Every politician has his shtick, a bit of stand-up to jolly an audience, lighten the mood, lend an air of joviality to the otherwise serious process of winning support or cadging someone's vote.
It comes at the top and is usually a bit self-deprecatory, a stab at both humor and humility. The trick is delivering it, ad nauseam, as though for the very first time. (Pity the political spouse who has to stand on stage, day after day, and pantomime laughter.)
Sen. John McCain has a line he's used for ages, a bit of badinage as the public-approval ratings of Congress -- never the most popular institution to start with -- steadily slogged from bad to embarrassing to abysmal. At this point, he would say, support for lawmakers is down to paid staff members and blood relatives, invariably drawing an appreciative laugh.
On Tuesday, Gallup issued a poll showing that congressional job approval has slunk to a cringe-worthy, subterranean 9%, the lowest standing in the survey's 39-year history of asking the question. (The previous low, 10%, was registered twice in the comparatively good old days of 2012.
So what says now the Arizona Republican?
"Well, I got a call from my mother who's 101," McCain offered, and she's plenty ticked off. So now lawmakers have "even lost my mother."