Straining To Smear Merrick Garland, The National Review And Conservative Lawyer Ed Whelan Beclown Themselves…


TUESDAY, MARCH 16, 2010 – The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis’ production of “The Fantasticks”. ©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

…because they don’t know what the hell they are talking about.

I, on the other hand, do.

Whelan, who is usually much better than this, writes in “Yes, Merrick Garland Found ‘Hilarious’ a Song About ‘Rapes for Sale’,

Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland, as a college student, wrote a review of the musical The Fantasticks in which he labeled “hilarious” a song that (in his words) “provides a shopping list of rapes for sale (e.g. ‘the military rape—it’s done with drums and a great brass band.’).” But the Breitbart account turns out to be accurate. (Here is Garland’s article from the Harvard Crimson’s archives.) I have no interest in defending Garland’s observation from his college days nearly fifty years ago,* but I will try to put it in some context. What a theatrical performance can make amusing is often difficult to fathom in the abstract, as Mel Brooks’s “The Producers,” involving a musical comedy about Hitler, demonstrates. I will note that “The Fantasticks” (according to this Wikipedia entry) ran, on and off Broadway, for 42 years (from 1960 to 2002), “making it the world’s longest-running musical.” So it would seem that many folks shared Garland’s enjoyment of the song. Not surprisingly, controversy arose at some point over the “rape” lyrics, leading lyricist Tom Jones to revise them—to eliminate the word “rape.”

It is hard for me to tamp down my contempt for Whelan’s piece, but I’ll try.

To begin with, citing the college opinions of any adult professional to embarrass or diminish him or her is a despicable tactic, a pure Golden Rule breach, a cheap shot, and, to be blunt, stupid. Whether it be Michelle Obama, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton or anyone else, college is for exploring ideas, sticking out your metaphorical chins and making mistakes. When I see any critic or pundit digging that deep too try to embarrass or impugn a public figure, I consider it signature significance..for a dearth of decency and fairness. That’s what I expect from Breitbart. Not Ed or the National Review.

That would be true if Whelan’s article wasn’t embarrassingly ignorant, but it is. You know, conservatives need to get out more, specifically out to see more live theater. The article has the tenor of someone who has barely heard of “The Fantasticks,” and who has certainly never seen it performed. Worse, and again I wouldn’t expect this of someone of the erudition of Ed Whelan, it is redolent of someone who doesn’t own a dictionary.

The “Rape Song” in “The Fantasticks” isn’t about sexual rape, and that is made clear in the dialogue leading up to the song. “Rape” is specifically used in its secondary or tertiary meaning, it’s classical meaning, which is an abduction. You know “The Rape of the Sabine Women,” the famous painting by Reubens? It doesn’t show any forced sexual intercourse, because—let’s use Wikipedia since Ed likes that source—

“The Rape of the Sabine Women (Latin: Sabinae raptae), also known as the Abduction of the Sabine Women or the Kidnapping of the Sabine Women, was an incident in Roman mythology in which the men of Rome committed a mass abduction of young women from the other cities in the region.”

Got that? Abduction. In “The Fantasticks” plot, two fathers wanting to bring their children together as a couple hire a bandit and his crew to fake an abduction attempt of one father’s young daughter so the other father’s son can foil it, thus becoming her rescuer, hero and love interest. The song that Garland liked is indeed a terrific and funny one, as the bandit describes all of the various fake abductions he can arrange for a fee. The resulting sham is a slapstick affair set to music, and would be right at home on Nickelodeon. How do I know? Well, I’ve seen the show many times. I’ve read the libretto. I’ve played the bandit, El Gallo, professionally. I’ve directed the show. I’ve sung the song in front of audiences, and I’ve choreographed the abduction, aka “rape.”

Finally, it is embarrassing to read a conservative pundit endorsing a political correctness-spurred act of censorship every bit as offensive as banning Dr. Seuss or Pepe Le Pew. In another musical Ed probably never heard of, “Oliver”, a disillusioned Oliver Twist sings a poignant song called “Where is Love?” I feel like singing “Where is integrity?”

Yeah, Jones caved and wrote a substitute (and vastly inferior) song, because schools, one of the main sources of the show’s productions, were being politically correct and shying away from the show, cutting the song, or worse. What was “worse”? Well, a director friend was hired to put up the show for a Catholic school that objected to the “Rape Song,” and insisted that it be cut. He refused, explaining that it was integral to the plot, but said that if the nuns could come up with a word other than “rape”that fit the meter and the meaning (“abduction”), then he would consider it. The song, I’m sure you know, since you are more culturally literate than Ed Whelan or his editor, begins with El Gallo singing dramatically,

Rape! R-a-a-a-pe! Raa-aa-aa-pe! A pretty rape! Such a pretty rape!

The nuns came back to my friend, all excited, and said they had come up with the perfect substitute.


11 thoughts on “Straining To Smear Merrick Garland, The National Review And Conservative Lawyer Ed Whelan Beclown Themselves…

    • If he did decline to use the suggested replacement the argument supporting his objection to it would bea classic. How does one explain such things to a group of nuns….?

      And in general, the right does not do itself any favors when it strains to oppose the left where there is not much reason to oppose whatever it is. Lord knows that there are so many really serious examples of hypocrisy, actual lying, and just plain garden-variety stupidity out there to use.

  1. My friend and then piano teacher got a gig playing piano for the pick up orchestra assembled for the Phoenix Catholic girls’ school’s production of “Damn Yankees.” I tagged along to one of the nearly final rehearsals. The director, a woman and a New Yorker, was a lunatic, but that’s another story. Frankly, I was mortified by the bump and grind done by the girl playing Lola. At a Catholic girls’ school. Wasn’t anyone in the convent paying attention. Weird.

  2. I am not sure Whelan is condemning Garland as much as he points out the obvious double standard:

    “I do strongly suspect that a comparable revelation about a high-level Republican nominee would become national news and threaten the nomination, and President Trump’s Ninth Circuit nominee Ryan Bounds was pounded and defeated over much less. But I don’t think that the existence of a double standard provides cause to embrace the wrong standard.”


    • It couldn’t be “much less.” As I explained, there is nothing, zero, wrong with understanding and appreciating that song. Nothing. Under any standards other than “I don’t know what I’m talking about.”

      • I agree. I have a problem attacking him for something he wrote in college, probably 40 years ago. This man has had a stellar career and widely respected as a jurist. Take apart his judicial record. Criticize him for avoiding answers during his Senate committee hearings.


  3. Now that he’s AG should we worry if he sings along to Javert’s part in Les Mis?


    Okay good.

    Now Valjean we see each other plain. Monsieur le Maire you’ll wear a different chain.

  4. Why are such people allowed to be in prominent positions? It is pretty easy to make a case against Merrick Garland from his own statements and actions.

    He promised to prosecute ‘white supremacists’ who stormed the capitol. Apparently, all Trump supporters are considered to be white supremacists now. People who were found to have encouraged the violence on Jan 6, but were Democrats, have been released without bail while people who committed no violence and were Trump supporters are still in jail. He does not feel that left-wing protests that have destroyed billions of dollars in property, killed people, and attacked federal facilities count in the same way. Even though the 1 judge that held BLM activists was hounded by a mob at his house into reversing his decision, it isn’t a problem.

    He considerers the Republicans in this country to all be Timothy McVeigh or at least Timothy McVeigh supporters. This should worry us greatly. The OIG report showed that Garland’s prosecution of McVeigh was based on several fabricated pieces of evidence (composition of the bomb, where the bomb materials came from, how big the bomb was, etc) and who knows how much more was fabricated. Should someone who uses fake evidence to convict someone and sentence them to death really be in a high position in this country?

    He doesn’t think holding gun manufacturers liable for the use of firearms raises any second amendment issues at all. He thinks there is no constitutional issue with banning whatever firearms the President wants by executive order.

    Merrick Garland believes in 1 justice system for Democrats and another justice system for Republicans. That should terrify us all and make us all glad that this man is not on the Supreme Court.

    Why can’t these so-called ‘prominent conservatives’ make such a simple argument that would have taken 2 minutes of research?

    • That is my position, too. Additionally, for someone said to be so bright, he sure didn’t know a whole lot a issues that, as AG, he will have to address. Immigration, asylum, overstays, etc. . . . My thought was (1) either he isn’t as bright as everyone says he is, or (2) he is not being forthright in his answers. Asserting that he has not really thought about visa overstays and asylum seekers staying in Mexico strains credulity.


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