Kurt Vonnegut and Obama

Fred Barnes reminds us in the Wall Street Journal this morning that opposition party responses to State of the Union speeches typically fall flat, and gently chides Republicans for having little imagination to try anything different.

One idea might be suggested by Bret Stephens’ column today, which extrapolates from Kurt Vonnegut’s famous short story “Harrison Bergeron.”  If you don’t know the story, Stephens helpfully provides Vonnegut’s self-explanatory opening:

The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Stephens’ column goes on to describe just how such a future might unfold in the near term:

Of course, not everyone was happy with the emerging utopia. From his yacht 100 miles off the coast of Marin County, hedge- fund billionaire Tom Perkins wrote bilious letters to The Wall Street Journal, which, mysteriously, the Journal saw fit to publish. Fortunately, investigative ace David Brock was able to establish that Mr. Perkins’s real name is Emmanuel Goldstein, and promptly created a Two Minutes Hate program on Media Matters for America, which was very popular.

And then came the State of the Union speech. From the hushed chamber of the House of Representatives, a young Texas congressman named Harrison Bergeron yelled “You lie!” as the president spoke about the joy Americans felt as the promise of equality was finally realized.

Shhhhhh! whispered the rest of the House, in absolute unison. And President Elizabeth Warren carried on.

Maybe my favorite line from the article is this imaginary horror:

Fashion also changed. Victoria’s Secret models were henceforth required to parade down catwalks wearing horrible masks resembling bearded Princeton economists. Fox News came out with a roster of all-male, paunchy middle-aged anchors.

As it happens, a young filmmaker named Chandler Tuttle made a 28-minute short of “Harrison Bergeron” a few years back, starring Julie Hagerty, James Cosmo, and, in my favorite bit of casting, Tammy Bruce as the Handicapper General.  You can take in the two-minute trailer to get the flavor of it here, or watch the whole 28 minute film (which I highly recommend):

The juxtaposition of Fred’s and Bret’s pieces suggest the obvious idea: Republicans should just air “2081: The Movie” instead of having a talking head recite the usual cliches.  I guarantee it would be a response that would overshadow Obama’s speech, and have the left sputtering for weeks about a low blow.

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