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Kenny a laughing stock? Just look at Barack Obama's face

Enda Kenny has developed a debilitating speech defect. Following the College Green fiasco, when he shamelessly and clumsily appropriated the words of President Barack Obama while Obama stood behind him with what looked like a gotcha grin, the Taoiseach's public addresses will henceforth be scrutinised for copyright infringements. Whenever he delivers anything approaching an impressive oration, his listeners won't reflect on what he said so much as wonder who said it first.

Kenny's gaffe was widely greeted with a combination of cackling and cringing, not to mention flashbacks to the days before he assumed the surface gravitas of office.

There has subsequently been some sympathy, but in reality he slipped on a banana skin that he had peeled for himself.

The team of swaggering young advisers on which Kenny has become increasingly reliant are frequently described in newspaper profiles as 'West Wingers', a reference to Aaron Sorkin's whip-smart TV drama about fictional White House intrigue, which starred Martin Sheen as the relentlessly noble President Jed Bartlet.

This description is neither poetic licence nor oversimplified shorthand but rather a statement of fact.

Many of those on whom Kenny depends for counsel and speeches are what the Americans call Wingnuts, zealous fans of The West Wing.

All political junkies share needles and backroom boys and girls in most parties would have a similar fascination with this TV series.

There may even be a few Wingnuts among what's left of the Fianna Fail hierarchy, but by inclination and temperament, most soldiers of destiny remain glued to The Sopranos. However, the Fine Gael fascination with The West Wing is unique and by no means restricted to the lower orders.

Amidst the tributes paid to the late Garret FitzGerald, one of the most intimate portraits was provided by Caroline Walsh, a family friend.

She recalled holidays in France with the extended FitzGerald clan and detailed the activities that enlivened these sojourns.

"What really characterised (the holidays)," she wrote, "were loads of children, everyone having shopping, cooking and wine-buying duties and making sure there were enough episodes of The West Wing."

It's easy to imagine FitzGerald appreciating the moral dilemmas around which much of the series revolved and the wit with which their implications were thrashed out by the show's relentlessly eloquent characters.

But FitzGerald was no Wingnut. As a genuine political philosopher with first-hand experience of power, he would have felt no need to mimic the dialogue or poses of a TV show.

The same cannot be said of the more gauche Fine Gael handlers, some of whom are often seen strutting around Leinster House as though they were internally acting out a Josh and Toby walk-and-talk.

Deep within this culture of fantasy politics, there lurks a burning desire to repackage the Taoiseach as something he isn't. Hence the fateful decision to shoehorn Obama's words into Kenny's mouth. It's a fatal flaw and one that will continue to haunt Fine Gael.

After all, Kenny is no Obama, nor indeed even a Bartlet. Left to his own devices, he instinctively evades tough questions and big issues and is prone to gobbledygook -- the kind of random gibberish one would more likely hear from Charlie Sheen than Martin.

Maybe it's because of his longstanding obsession with JFK mythology, but Kenny is far too indulgent of the Wingnut tendency. He needs to convince the electorate that he says what he means and means what he says.

At a time when the Government is dancing to the tune of foreign powers, the last thing we need is a karaoke Taoiseach who performs cover versions of other leaders' songs.

Indo Review