In my departed friend Joe Heller’s great novel, a character explains that "Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing."
Republicans are now applying this logic to the choice of a Presidential candidate, with each side offering indisputable proof that, depending on who is doing the figures (a) Mitt Romney is on a “path to getting the delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination” or (b) a Santorum calculation that “Mitt Romney’s math is just like Mitt Romney’s conservatism. It’s bogus. Mitt Romney thinks he can get to 1,144. The problem is, he can’t.”
When it first appeared fifty years ago, I read “Catch-22” during the Cuban Missile Crisis in a Los Angeles hotel room after watching JFK’s speech about nuclear weapons 90 miles from our shores with helicopters making a racket as they came and went on a pad outside my room. In that setting, Joe’s nightmare world made perfect sense.
That feeling is back at a time where Southern GOP voters believe their President is a Muslim and are preparing to back either Romney, a reincarnation of unlikable Col. Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions a crew must fly after they reach it or Santorum, a latter-day Milo Minderbinder, who ends up bombing his own base at cost-plus.
In recent years, I have missed what Heller would have had to say about George Bush, Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin, but now on the anniversary of having put the perfect phrase into our language to describe what we are living through now, the only solace is to read “Catch-22” again and wonder how he knew so well what was coming.
During the GOP convention might be the perfect time.