WASHINGTON, D.C. — If you think that U.S. House speaker Paul Ryan’s fixed scowl on Tuesday night was a juvenile expression of political posturing and gamesmanship, then you, my friend, are in the dark about one of our nation’s greatest all-time practical jokes, albeit a very dark and sick prank.
While President Barack Obama delivered his final State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress, Speaker Ryan was sitting on a dead kitten. That’s right, a dead kitten called “Mr. Jinx.” And if that doesn’t have you reaching for the main contact number at PETA, then you’ll be interested to know: Ryan had little choice but to play along with what has become a Capitol Hill tradition.
The kitten, whose periodic name changes have ranged from “General Sterling Price” (True Grit) to “Mr. Bigglesworth” (Austin Powers) during the Clinton administration, has become a long-running gag of the Republican Party—a soap-on-a-rope gift—wrapped and passed around every federal holiday by the strangest of bedfellows—politicians and members of the House and Senate, all with a twisted sense of humor.
Legend has it that the top-secret existence of the first dead GOP kitten was called “Lucifer,” whose name Richard Milhous Nixon derived from Disney’s Cinderella. This was after Tricky Dick strangled a sphinx cat at the height of the Watergate scandal. Nixon went on to stuff the dead animal for his trophy shelf and before leaving the White House with his tail between his own legs, he handed the cat to his successor, Gerald Ford, behind closed doors. The conversation, surprisingly, was not recorded, but Ford apparently hurled at the sight of dead Lucifer.
Ford couldn’t wait to get rid of the ugly sphinx and slipped it to Nelson Rockefeller at a fundraiser. Rockefeller scratched his head at Ford’s clunky gesture and soon passed it to Henry Kissinger who apparently stuck it in George H.W. Bush’s briefcase on a trip to China.
Since that time several symbolic and physical embodiments of Lucifer have surfaced—from “Rufus The Zombie Cat” (Re-Animator) during the Reagan years to “Crookshanks” (Harry Potter) during George W. Bush’s two terms as commander in chief.
Mr. Jinx (Meet the Parents) is said to be the latest incarnation of the GOP’s lucky charm. This one came about after Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) accidentally squashed a kitten with his bare hands when he found out that his GW Bridge lane closure scheme had been leaked to the press by a mole in his cabinet.
To exact revenge, Christie had Mr. Jinx freeze-dried by a taxidermist friend and generous campaign donor, and sent it to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich (D). Despite Christie’s best intentions, this crossing of the aisle did not sit well with his constituents and the rotund governor promptly issued an apology for the infraction.
Sokolich soon presented the prized dead kitten to Donald Trump at a private documentary screening produced and hosted by the Donald that depicted actors disguised as American Muslims and refugees celebrating the tragic events of 9/11.
Trump carried Mr. Jinx with him on the road and allegedly tweeted that a ★symbol on the collar of the dead kitten inspired him to announce his run for the presidency.
So you see, kind friend, Paul Ryan’s grimace on Tuesday night had little to do with what our president was saying. Ryan’s reaction was due to something he knew he was compelled to do. (When you place your hand on the bible and you take that oath to serve the American people, your sworn promise is as unbreakable as a crip’s handshake.)
Picture this: an ecstatic Joe Biden hands a letter signed by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. Ryan looks at the letter, confused, not sure what to make of it.
Biden, with a lunatic sparkle in his eye, motions to the seat behind the president’s left shoulder. He whispers in Ryan’s ear:
“Didn’t Boehner warn you? The only way you get to keep the Speaker of the House title is to sit on the dead cat and continue the con.”
Word is Marco Rubio is next in line for the honor of carrying the dead feline on his campaign trail. That thing will be accompanying him all the way to the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.
You could tell by Rubio’s dour look on Tuesday night that senior House and Senate members recently told him to suck it up and deal with it. The only way to pave a path to the White House is to convene with the ghost of Felix the Cat.