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INVASION OF THE INTELLIGENCE SNATCHERS! A foolish cartoon in this morning’s Post triggered a jarring query: // link // print // previous // next //
SATURDAY, MARCH 7, 2009

“Favorite film Fridays”: Starts Monday.

Invasion of the intelligence snatchers: How did the human race get this far? We bluntly posed this incomparable question as we gazed on this cartoon in this morning’s Washington Post. The cartoon, by a badly frightened Drew Sheneman, originally appeared in yesterday’s Newark Star-Ledger.

This cartoon was so insightful the Post went elsewhere to get it.

The cartoon pictures a giant hog which bears the name “EARMARKS.” Sheneman’s text describes the hog as “another pet for the White House.” It’s considerably larger than President Obama, who is pictured saying this: “I hope he doesn’t eat the dog.”

Unless we’re using math from Neptune, there’s little chance of that. As we looked at Sheneman’s portrait, we thought of the high-profile spending measures which have recently occurred:

Recent, high-profile spending measures:
Stimulus package: $787 billion
TARP: $700 billion
Measure to complete current fiscal year: $410 billion

Those high-profile spending measures total nearly $2 trillion. By way of contrast, the EARMARKS which have Sheneman frightened total $7.7 billion. (No one has made the slightest attempt to show how much of that is “wasteful.”) But guess what? Trillions are much larger than billions! In fact, those EARMARKS represent roughly one two hundred and fiftieth of the total spending in these high-profiles measures. That amounts to one quarter of one percent—one dollar of every 250.

But to Sheneman, these EARMARKS are larger than human life. They may swallow the White House itself.

The bizarre obsession with those earmarks surfaced at Obama and McCain’s first debate. The financial world had just melted down. But McCain went on—and on, and on—about those troubling earmarks.

Six months later, Sheneman still can’t focus—and the Post puts his cartoon at the top of the pile. It appears above the fold of the op-ed page in the paper’s hard-copy edition. Official Washington is urged to focus on those huge earmarks again.

Can human beings reason at all? Under present circumstances, worrying about these minuscule “marks” is like driving five miles back down the road because you may have spotted a quarter.

We recently watched the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. As we watched, we asked an incomparable question: Are we so sure that space invaders aren’t running our discourse right now? This morning, we asked one final question, gazing on Sheneman’s work: How did we ever get this far if we’ve always “reasoned” like that?