Memories Of Paris

Sometimes it takes a little while for things to bubble up out of the dusty recesses of my brain.

Last week, Paris Hilton found herself at the center of national politics. And, amazingly enough, she managed to keep her underwear on while doing it. Or, at lest, a bathing suit.

It all started with a John McCain ad mocking Senator Obama’s remarkable popularity. It compared him — for all of a split second — to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, two people known for remarkable celebrity despite both being utterly vapid twits.

Oh, and also two people whose crotches have garnered far more attention than pretty much anything else they’ve done, but I think that’s coincidental. Until, at least, Obama suffers a wardrobe malfunction.

Anyway, back to my point (such as it is): the invocation of Paris Hilton in national politics seemed oddly familiar to me, and it finally clicked:

The last fight over the inheritance tax.

At the time, the Republicans supported repealing (or, at least, lowering) it, arguing that was a simple case of government greed: the government had already taxed that money, when it was earned by the decedent; there was no justification for the government to get in on it, apart from “we want to.”

The Democrats argued for keeping it, saying that it was a burden only on the wealthiest, and people who get money without working for it should pay taxes on that, too, just like those who worked for it.

And both sides had their own name for the tax, too. The Republcans called it “the death tax.” The Democrats called plans for scrapping it “the Paris Hilton tax cut.”

At the time, I thought that was a really stupid argument on two fronts. For one, families as rich as the Hiltons don’t bother with things like inheritances. They set up trusts and trust funds and all sorts of other structures to avoid taxes and preserve their family money.

For another, I seem to recall hearing that Paris Hilton was publicly disinherited by the current patriarch (or possibly matriarch; I really try to ignore such news) of her family. Or he or she pledged the vast majority of it to charity, and not family. Or something. I’m vague about the details, and proud of that.

That being said, I have to give her tremendous credit for the joke ad she delivered in response. It was positively brilliant — her energy plan is the sanest I’ve heard so far, and very much in line with my own wishes. And whether she used cue cards, a teleprompter, or memorized her lines, she delivered them flawlessly. My hat’s off to her — she knows her place in society is largely as a joke, and she’s not only accepted it, but embraced it. And she’s made millions off it. God help us, she’s actually achieved a measure of the American dream.

So when the Democrats made such hay out of Paris Hilton’s family publicly slamming McCain over his use of their daughter’s fleeting image in an ad, I found myself with two thoughts: first, McCain didn’t make Paris Hilton anywhere near the joke she already has made of herself. Second, why are they so eager to leap to the defense of someone they’ve already used as a mocking symbol?

The only response I can think of at this point is “whatever.”

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