Column, 690 words

Forget Fake Girlfriends, Republicans Have an Imaginary President

Donald Kaul

The bizarre story of Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame football player, and his dying girlfriend gives new meaning to the term “fantasy football.”

Te’o very nearly rode the heart-rending story of his tragic online romance into a Heisman Trophy (college football’s highest individual honor) and a national championship.

There was hardly a dry eye in the press box as Te’o told of the death from leukemia of his online love and how he would soldier on because that’s what she would have wanted him to do.

It was a great story with but a single flaw — he had no girlfriend, she didn’t die or, in fact, ever exist. She was Te’o's imaginary playmate.

Notre Dame has said that the young man was a victim of a “cruel hoax” and he himself says he was the unsuspecting dupe of an online prankster but the more you learn about the mess the less faith you have in anything the school or player have to say about the matter.

Whatever the genesis of the tale, it’s now quite clear that Notre Dame and Te’o both knew it was phony days before the National Championship game and decided to say nothing about it.

The school’s athletic director said he kept mum out of concern for the player’s safety, the privacy of students and — this one will kill you — the integrity of the national championship game.

manti-teo-imaginary-girlfriend

Neon Tommy/Flickr

Thank God the integrity of the national championship game remains intact.

Jon Chait, New York Magazine‘s excellent political writer, has delivered the most telling comment on the matter. He wrote:

“Fake, schmaltzy inspirational tales are the essence of the culture of the [Notre Dame football] program. The…story of Knute Rockne and his dying player, George Gipp, became a famous movie that helped enshrine Notre Dame football…In reality, Rockne was an ethically dubious sports gambler, Gipp a pool hustler, and the main events of the story — Gipp’s dying wish to ‘win one for the Gipper,’ Rockne’s inspirational halftime speech — never happened.

“Likewise, Rudy is the inspirational story of a walk-on who overcame the odds to play football at Notre Dame, but the story is also filled with falsehoods. Rudy, by the way, turned out to be a stock scammer.”

In other words, Notre Dame football, through the years, has majored in imaginary playmates.

Which should not be a big problem — it’s football, right? — except for the fact that one of our major political parties has become infected with the Notre Dame virus.

Schooled by its spiritual leader, Ronald Reagan (who played Gipp in his most famous movie role), the party just makes things up as it goes along and pretends they’re true.

obama-communist-delusion

Jeff Dahl/Flickr

The Republicans’ chief imaginary playmate is a Barack Obama that none of us has ever seen. Their Obama is a hard-core ideologue, a borderline socialist who, on international affairs, favors weakness as a strategy. This is a vague figure of murky background, perhaps even an enemy alien, who stole the 2012 election from its rightful owner, Mitt Romney.

Which is a sharp contrast to the real Obama — a mildly liberal centrist who would love to find a Republican Party he could split the difference with. And as for weakness in foreign affairs, there are a lot of dead villains who would argue otherwise if they weren’t…you know…dead.

Obama, it’s said, does not reach out to Republicans. He doesn’t have them over for drinks and dinner like Lyndon Johnson used to. That’s the problem.

Which ignores the fact that Republicans, both ideologically crazed and sane, live in fear that someone will take a picture of them standing next to Obama while looking friendly. They know it will be used against them in the next Republican primary.

He could offer to come to their homes and tuck them in at night and they still wouldn’t cooperate.

Any real reform of our political system must await the destruction of the Republican Party at the ballot box. Perhaps that would lead to the rebirth of a reality-based party.

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. OtherWords.org

  • TomRyann

    Say you belong to a political party in which a majority believe that the Earth is 8,000 years old and we are all literally descendant from a guy and a girl in a garden with a talking snake. Say that most people in your party are sure that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by devious scientists trying to get more government funding, and you know for a fact that Saddam Hussein plotted the September 11 attacks.

    Hey, you might as well believe that Barack Obama is a radical socialist. That would be among the less-weird things you believe.

    Thanks Mr. Kaul. This is classic OTC style. You are forbidden from retiring as long as you can write like this.

  • wayne from sheboygan

    The most accurate prediction of Barack’s governing style came from his law school students: “ruthlessly pragmatic”. Often too pragmatic for me, but I would have thought (and sort of expected) that the Republicans would like him. Now I know that whether it was Hillary or Barack, it didn’t matter. Take care of yourself OT.

  • Lisa Baker

    Donald …. you are so clueless.

  • richard

    And Notre Dame will still be here after your bones are bleached white from the sun, you mean mouthed a-hole!