge and deliver equally sanctimonious lines in “Anatomy of a Murder.”

The question of decency runs through my head every time I see or hear a celebrity or a politician these days. For instance, I keep asking myself if I am more disgusted by what Roman Polanski did some 30-odd years ago or what his legion of defenders are presently saying in his defense.  Just because he directed a couple of good movies and a lot of lousy ones, we have most of Hollywood signing petitions on his behalf.  Whoopi Goldberg, who was apparently paying close attention when Bill Clinton was parsing the word “is,” has gone so far as insisting that what Polanski did to the 13-year-old girl wasn’t really rape.  The problem with calling these Hollywood freaks on the carpet is that the more repulsed that normal human beings are with them, the more convinced they are that they’re as sophisticated, not to mention morally superior, as their press releases claim they are.

Some time ago, I suggested that when John Huston’s degenerate character, Noah Cross, dragged his young granddaughter off into the night at the end of “Chinatown,”  Roman Polanski was the only person in the world who actually believed he had directed a movie with a happy ending.  Now, thanks to the 150 show biz celebrities who have signed a petition demanding that the child-rapist go free, I see how terribly naïve I was.

Or consider Jimmy Carter, who has spent the past three decades cozying up to the likes of Yasser Arafat and working overtime to prove that people who call him America’s biggest anti-Semite aren’t just whistling “Dixie.”

But, not content with merely condemning Israel’s Jews, he branched out a while ago and condemned Southern Baptists for oppressing their womenfolk, going so far as to turn his back on the church he has belonged to for his entire life.  No word yet whether Mr. Peanut plans to join up with the Sunnis or the Shi’a.

Then we have an ex-vice president, Al Gore, who has spent the past several years getting rich in a way that would have had Charles Ponzi gnashing his teeth in envy.  First, Gore announced that the earth was heating up and that people in Kansas would soon be up to their knees in the Pacific Ocean.  Then, when Mother Nature pulled a fast one and cooled things down slightly, as is her wont, Gore didn’t miss a beat.  Instead, he said we were undergoing climate change.  People didn’t know what that meant, but Gore, in those ominous tones he has mastered, said it was every bit as bad as global warming and, so, the money just kept rolling in.

Well, far be it from me to miss out on a good thing.  So it was that I, too, began paying close attention to the weather.  After all, it was obviously a growth industry.  What I found to my horror was that things were far scarier than Mr. Gore, at his spookiest, had suggested.  For instance, even here in Los Angeles, where we generally take weather for granted, I noticed that between January and July, the median temperature rose from 63 to 93, an average increase of five degrees a month.  The increase was so gradual that, like the frog in the pot of boiling water, I’m not sure I would have even noticed if I hadn’t been paying such close attention.  Now, it’s not my wish to panic anyone, but if the trend continues at that rate, by the end of 2010, the average temperature will be close to…180 degrees!

In order to do further study, I’m hoping to obtain a federal grant so that I can get a really good thermometer and several notebooks and pencils.  I believe I can handle the entire job for about $10 million.

While we’re on the subject of numbers, and while I’m waiting for my $10 million piece of the stimulus package, I recently checked out the ages at which our 43 presidents were first elected.  (Note:  Even though Barack Obama is the 44th president, he’s only the 43rd individual to hold the office.  The problem is that one man, Grover Cleveland, a born troublemaker, was both the 22nd and the 24th president, having been elected in 1884 and then again in 1892.)

In any case, as I was saying, I discovered that 26 of our presidents were elected in their 50s, while nine of them were first elected in their 60s.  Some of those 35 men were fine, and included the likes of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Lincoln; while others, such as Wilson, Harding, Hoover, FDR, LBJ, Nixon and Carter, left a good deal to be desired.

What I found most telling was that the half dozen men who were initially elected in their 40s (Pierce, Cleveland, Teddy Roosevelt, JFK, Clinton and Obama) don’t make a very impressive case for youth.  On the other hand, the only one who was elected in his 70s was Ronald Reagan.  Now I’m not saying I’m another Reagan, but I will be in my 70s by the time 2012 rolls around and, assuming I’ve completed my weather study by then and have somehow avoided being burned to a crisp, I would consider it an honor and a privilege to run against that young whippersnapper, Barack Obama.

In addition to my age, two other things I’d have going for me are, one, I didn’t attend an Ivy League school and, perhaps best of all, I’ve never been a lawyer.

Finally, I fully expect that any day now Robert Gibbs will announce that Rio de Janeiro has been named Chicago’s sister city and, so, thanks to the efforts of Barack, and the sacrifices of Michelle and Oprah, Chicago will, in a sense, be co-hosting the 2016 Olympics.

And in other totally unrelated news, Gibbs will inform the media that President Obama has declared war on Denmark. CRO

copyright 2009 Burt Prelutsky

Television scriptwriter, former humor columnist for the L.A. Times and a movie critic for Los Angeles magazine.

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