Wednesday, April 30, 2014

No. 36 – Witch Hunt

Performer: Rush
Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart
Original Release: Moving Pictures
Year: 1981
Definitive Version: None, I guess. I have the version from A Show of Hands in my iTunes playlist, but the one from the Time Machine Tour makeup date 8-23-10 is pretty excellent, too. I actually prefer Alex’s entirely new solo at the end of that version but not enough to call it definitive.

As I write this, last night I participated in a national Rasmussen survey. The next poll you see about who might win in fall 2014 or whether Americans approve of the direction the nation is headed, know that I was one of the 1,100 or whatever surveyed.

We were fixing dinner, and Laurie hates to answer the phone in the evening. She usually hangs up right away, and she just hung up on some recorded call a minute before the phone rang again. This time I said I’d get it, and as soon as I heard the recording say it was Rasmussen conducting a survey, I was hooked—not only because I know what it’s like to be on the other end of the phone in such a situation, but also because I felt honored that someone randomly selected my phone number to become part of the political flotsam.

So I said what I thought: President Obama is doing OK all things considered, that actions speak louder than words, that most politicians lie to get elected, that politicians DO NOT favor consumers over business and that the Dems are more trustworthy on everything except war policy and immigration (where NEITHER party is trustworthy). After I told her what the call was, Laurie said she was glad I answered instead of her.

Believe it or not, that segues nicely with the following question: How did Witch Hunt, an obscure track on Side 2 of Moving Pictures become my favorite song off Rush’s greatest album? Timing, which is typical, and the lyrics, which is odd because I’m a music guy first and foremost when it comes to liking a song.

You can have the most incredible symphonic music beneath the most insipid lyrics, and I’m all in. I mean, look how many Genesis and Yes songs are on this here list. However, you can write the most meaningful lyrics ever, and if the tune doesn’t grab me, I could care less. I mean, no Bob Dylan songs made this list after all. But … Marvin Gaye did.

I’d known Witch Hunt since I got into Rush in the early Eighties, of course, and it was one of the songs on A Show of Hands that led me to buy the album and thus begin my Rush renaissance at the end of that decade. But I never really heard the song, and thus the lyrics, until the late Nineties. I had no idea how relevant this song really was until the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

THAT was a Witch Hunt in the most fundamental way. And, yes, although there are always two sides to every story, the side that feels differently is wrong. Idealistically, yes, the president lied under oath about an affair he had. Practically … so what? How is that relevant to his job? The presidential oath promises to properly execute the office and uphold the Constitution. Where exactly did he say he’d never break a single law?

But more important, Clinton never was going to be expelled from office. Regardless about how you felt about “the crime,” the votes simply weren’t there in the Senate to convict, and anyone paying attention would have seen that right away. So to force the country through a presidential impeachment was a huge waste of time and money—ironically, courtesy of the party that says it values financial restraint above all else.

But force the issue the Republicans did, so I had this song running through my head on an endless earworm pretty much through 1998 to the start of 1999. Business had the circu … er, the trial on TV every day at The DIspatch. As soon as the bosses left for the day, I either turned it to ESPN or off. I knew it was history in the making, but I didn’t see the point. The outcome was as certain as that of a rom-com … and with just as little humor and more boobs on display.

I guess in retrospect the impeachment did accomplish something in that it created the environment that made it more possible for George Bush to win the presidency in 2000. Al Gore felt he had to run away from Clinton’s—and his—record so he wouldn’t similarly be tarred and feathered with charges of immorality.

I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that was good for the country, but in thinking about Bush’s actions in office, keep this little civics lesson in mind: Lying about having extramarital sex is an impeachable offense. Lying about the rationale for starting a war that killed 4,400 U.S. soldiers is not.

If only Rasmussen had asked me about THAT …

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