How the Marx Brothers (Almost) Rescued Wall Street

For a while on Monday, it appeared that the Marx Brothers had taken over Capitol Hill. There was "Groucho" Pelosi standing in the well of the House doing her best imitation of a partisan harpie while the financial system of the United States was crashing down around her ears.

Her spittle-flecked rant against Republicans and the president may not have been helpful to promoting a spirit of bipartisanship, but as a comedy bit it was a huge hit with the Democrats. I half expected Margaret Dumont to leap out from the Republican side of the aisle and start feeding the straight lines to Madame Speaker. No doubt it would have brought down the House -- except Pelosi was doing a fine job of that all by herself.

Then there was John "Chico" McCain after the bailout's defeat, off stage somewhere, piously remonstrating about how necessary it was for a bipartisan solution to the crisis. It sounded something like President of Freedonia Rufus T. Firefly in Duck Soup:

Rufus T. Firefly: I'd be unworthy of the high trust that's been placed in me if I didn't do everything in my power to keep our beloved Freedonia in peace with the world. I'd be only too happy to meet with Ambassador Trentino, and offer him on behalf of my country the right hand of good fellowship. And I feel sure he will accept this gesture in the spirit of which it is offered. But suppose he doesn't. A fine thing that'll be. I hold out my hand and he refuses to accept. That'll add a lot to my prestige, won't it? Me, the head of a country, snubbed by a foreign ambassador. Who does he think he is, that he can come here, and make a sap of me in front of all my people? Think of it -- I hold out my hand and that hyena refuses to accept. Why, the cheap ball-pushing swine, he'll never get away with it I tell you, he'll never get away with it.

[Trentino enters]

Rufus T. Firefly: So, you refuse to shake hands with me, eh?

In other words, "Can't we all get along -- even if my opponent is a jerk?" McCain may have suspended his campaign (sort of) in order to appear to be doing something about the crisis but all he ended up accomplishing was getting Democrats mad at him, Republicans wondering what he was doing, and voters moving to Obama en masse.

Well, that worked out fine, didn't it, John?

Then there's Barack "Harpo" Obama. As we all know, Harpo never says a word, simply makes beautiful music on his harp. I was tempted to refer to Obama as Zeppo Marx since he was invisible in most of the group's later films but didn't want to spoil the harp analogy. I mean, if all we have to do to fix America is elect Obama, even if things don't work out quite as planned, we'll always have that soft, soothing harp playing beautiful music -- or Obama making those gorgeous speeches -- to comfort us as we're standing in soup lines or, best case scenario, in the unemployment line.