Congress and the Day of the Living Dead

I am drafting a letter. Before I mail it, I’d like to run it past everybody, see what you think.

(Please send comments and suggestions to my World Wide Web site, just as soon as I get one.)


The Honorable Richard K. Armey

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Dick:

I am not dead.

However, if you would like to tell the world that I am dead, I want you to know that it is OK by me.

Just go ahead and have my death announced on the House floor, the same way you did last week for Bob Hope.

I know there are people who feel you should have gotten a few more details straight about Mr. Hope’s death, including the fact that Mr. Hope didn’t die.


But at least your heart was in the right place.

Fortunately, so is Mr. Hope’s.


As I understand it, what happened was this:

Last Friday, a Web site operated by the Associated Press inadvertently reported that America’s legendary entertainer, Bob Hope, had expired at 95.

This was news to Mr. Hope, who was having breakfast at the time.

No matter. You, Dick, in your capacity as House Majority leader, promptly passed the bad news to Bob Stump, so he could make an announcement. Stump is a representative from Arizona, where, as you know, a lot of people only SEEM to be dead.

Stump stepped up to the microphone with a look so gloomy, it saddened even regular C-SPAN viewers.

(A few of your Republican colleagues must have thought he was about to announce that Kenneth Starr had just quit his job to become the women’s swim coach at Pepperdine.)

With a heavy heart, Stump said, “Mr. Speaker, I have the sad responsibility to tell you this afternoon that Bob Hope passed away. We will all miss him very much.”

I know I did, and he wasn’t even gone.

Seconding that emotion, Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.), the minority whip--and a sharp little whip he is--rose on the House floor to add a few more extemporaneous words about the late, great Bob Hope, who in reality was only great.

“He provided so much joy and happiness to this planet,” Bonior said, without clarification as to the difference between joy and happiness.

“We thank him for the memories.”

What a nice touch. If and when Mr. Hope does leave us--and I’m betting that it will be sometime between the years 2000 and 2075--I expect we’ll be hearing a lot of those “thanks for the memories” punch lines.

Just remember, Rep. Dave Bonior said it first!

This brings me to why I’m writing to you, Dick.

As I said, I ain’t dead.

But having seen how sweet you congressmen can be at tragic times like this, I was wondering if you would mind telling everybody that I did pass away, just so I could see if they would, oh, you know, thank me for my memories.

If you could send Sorrowful Stump back up to the mike, have him open with something like: “Well, guess who we lost NOW?”

I won’t complain, honest.

I’ll be just like Bob Hope, who was asked how he felt about reports that he wasn’t really feeling much of anything. He got the ultimate last laugh, saying, “They were wrong, weren’t they?”

Bob probably went right out and played 18 holes of golf, breaking a senior record for golfers 95 and over who reportedly are dead.


I am quite serious, though, Dick, about welcoming a premature report of my death. If it can happen to great men such as Mark Twain and to Bob Hope, believe me, I’d be grateful to be rumored dead.

It isn’t fair that you have to die to have a eulogy.

Jerry Lewis used to say, “If you like me, tell me now. Don’t wait until I can’t hear it.”

Tell ‘em I’m dead, Dick. I could get sympathy cards from friends who want me to know how sorry they are that I’m no longer with us. Or they could put flowers on my sidewalk. Sad people in California love to put flowers on dead people’s sidewalks.

Old girlfriends could cry and pretend to miss me more than they really do. Readers could write letters to the editor about my dying, saying, “Now there’s a guy who knows how to give the public what it wants.”

I know you’re embarrassed, Dick, at having said goodbye to somebody who isn’t gone. But don’t be. At least now Bob knows how much we loved him.

I mean love him.

Mike Downey’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, or phone (213) 237-7366.