Mort Sahl Redivivus: The Master Speaks

Come Thursday night, a group of addicts assemble round the twitter accounts, or their computers, and listen to a wise political sage, who has been appraising the American political scene for as long as from Jefferson’s Presidency to the assassination of Lincoln. Mort Sahl’s ironic wit seems undulled by time, as, at 88, his mind appears to be as sharp as it was in those halcyon days of the late 50s and early 60s. Listen to Sahl’s album “Live at the Hungry i” from the 60s, then listen to his political observations on this season’s current batch of Babbitts — “miniscule depth of character” is Sahl’s view of these losers as compared to some of those whom Sahl obviously regards as American political heroes: Adlai Stevenson, Gene McCarthy, Jim Garrison, and the murdered President himself. These were men who had depth to their characters, irregardless of their political stance, and who had much perspicacity in summing up the political situations of their day. For example, one day Sahl was driving in Washington D.C. with Stevenson, and as they passed the White House, Stevenson pointed and said, “There’s the tomb of the well-known soldier.”

Sahl went from being a darling of the Left and Liberals when he was poking fun at Eisenhower (who didn’t like him) and Nixon, and writing jokes for Kennedy, to the pariah of the Left when he began to poke fun similarly at the Democrats. That probably put him into a political limbo where he stands today, attacking the phoniness of modern Liberals while telling the truth about people like Reagan and Johnson and their sycophants. He got to know a lot of these people closely — Reagan, Al Haig, Dubbyah Bush, Joseph Kennedy, and the stream of anecdotes he relates are fascinating. General Haig, for example, liked Havana cigars. Once, when he was talking to Sahl and took one out and lit it, Sahl asked him if he didn’t think that was helping Castro. Haig replied that he preferred to think of it as burning Castro’s crops to the ground.

For Sahl’s latest wisdoms on the political issues of the day, one can go to twitter.com/MortSahlsays on Thursday nights at 7p.m. It will be an education.

— Paul Grad, Vegan Libertarian

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