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November 12, 2011

A fountain of wisdom gushes forth


Daily Star

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There's this tale about a young rabbi from a small village in Eastern Europe who has decided to continue his career in America.

Before he leaves, he seeks out his mentor, a wise, revered older rabbi.

"Rabbi," asks the young man, "what is the secret to life?"

The old sage thinks for several moments and then gives his reply.

"Life," he says, "is a fountain."

The young rabbi nods and leaves to begin his journey. He doesn't exactly understand why life is a fountain, but he's certain that if he gives it enough thought, the answer will surely come to him.

The young rabbi becomes very successful in the United States, with a large synagogue and congregation. He authors several scholarly works and becomes known as one of the most accomplished clergymen in the world.

But still, the question gnaws at him, day after day, week after week, year after year. Why is life like a fountain? Why is life like a fountain?

It's driving him to distraction. He can think of little else.

He devotes his life to the question, bringing together outstanding theological and philosophical minds from the four corners of the Earth. But none of their learned theories satisfies him.

After 30 years, he hears that the old rabbi in Europe is on his death bed. Canceling all his important engagements, the younger rabbi _ now in his late 50s _ boards an airplane, hoping against hope that he's not too late to find out the answer to the question that has haunted him all of his adult life.

He arrives to find the old rabbi still alive. Running to the bedside, his voice shaking with anticipation, the former pupil asks his question.

"Rabbi," he implores, "you must tell me. Why ... why is life like a fountain?"

The wisdom of the ages in the old rabbi's eyes, he ponders his response. Finally, he speaks:

"All right," he says. "so life isn't a fountain."

It is in that vein that I tell you that life is a fountain, and furthermore, here are some other things you should know:

• All this kerfuffle over Herman Cain's alleged improper sexual advances in the 1990s is interesting, particularly since he keeps changing his story, but let's face it, the guy was never going to be president, anyway.

• His 9-9-9 tax foolishness doesn't add up, and his professed knowledge of domestic and foreign affairs is just as poor as his knowledge of _ well _ attempted affairs.

• What makes Rick Santorum think he can be president when in his last race for senator _ running as an incumbent in Pennsylvania _ he lost by a whopping 18 points?

• I haven't always agreed with Richard Hanna's votes in Congress, but I do admire the 24th Congressional District Republican's integrity.

I presume that there are some votes that a freshman member of the House must make to avoid being a pariah within his party. For instance, Hanna voted for Rep. Paul Ryan's ill-advised plan to cut $4.4 trillion over 10 years by repealing the President Barack Obama's health care law and overhauling Medicare and Medicaid.

But there is a limit to Hanna's willingness to "go along to get along," and here are two examples.

There's an anti-tax zealot named Grover Norquist who bullied all but six Republican House members to sign a pledge to never raise taxes ... for any reason ... under any circumstances, and it's really screwing up chances for a viable national economic plan.

One of those six was Richard Hanna, who politely informed Norquist what he could do with his pledge.

Then, in February, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence sponsored a petty amendment to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions. Only a tiny portion of what Planned Parenthood does on women's health issues involves abortions, but that didn't stop all but seven Republicans from voting for Pence's amendment.

One of those seven was a gutsy Richard Hanna.

Now, other Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner, are rightly fudging on their Norquist pledges, but when it counted back in February, Hanna, to his great credit, was a mensch.

• People say Mitt Romney has no core beliefs, just because you could get whiplash from his flip-flops on abortion, gun control, Social Security, auto industry bailouts, stem cell research, Ronald Reagan's presidency, the minimum wage and what to do with illegal aliens.But, I insist, he does have one core belief.He wants to be president.

• Given the success of President Obama's bailout of the auto industry, somebody came up with what would be a terrific slogan for his re-election campaign:

"General Motors is alive ... and Osama bin Laden is dead."

Life, indeed, is a fountain.

Sam Pollak is the editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at spollak@thedailystar.com or at (607) 432-100, ext. 208. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/sampollak