Groucho Marx, Ann Coulter and Bob Barr

The principal of a Woodland Hills, California high school ordered the removal of a poster in a senior play because it featured a Groucho Marx-like parody of President Bush with glasses, a mustache and a cigar, after a student complained that it promoted “smoking and one ideology over another.”

In response to that news item, Irv Brecher wrote a letter to the Los Angeles Times which was not published: “As one who wrote two films for the Marx Brothers, and considered Groucho my closest friend, I believe if he were attending Woodland Hills high school today, Grouch would be exercising his free speech against George Bush, too. Nobody else seems to be making Hollywood movies doing that.”

Brecher wrote The Marx Brothers Go West in 1938 and The Marx Brothers At the Circus in 1939. Now 91 years old, he creates anagrams to help him fall asleep. For example, “Ann Coulter = a loner cunt.”

A few years ago, Coulter and I both played pundit on the same TV panel about the assassination of Robert Kennedy, on a short-lived series, The Conspiracy Zone. During a commercial break, I suggested to her that because such conservative figures as Bob Barr and Phyllis Schafley had taken public positions usually ascribed to liberals, the labels “conservative” and “liberal” have become obsolescent, and I asked what she thought might be appropriate substitutes.

“Americans and cowards,” she said.

“Yikes,” I replied.

A few weeks ago, Walter Brasch, author of America’s Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government’s Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights, had dinner with Barr, who is going around the country opposing the Patriot Act, although he manages to get in a dig about how the 2nd Amendment provides protection for all the other amendments.

“One thing that does worry me about this,” Brasch told me, “is that the American Civil Liberties Union paid him $150,000 as a ‘privacy rights consultant’ last year. I don’t know how much he’s getting this year. It seems as if the ACLU bought his allegiance, and he sold out for money.

“I do think that he firmly believes the Patriot Act needs major revisions to protect citizens, but I would be a little more pleased if he believed it, promoted it and spoke out about it, without being paid for it by the ACLU.”

The U.S. Attorney for the middle district of Pennsylvnia has written that the Patriot Act is “needed and doesn’t violate anyone’s rights” in the Harrisburg paper among several others. Coming up June 18 in Harrisburg, there will be a statewide coalition to combat the Patriot Act. Among the co-sponsors are the ACLU and the American Conservative Union.

And if you should happen to attend that event, be sure to tell ’em--Groucho sent you.