Hick to Nuke Australia?: The Onion versus the New York Times

John Hickenlooper taking the plunge for Referendum C in 2005, when he was Denver mayor.
John Hickenlooper taking the plunge for Referendum C in 2005, when he was Denver mayor. YouTube
Many of the challenges that former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper faces in his bid for the presidency in 2020 involve perception. Simply put, he needs for his longshot candidacy to be seen as truly viable rather than a total joke.

This struggle is neatly framed by two new posts about his attempt to change his address to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. One, in the New York Times, portrays him as a potential Trump killer. The other, in The Onion, suggests that no one would notice him even if Hickenlooper threatened to blast an entire continent — Australia, which everyone loves! — off the map.

The Times effort combines a provocative headline, "Does John Hickenlooper Have a Secret Weapon?" with a subhed, "Maybe Nice Guys Finish Trump," so flattering that it could have been composed by Hick's own staff. And the piece as a whole, penned by Frank Bruni, who's long written positively about the former geologist and brewpub owner (see "The John Hickenlooper Exception," from 2011), follows suit.

Bruni begins by wondering about the type of campaigner who might bedevil President Donald Trump, admitting that "I’m not entirely sure which type is more likely to defeat him." But, he adds, "I know which gives us a better chance at healing America — if that’s even possible — and moving us past a juncture of crippling animosity. It’s the type that Hickenlooper represents and maybe even exemplifies."

Standing in stark, and hilarious, contrast is The Onion's satirical salvo, "John Hickenlooper Announces Support For Nuking Australia Just To See If Anyone Paying Attention." In it, Hick comes across as already desperate to be taken seriously.

"That’s right — did you hear that?" he's "quoted" as asking. "If elected president, I will use our massive thermonuclear arsenal to unrelentingly bombard Australia until it is reduced to a smoking crater." He adds: "Let me be perfectly clear: My very first act upon taking the oath of office will be to launch a preemptive and wholly unilateral strike against Australia, employing enough weapons of mass destruction to kill all 25 million of the country’s inhabitants and render the entire continent a toxic, permanently uninhabitable wasteland for thousands of years to come. That’s a promise. Are you all getting this?"

Oh yeah: Hick also "says" that if his Australian threat fails to boost his poll numbers, "he would also be willing to endorse government-mandated Bible burnings and legalized pedophilia."

Expect to see references to one of these items in every Hickenlooper email blast from now on. Guess which one.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts