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There's always an excuse, a rationale, a cover story, isn't there? And it always manages to be worse than the original offense. Why is that? Mainly because it's so transparent to those assigned to the scandal beat.

Today's roster of rationales comes courtesy of lyricist Tim Rice and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. Between them they churned out the classic production Evita, that ever quotable and relevant sociopolitical commentary. It never seems to change because politicians' routines don't.

Politics remains the low art of the possible, which often enough requires its practitioners to shift their stances to accommodate public opinion, even to tease and manipulate it but never defy it, for that could mean to risk re-election by, heaven forfend, actually standing for something. And a fickle public would much prefer to be fooled rather than led. The common man is unrepresented on stage by a cynical Che Guevara who explains Juan Peron's rise in Argentine politics this way:

Juan always picks

The easy fight

Juan praises fools

Juan smothers light

Juan shifts from left to right

Politics--the art of the possible.

Does that remind you of any politicians whose careers you've followed, Gentle Reader? It certainly should, for it's a common enough pattern, and so is the toadying to the Great Man all are supposed to follow slavishly, throwing their own judgment to the four winds. Why think for yourself when there are others to do your thinking for you? These politicians promise to lead the downtrodden masses into a new heaven on Earth before creating a new hell. The political opportunist often speaks of the decline of his country from some fictive high point that it never was in reality, and promises a revival of national pride thanks to a great new leader. Or as Eva Duarte Peron sings:

I am only a radio star

With just one weekly show

But speaking as one of the people

I want you to know

We are tired of the decline of

Argentina, with no sign of

A government able to give us the things

we deserve!

You can hear the sense of plaintive entitlement in her voice and the demand that the government fulfill her every personal desire. And also the promise of myriad benefits if only the voters will play along and flock to her husband's side. But even he has moments of doubt in his exalted self. And senses all kinds of plots against his august personage:

Dice are rolling, the knives are out

Would-be presidents are all around

I don't say they mean harm,

but they'd each give an arm

To see us six feet underground

Snra. Peron has her strategy all mapped out:

It doesn't matter what those morons say

Our nation's leaders are a feeble crew

There's only 20 of them anyway

What is 20 next to millions who

Are looking to you?

All you have to do is sit and wait

Keeping out of everybody's way

We'll--you'll be handed power on a plate

When the ones who matter have their say

And with chaos installed

You can reluctantly agree to be called

But the colonel remains unconvinced:

There again we could be foolish

Not to quit while we're ahead

For distance lends enchantment

And that is why

All exiles are distinguished

More important, they're not dead

I could find job satisfaction

In Paraguay.

Evita, however, isn't about to have them step aside and renounce power:

This is crazy defeatist talk

Why commit political suicide?

There's no risk, there's no call

For any action at all

When you have unions on your side

Not to mention a campaign manager like Eva Peron to call the shots when the colonel continues to waver:

Don't think I don't think like you,

I often get those nightmares too

They always take some swallowing

Sometimes it's very difficult

to keep momentum if

It's you that you are following

Just hold on to the impossible dream for two, she assures her husband. All they need is a new war cry, a snazzy new national anthem, and all will be well if only they both stand fast. And together, loud and clear:

A new Argentina!

The chains of the masses untied!

A new Argentina!

The voice of the people cannot be,

and must not be denied!

Just don't look too closely, Argentina, lest you notice how these new leaders are forging their own special chains for you. As every tyrant seeks to do, often enough in the name of a new freedom.


Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Editorial on 04/11/2018

Print Headline: Scenes from a musical

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