In Praise of Oklahoma

As we all know, the corn is as high as an elephant's eye, and they're doing fine in Oklahoma. Oklahoma's OK, L-A,-H-O-M-A. Not only that, but right now the state is represented in the U.S. Senate by two of the most entertaining primates ever to sit in that august body. It is a remarkable achievement. Usually a state will elect one boring senator and one entertaining senator. Look at Pennsylvania: There's bland old Arlen Specter, trying to keep Ralph Reed from using him as a piñata, and there's Rick Santorum, who is the funniest thing about Christianity since the Singing Nun fell off the charts in 1965.

For that matter, look at my home state of Massachusetts. We have Teddy Kennedy and we have John Kerry. It's like being represented simultaneously by Falstaff and Ned Flanders. However, Oklahomans have been far more generous recently in sharing with the nation their state's more interesting political fauna. Take, for example, Senator James Inhofe, who chairs the Senate's Committee on Environment and Public Works. Just recently, Inhofe informed the nation that global warming was "the second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state."

Now, with all due respect, Senator Inhofe he doesn't know very much about American hoaxes. Global warming, what with all that pesky scientific data and all those pesky collapsing ice shelves and all those pesky tropical diseases, doesn't amount to much of a hoax. Inhofe has the same problem with the church-and-state business. The Founders, God love them, wrote an awful lot about the separation, and it's hard to imagine that Jefferson and Washington and Madison and all of them died without writing down the punch line. And these are Inhofe's ideas of the great American hoaxes? What about the spiders in the beehive hairdo, and the prom-night hitchhiker, and the babysitter and the phone upstairs, and the thumb in the bucket of chicken? What about the hook on the door handle? Whatever happened to the classics?

Aimee Semple McPherson worked this room, and so did P.T. Barnum. This is the place where someone concocted the Cardiff Giant ,The Monkees, and the Ponzi scheme. This is the country of Ronald Reagan's welfare queen and George W. Bush's military service. This is the land of the WWE, for pity's sake. Does Inhofe seriously believe that, as hoaxes, global warming and the separation of church and state match up to the night they brought out the Evil Twin Referee to confound Hulk Hogan? Inhofe's hoaxes don't deserve to stand in this proud tradition of American bunkum -- not the least because they are, well, true.

(Is it time now to point out that the good little boys and girls of the White House press corps were until recently accompanied by a gay male hustler working under a phony name for a phony news operation? No, probably not, because that would be divisive and beneath all the good liberals here, and besides, as far as we know, he never left his hook on anyone's door handle, although he and the “Cardiff Giant” did share a certain je ne sais quoi.)

Unfortunately for his staff aides, who undoubtedly are tasked with making sure that Inhofe is always the most entertaining of Oklahoma's senators, his sad misreading of the history of American suckerdom was surpassed this month by a rookie, newly elected Senator Tom Coburn. Now, we've kept an eye on Coburn ever since he got very concerned about outbreaks of lesbianism in rural lavatories. Let us explain: While auditioning for the second spot in Oklahoma's senatorial vaudeville act last fall, Coburn happened to mention that he'd been talking to a campaign worker from Coalgate, Oklahoma. Apparently not overly shocked to be talking to someone who lived in a homophone -- and for a toothpaste, no less -- Coburn said that, down around Coalgate, lesbianism was "so rampant in some of the schools … that they'll let only one girl go to the bathroom." Presumably Coburn meant "one girl at a time," otherwise some young lady had been accorded a rather dubious honor on behalf of her classmates. My guess is that she'd much rather have been selected prom queen. Speaking of which, one can only imagine what young Tom Coburn thought at his junior prom when all five of the girls at his table excused themselves at the same time.

On the other hand, one probably ought not to imagine that, although I believe that Coburn probably could have taught Inhofe a little something about great American hoaxes. According to the most recent figures, there are only 234 students at Coalgate High School, and less than half of them are girls. I doubt that much of anything really can be said to be "rampant" in that small a sample, except perhaps gossip about something being "rampant." (Yeah, like, whatever; as if.) Next, Coburn probably should check to see if a cannibal murderer's on his upstairs phone..

Anyway, Coalgate-gate marked Coburn as a show to be watched, and he has not disappointed. At the end of January, Coburn, who has landed on the Senate Judiciary Committee (where nobody cares how many people go to the bathroom at once), was talking about class-action lawsuits and the silicon-breast implants that occasioned a few of them. This, according to The Washington Post, is what he said:

"And I thought I would share with you what science says today about silicone-breast implants. If you have them, you're healthier than if you don't. That is what the ultimate science shows."

I don't know what the “ultimate science” is. It sounds like a thrill ride at Six Flags Over Los Alamos. However, as hard as it may be to believe, Coburn actually is a doctor -- Dr. Coburn! Dr. Frist! Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine. Dr. Howard! -- so that part about the health benefits of silicone implants naturally caught my eye. To be honest, I've felt a little run-down lately. and I haven't been able to get my annual flu shot because of the shortage of flu vaccines. So, I thought, what if I just get a couple of implants -- not permanent ones, mind you, but just a couple until the cold and flu season ends around here? Maybe I could get one first, just to see if this earache clears up.

If I could have my health, maybe it wouldn't be so bad to walk around like Jane Russell until shortly after Easter. After all, it's cold enough to wear big sweaters and baggy coats. However, I don't care what the ultimate science may say next. I draw the line at beehive hairdos. I'm too afraid of spiders.

Charles P. Pierce is a staff writer for The Boston Globe Magazine and a contributing writer for Esquire. He also appears regularly on National Public Radio.

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