Mad Libs on the op-ed page

My favorite word game as a child was Mad Libs. I still remember filling in the blanks with nouns, adjectives and adverbs to create crazy stories.

This column in The News & Observer gave me a flashback to those times. The writer argues that President Barack Obama is an ideologue who will stop at nothing to win politically. It could have easily been written from the opposite point of view by changing a few key words. Here’s the lead:

Congress has passed Barrack [sic] Obama’s signature issue — health care reform. After a year of stops and starts, imposed deadlines and rancorous debate, President Obama and his allies will have prevailed.

Let’s go back to the fall of 2002 and rewrite this lead, with a wink at Mad Libs:

Congress has passed George W. Bush’s signature issue — authorization to go war with Iraq. After a year of stops and starts, imposed deadlines and rancorous debate, President Bush and his allies will have prevailed.

The op-ed piece goes on:

Conservatives and Republicans who underestimate Obama do so at their own electoral peril. Unlike Carter, Obama is a true believer, who understands that transforming policy translates into votes and a citizenry that is more reliant on the federal government.

Here’s the Mad Libs version:

Liberals and Democrats who underestimate Bush do so at their own electoral peril. Unlike his father, Bush is a true believer who understands that transforming policy translates into votes and a citizenry that is more reliant on the federal government.

And later:

To compete and to win in 2010 Republicans and conservatives must outline and define what Obama has in store for this nation. And that is the remaking of the nation as we have known it from its inception. We cannot count on a bad economy to propel us to a majority, or outrage over the health care bill.

The Mad Libs version:

To compete and to win in 2004, Democrats and progressives must outline and define what Bush has in store for this nation. And that is the remaking of the nation as we have known it from its inception. We cannot count on a bad economy to propel us to a majority, or outrage over the Iraq war.

And so on. The problem with such columns is that they state the obvious: Politicians play to win; their opponents underestimate them, etc.

If an op-ed piece can so easily get the Mad Libs treatment, it probably isn’t worth publishing.