Bill Owens: Looney Tunes

Apr 21, 2017

The recent explanations given for the failure of the Republican health care bill left me incredulous and searching for some comparative experience from my past.  I found it in Looney Tunes.

The characters in Looney Tunes—including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Road Runner, Porky Pig, Tasmanian Devil, Tweety, Speedy Gonzales, etc. —represented slap-stick comedy perfect for kids.  They made absurd statements, we watched as improbable events unfolded, but we understood that this was “make believe.” 

Now spring forward forty, fifty or sixty years, and listen carefully to the cast of characters in the Trump administration.  We have Sean Spicer peering over the top of the lectern looking and sounding like Porky Pig, Kellyanne Conway spouts improbable phrases as fact that simply boggle the mind—and she bears an uncanny likeness to Tweety.  Roger Stone postures and struts like Foghorn Leghorn, while Mike Flynn took on the attributes of Daffy Duck and Stephen Miller could not be cast any better than as the Barnyard Dawg. The easiest of all to identify is of course Steve Bannon as the Tasmanian Devil. Attorney General Sessions is clearly Elmer Fudd in speech and appearance. I leave to your imagination character matchups for Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump. 

Picture in your mind an episode of Looney Tunes based on the recent failure of the Obamacare repeal (or should we call it “Trump No Care”).  The proposal of the Freedom Caucus would have created “Freedom from Health Care,” if they had succeeded.  We had Bugs Bunny (President Trump—I hope that’s the character you chose) running from congressperson to congressperson saying, “vote with me for the bestest, covering the most, and most beautiful health care ever.  Those twenty-four million who lose coverage, they’ll be able to buy it in the most efficient marketplace anyone ever could have dreamed of. The middle class, whose premiums will spike? Oh well, get a better job—and by the way, I’m working on that.”  The Tasmanian Devil sulks quietly in the shadows, silently thinking “go Freedom Caucus—who needs health care.”  Porky the Pig tries to bring order and explain the failure of Trump No Care by shutting down reporters and closing others out. Tweety sees nothing amiss in this landscape, and hopes to sell more of Ivanka’s jewelry to those saving money because they don’t need to (or can’t afford to) buy health care insurance. Mike Flynn has a cameo appearance as Daffy Duck as he eats his own words about immunity, which doesn’t seem to give him indigestion even though it should. If it wasn’t so serious, we could all watch this episode of Trump Tunes and go to sleep thinking “now that’s just make believe.”

Mr. Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 21st, a partner in Stafford Owens in Plattsburgh, NY and a Senior Advisor to Dentons to Washington, DC.

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