Heartland Institute: A Night With P.J. O’Rourke

-By Warner Todd Huston

On Oct. 20 I had the please of sitting in an intimate audience in downtown Chicago, Illinois invited to listen to one of America’s great wits, P.J. O’Rourke and what a fun night it was. The evening was sponsored by Chicago’s Heartland Institute, a free market policy group.

O’Rourke’s latest book is titled Don’t Vote It Just Encourages the Bastards. I was lucky enough to get my copy signed by the author that evening.

Don’t Vote is a brilliant, disturbing, hilarious, and ultimately sobering look at why politics and politicians are a necessary evil – but only just barely necessary.

O’Rourke looks at the financial crisis (“The best investment I’ve made lately? I left a $20 bill in the pocket of my tweed jacket last spring, and I just found it”), the bailout, health care reform (“Something doesn’t add up. Politicians are telling me that I can smoke, drink, gain two hundred pounds, then win an iron man triathlon at age ninety-five”), the stimulus package, climate change (“There’s not a god-damn thing you can do about it … There are 1.3 billion people in China and they all want a Buick”), trade imbalance, the end of the American automobile industry, U.S. foreign policy and the Family of Nations (“Uncle Russia’s out on parole, drunk, unemployed, and likely to kill some folks next door again soon”), campaign finance reform, gun control, No Child Left Behind (“What if they deserve to be left behind?”), and pretty much everything else under the sun.

Mr. O’Rourke was introduced in a wry take down of the notoriously untrustworthy Wikiepedia delivered by Heartland’s Director of Communications, Jim Lakely. Lakely read off a list of the “facts” that Wikiepedia supposedly featured about O’Rourke including such “facts” as his fathering “16 children” and having bedded famous actresses.

O’Rourke then took to the mic and regaled us with his wit and wisdom on the wonders of voting, elections, government, teen girl’s sleep-over games and tetherball. Yes, I said tetherball.

O’Rourke started off telling us of his new theory of politics. Instead of basing his newfound analysis of American politics on the ideas of deep thinkers like John Locke, Thomas Paine, or John Stuart Mill, he was struck with the perfect analogy offered by a game that teenaged girls play during sleepovers. The game is called “Kill, Boff, Marry.” You see, O’Rourke told us the girls have to choose three guys, one to “kill,” one to “boff” (or make love to), and one to “marry.” P.J. thought that this was a perfect meme for politics.

After all, he said, look at the 1992 presidential race. You had Ross Perot (certainly a “kill”), Bill Clinton (what else but a “boff”? “You could hardly avoid a boff with Clinton,” P.J. joked) and George H. W. Bush (a “marry”). And while it wasn’t a perfect analogy it certainly seemed to make sense.

In essence, though, what the game reflected were the ideas of power, freedom, and Responsibility. These principles correspond well with the game: kill (power), boff (freedom), and marry (responsibility).

I won’t go much farther into O’Rourke’s wonderful points from here so as not to spoil any of his future writings or presentations, but rest assured he was witty and had rock-solid principle serving to undergird that sparkling wit.

All I can say is if P.J. O’Rourke appears anywhere near you, take advantage of the chance to hear this great American resource.

Speaking of resources, the Heartland Institute is one that you shouldn’t ignore. Check out the Heartland Institute’s website and check out all the great information they have posted there for your edification. www.heartland.org/.

Thanks to Zack Christenson of Heartland for his hospitality.
“The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
–Samuel Johnson

Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer. He has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that he wrote articles on U.S. history for several small American magazines. His political columns are featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com, BigHollywood.com, and BigJournalism.com, as well as RightWingNews.com, CanadaFreePress.com, StoptheACLU.com, AmericanDaily.com, among many, many others. Mr. Huston is also endlessly amused that one of his articles formed the basis of an article in Germany’s Der Spiegel Magazine in 2008.

For a full bio, please CLICK HERE.

Copyright Publius Forum 2001