There is a moment in the Woody Allen movie “Bananas” when Allen’s character realizes the rebel leader he’s followed to victory is nutty as a Snickers bar. “From now on, everyone will wear clean underwear every day!” the commandante announces to a cheering crowd. “And from now on, underwear will be worn on the outside, so we can check.”
A similar moment of truth has come to supporters of Pulaski County/Circuit Clerk Pat O’Brien. O’Brien had given indication earlier that he was not quite the hero people hoped for when they elected him to succeed an arrogant and incompetent predecessor, nor even the reasonably level-headed civil servant that people would have settled for. Shortly after he took office, he ordered all the clerk’s employees to write essays for him on the subject of “an adversity that you have overcome in your life,” explaining how the adversity arose, how the writer overcame it, and the lessons learned from the experience. Besides being a goofy dip into pop psychology, this was an invasion of privacy and a poorly-concealed excuse to get rid of employees for reasons unrelated to their ability to perform the duties of the county clerk’s office. Still, O’Brien apologists pretended not to notice. We speculated at the time that bra sizes might be his next concern. We weren’t far wrong.
Last week, the officious O’Brien went from nosing around in his employees’ private lives to nosing around in their underpants, his latest Queegian directive instructing employees to “Take a bath or shower daily. Use a deodorant. Wear clean undergarments daily.” Etc. No word yet on who’ll inspect the undergarments and underarms but don’t be surprised if the clerk himself assumes the duty. You know what they say about something you want done right.
If there’s an employee in the clerk’s office whose personal hygiene is offending the public and fellow workers, the clerk should do what a normal boss does: Call the employee aside and talk to her or him. Once, we believed that not being Carolyn Staley was enough to ask of a new county clerk. We were mistaken.
Party of bad upbringing
President Bush calls his closest adviser “t**dblossom.” His favorite joke is said to be the golf-related “The only time I hit two good balls is when I step on a rake.” Republican pundit Robert Novak melts down and shouts “bulls**t on national television. On the floor of the U.S. Senate, Vice President Dick Cheney tells a senator to “Go f**k yourself.” The U.S. has never had a major political party as coarse as today’s Republican Party. Family values, indeed. Strip-club values is more like it.