An Opie Taylor scandal?

Staff WriterAugust 27, 2009 

Now it was rather nice when Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican senator who's in the midst of the "anti" crowd on health-care reform, noted that when he was a boy Andy Griffith, or rather Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, was a sort of surrogate dad for him. (The senator has been in public view a lot lately as an opponent of Democratic health-care reform ideas. His appearances included Hugh Hewitt's radio show last week.)

Alas, I'm afraid that if he happens to run into that surrogate dad, still an energetic and delightful fellow in residence in the North Carolina coastal village of Manteo, he might be in for a whuppin'.

The thing is, in case the senator didn't happen to know it, that Andy Griffith and Ron Howard, Opie, did a rather well-known television commercial in the 2008 election season for an Illinois senator campaigning for the White House in part on health-care reform. Name of Obama. Now known to DeMint, and it must be painful, as "Mr. President."

As the story went, the idea for the commercial came from Howard, one of the most successful directors in the history of Hollywood, and as he's told the tale, he called Griffith and Griffith told him right off the bat that he was an Obama man. Then came the ad. Then came the election. Yes, the result was one with many people taking a bow. But might victory have been due to the Mayberry Reunion? You be the judge.

In any case, invoking long-time Democrat Griffith in the health-care debate is interesting business indeed. Particularly when DeMint had earlier popped off about Obama's health-care reform effort by calling it possibly the president's "Waterloo" and reckoning that Republicans could use it to destroy Obama's presidency.

The specific episode to which the senator apparently referred in making a point about independence and standing up for oneself is the one in which young Opie is having his milk money, at a nickel a day, stolen by a boy from school. When Andy hears about it, he tells Opie a story from his own youth, wherein his favorite fishing spot was monopolized by a bully. Andy reckons he stood up to the bully, even though he got smacked in the face. You know the ending: Opie decides to hold on to his nickel, gets himself a black eye, but emerges triumphant.

In our ongoing effort to help fellow archconservatives, might we suggest a better example of socialism run amok, and one in which nobody gets hurt? (We have referred to this story previously, doubtless in support of other archconservative ideals and because a particular episode is a blueprint for life itself.)

Yes, we cite "Opie the Birdman," which begins with Opie testing a new slingshot and accidentally killing a mother songbird, with three chicks, that lives in the Taylors' tree. He feels bad about it, and Andy shames him further by opening his window and telling him that the three baby birds are singing for their mother. Opie decides he will take over raising the birds, and he gets a cage and feeds them and gives them water to drink. He names them Winkin', Blinkin' and Nod.

After a few weeks, the birds are strong and ready to fly away. Andy and Opie set them free. Opie is proud, but he looks down and says, "The cage sure looks empty, don't it Paw?" To which Andy, looking up to the tree, replies, "But don't the trees seem nice and full?"

We'd like to channel DeMint for a minute here and with all due respect to our fellow archconservative friend, interpret this story for you in the way in which he might do it:

"Put those handkerchiefs away, you wimps. Can't you see what's going on here? Opie has been engaged in socialized medicine. Did the baby birds have a chance to tough it out themselves? No! They had Opie dispensing free water and food and health care. So do the birds learn independence? No! They just fly in the trees and start singing. Freeloaders on the Mayberry health-care plan. And you see what happens. They'll spend the rest of their days just sitting in the trees and singing. This is Opie's Waterloo!"

Deputy editorial page editor Jim Jenkins can be reached at 919-829-4513 or at

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