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Friday, April 16, 2004

"Surprise, surprise, surprise"

Forty years ago, Jim Nabors played the lead character on "Gomer Pyle, USMC." The show was something of a success since it ran until 1970 and was in the top 10 in the ratings for five years.

For those not familiar with the show or acronym, USMC stands for United States Marine Corps.

Yes, it was a comedy about stateside military life, with the title character "a sweet but not too smart Marine from Mayberry, North Carolina...Gomer's innocence, naivete and low-key demeanor often got him into trouble, most frequently at the hands of his loud-mouthed superior, Sgt. Carter. "

For those not up on television trivia, Gomer had appeared for two years on "The Andy Griffith Show," playing the guy who ran the gas station.

Gomer's main catchphrase was "Surprise, surprise, surprise." Innocent that he was, Pyle was often taken unawares by events.

Why am I writing this, you ask? Well, in some ways, the show is a perfect metaphor for the Bush Presidency and Iraq.

The show, like the Bush adventure in Iraq, appeared within two years of a major national crisis. Bush had 9/11 (the Iraq War started March 2003, about 18 months after 9/11), Gomer had the Cuban Missile Crisis (the show began September 1964, about 23 months after the October 1962 CMC).

The reason Gomer joined the Marines sounds eerily familiar to anyone who hypothesizes that Bush went after Saddam to complete his Dad's unfinished business. Gomer actually joined the Marines in episode #107 of the "Andy Griffith Show," and this was his rationale:
Gomer: Know what my daddy told me a long time ago? I’ll never forget it. We wuz sittin’ out on the front porch in the summertime. It was so hot we couldn’t sleep, and he said, “Son, some day, when you’re growed up, they gonna test ya to see how much of a man you are. And you’re gonna have to make it ON YOUR OWN, ’cause I ain’t gonna be there to help ya.” That’s what my daddy said, and here’s where I’m gonna get tested – the United States Marine Corps!
This is what Bush said the other night about his test:
Now is the time, and Iraq is the place, in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world. We must not waver.
Gomer, like Bush, appeared regularly on TV. Gomer and his buddies never talked about the ongoing disaster that was Vietnam. The writers behind the curtain never mentioned the war. It was as if they were in deep denial and wanted to keep Gomer funny and light. Eventually, the Gomer character started to sing regularly on the show. It was a distraction. Bush talks about the war, but not in a way that sounds anything like we see on TV.

How far can we extend this metaphor? Apparently, "Gomer Pyle, USMC" was cancelled when CBS decided to "modernize its programing and get rid of shows that appealed mainly to poorer, rural audiences."

Perhaps the American public will arrive at the same decision vis-a-vis Bush in November.

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