Take Five (Saucy, Cheesy & Sorta Greasy edition)

ONE: Half-Baked

Just what the hell is it with Republicans and bad pizza?

Remember Tom Monaghan, founder of the resoundingly crummy Domino’s? Monaghan, a Republican and possible religious fanatic to boot, was last seen in the fetid swamps of my perpetually embarrassing home state, building a model God-centric community he calls Brigadoon. Or maybe Del Boca Vista.

A previous edition of this column featured the May 2011 Manhattan summit meeting of Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, which began at the Trump Tower on 5th Avenue but, at Palin’s request, continued at the Famous Famiglia Pizza outlet near Times Square. Famous Famiglia claims that their pie is “New York’s Favorite Pizza” so you know damned well it’s no such thing.

Erstwhile Republican presidential gag candidate Herman Cain once helmed Godfather’s Pizza and later became part owner of the chain in a leveraged buyout from previous owner Pillsbury. He sold his ownership stake in 2006. Godfather’s woeful product has been excoriated by worstpizza.com as:

… about as good as any gas station or c-store heat and eat.

Now comes word that John Schnatter – founder and CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, Romney booster, and free-range asshat – warned his shareholders the other day that “Obamacare” will force the chain, every time some benighted soul orders one of its joyless pizzas, to tack on:

… 11 to 14 cents extra, “or 15 to 20 cents per order from a corporate basis.”

Schnatter raised this nightmare scenario because he prefers Mitt Romney’s economic positions, positions which would lead directly to a considerable segment of Papa John’s clientele deciding that delivery pizza is a frill they can no longer afford, even if they do get to pocket that “Obamacare” mark-up. If all this defies reason, and good business sense, welcome to the exciting world of savvy Republican entrepreneurs.

TWO: Stall Tales

The old expression “spend a penny” became hopelessly outdated the day then-Senator Larry Craig took his wide stance into a men’s room at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport a little more than five years ago. “Spend $217,000″ is the updated version.

Craig and his bathroom habits are in the news again as the disgraced ex-politician fights a lawsuit filed by the Federal Election Commission over $217,000 in campaign funds Craig diverted to his legal defense against charges stemming from his licentious potty break. In the process, Craig and his lawyer Andrew Herman have raised the bar when it comes to ingenious legal strategies:

Craig counters that money tied to his airport bathroom trip was for neither personal use nor his campaign, but fell under his official, reimbursable duties as senator because he was traveling between Idaho and the nation’s capital for work.

He cites a U.S. Senate rule in which reimbursable per diem expenses include all charges for meals, lodging, hotel fans, cleaning, pressing of clothing — and bathrooms.

“Not only was the trip itself constitutionally required, but Senate rules sanction reimbursement for any cost relating to a senator’s use of a bathroom while on official travel,” wrote Andrew Herman, Craig’s lawyer in Washington, D.C., in documents filed Thursday.

Genius! And the icing on the urinal cake is that Craig and his legal counsel adduce another rank Republican hypocrite, Jim Kolbe, as precedent:

In documents supporting his bid to have the complaint dismissed, Craig cites the case of former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, who tapped campaign money in 2006 to defend himself after allegations of improper behavior emerged against him following a Grand Canyon rafting trip with two former male pages.

The trip by Kolbe, the second openly gay Republican to serve in Congress, was an official visit with support provided by the National Park Service.

The phrase “openly gay” should be taken with a big fat grain of salt in Kolbe’s case, by the way, since he came out only after gay-rights groups threatened to out him after his gutless vote in favor of DOMA. Craig, in contrast, is immortal for the line: “I am not gay.” And soon, I suspect, he’s going to be immortal for skating on egregious misuse of campaign funds, but happily, the $217,000 that a bunch of misguided Republicans steered into Craig’s coffers helped pay for, among other things, a lot of free entertainment for the rest of us.

THREE: Party of Personal Responsibility Update

Speaking of legal defenses, New Jersey Assemblyman Robert Schroeder is now facing criminal charges over $400,000 worth of bad checks alleged to have been written to investors in All Points International Distributors Inc., a military contracting business owned by Schroeder. If you inferred from that that he’s a Republican, you inferred quite correctly.

This is only the latest legal trouble Schroeder has faced. According to the north Jersey Record, Schroeder’s entrepreneurial career:

… includes more than a dozen lawsuits from vendors and creditors stretching back to at least 1997.

Uncharacteristically for a Republican, Schroeder initially seemed to signal that he knows who’s at fault here:

 “I made a mistake, I apologize,” Schroeder said. “I’m responsible for my actions. It’s a sad day for my family.”

If you find that statement remarkably mature for a Republican politician who finds himself in hot water, don’t be too hasty. Schroeder has a ready explanation for why he “made a mistake”:

“We’re having tough business times like everybody else,” said Assemblyman Robert Schroeder, who represents the 39th District. “Business has been in decline during the Obama administration.”

Thank goodness. You can’t count on much in this crazy old world, but I’ve always believed you can count on Republicans invariably shifting the blame for their misdeeds onto somebody else. Bonus points for making your scapegoat Barack Obama, Mr. Schroeder. I guess we’ll see how that stands up in court.

FOUR: Your Cheeto Heart…

Lowell Turpin of Tennessee apparently doesn’t pay much attention to politics, which I must assume is now to his considerable chagrin. Turpin was perusing his girlfriend’s Facebook page on July 22 and spotted a photo of a strange man:

Lowell Turpin, 40, “angrily demanded to know who the male was,” reported Anderson County Sheriff’s Department investigators.

Crystal Gray, 38, “replied that it was a picture of Mitt Romney.”

Despite being informed that the man on Gray’s wall was the presumptive Republican presidential candidate… Turpin apparently was not placated. Gray said that he “became upset because she was attempting to communicate with friends through her Facebook account.”

In a subsequent tussle over the laptop, Gray’s hand was injured as she unsuccessfully tried to stop Turpin form smashing the computer against the wall. Gray told deputies that Turpin… also punched her in the face during the encounter.

I wish Ms. Gray well (and urge her to get as far away from Turpin as she can, as fast as she can). What’s noteworthy about the incident in a more general sense is that Mitt Romney’s image figures into the story as something worthy of jealousy. In addition to the jail time he richly deserves, I hope Turpin gets a quick seminar on this fall’s election and some psychological help, as well.

FIVE: Academia, We Hardly Knew Ye…

If the state of the nation doesn’t depress you enough, try this on for size:

… former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is pumping up his political and academic profile — and will head the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy at the University of Southern California, a new think tank to advance “post-partisan” politics…

Schwarzenegger will chair the Institute’s Board of Advisors, and he has also been appointed the inaugural Governor Downey Professor of State and Global Policy at USC…

“I always said that after I left office, I would continue to stay involved in certain issues, to be involved in something that has had an effect on people,” Schwarzenegger said Wednesday in an interview with the Chronicle. “This is what it is about: post-partisanship and the regional approach to issues…(that’s) one of the very important things we learned in California.”

I don’t know if Perfesser Schwarzenegger needs my help settling on course subject matter, but if he’s looking for ideas, I’ve started roughing out a few:

  • Enron 101: Explores methods for deposing a sitting Democratic governor after holding private meetings with Ken Lay. Guest speakers will include Grandma Millie, Gray Davis and – surprise! – Ken Lay.
  • Upstairs, Downstairs 236: An examination of how misusing taxpayers funds to cover up your extramarital affairs and out-of-wedlock offspring can more than double your fun.
  • Turkeys 107: Seeks to give aspiring action stars an understanding of how one receives a $25 million paycheck to sleepwalk through a dud like End of Days.

It would be such a shame if the wide range of Schwarzenegger’s experience went to waste.