Paul Greenberg

With sincere apologies to, and selective quotations from, Finley Peter Dunne, creator of the immortal Mister Dooley, the Irish barkeep and political sage who first noted that politics ain't beanbag.

Francis X. Hennessey looked even more confused than usual as he came through the swinging doors of Riley's Pub and Hibernian Grill. ("Today's Special: Corned Beef and Cabbage." As it was every day, for Mr. Riley prided himself on the consistency of both his cuisine and politics.) Hennessey headed straight for the bar at the back -- as if he were late for an appointment. He would have taken off his coat if he'd had one, and plunked down a dollar if he'd had one of those, too. Instead, he raised a forefinger straight up to indicate his order: One Cold One.

The dapper if aging Mr. Riley calmly took the dishrag he usually wore draped over his left shoulder like a Scotsman's tartan, dusted off the free lunch, nodded sagely (he couldn't nod any other way, being a sage), and raised his own forefinger to point out the Past Due list taped to the barroom mirror. Hennessey's name led all the rest.

"I'm confused," Hennessey confessed.

"As if I'd ever seen you whin ye warn't," Mr. Riley replied.

"It's all this talk of sequestration," Hennessey said, "or is it defenestration or immigration or some such, with folks jumpin' off cliffs fiscal, physical or otherwise that's got me head spinnin'. What a donnybrook, lollypaloooza and general foofaraw and brouhaha. And here I thought th' prezydential illliction was over, but the Dimmycrats and Raypublicans are still debatin' the grreat issues iv the day in their statesmanlike way by thowin' th' dishes at each other. 'Tis worse thin me last family reunion."

"It'll be over soon enough," said Mr. Riley. "Whin they notice that th' grreat awful complete catastrophe and calamity and end iv th' wurrld ivrybody predicted has come and gone and not a blessed thing has changed. Maybe now we can all get back to th' usual nice quiet fistfights that give pollyticks their dignity."

"I'll dhrink to that," said Hennessey.

"Ye'd dhrink to annythin'," said Mr. Riley. "Ah, 'tis a grreat thing t'be on yer side iv th' bar, Hinnissy. Me, I pour me heart out into mugs and shot glasses, an' th' onny way I can come out even is by dilutin' the marchandise. 'Tis enough to dhrive a man to dhrink.

"Why, Misther Riley," said a shocked Hennessey. " 'Tis a sin t'be complainin' about annythin' today. Ye ought to be settin' 'em up fir the house and wavin' the shamrock-spangled banner, the grand old red-white-and-green! Don't ye know what day it is?"

"Sunday, I think," said Mr. Riley.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.