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“Mister Peepers” continues Ben Folds’ foray into politics

Those who have heard Ben’s live shows recognize his occasional foray into current political affairs. Though rare, his leanings belie his red-state upbringing while at the same time are generally in line with his audience. So, following in the footsteps of his recent performance for and alongside Tennessee Democratic Senate candidate and former Governor Phil Bredesen, Ben has recorded a song taking aim at the discord between Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and Ohio Republican congressman Jim Jordan that arose during a hearing in June.

In conjunction with the Washington Post Magazine, the song, “Mister Peepers”, refers to the derisive nickname that President Donald J. Trump, out of frustration over the investigation, assigned to Rosenstein, who because of Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions’ recusal, oversees the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether the Trump campaign had any culpability in that interference. (If, for some reason, you haven’t heard about any of this before, stop now and go look it up on Google or your favorite search engine. Then come back.)

In the song, Folds illustrates and decries the one-sidedness of the hearing, at which Rosenstein was grilled by Jordan about the details of the investigation, details which Rosenstein, of course, could not disclose as they involve an ongoing matter within the Justice Department.

“But it’s just for cameras, yeah, it’s just a show of force / Y’all know he can’t comply, but that’s the point, of course.”

The irony in the situation is that while Rosenstein is bound to be truthful in his testimony, there is no such restraint on the Congressman, who, in Folds’ lyric,

“is free to lie – he’s not the one who’s under oath.”

“I picked the scene (of the hearing) that I felt was the most tense, which was that of a wrestler and a nerd,” Folds explains in a video for the Post about the backstory of the song. The treatment that Rosenstein had to endure from Jordan and others on the committee amounted to bullying, says Folds, and the combination with Trump’s “Mr. Peepers” characterization of Rosenstein brought a Lord of the Flies imagery in which one of the thugs break the glasses of one of the boys. The incident, Folds believes, is just one story among many similar ones that have played out again and again in the current political climate, that being the bullying that is all too evident in the President’s treatment of his rivals as well as his allies who do something he doesn’t particularly like.

The song, recorded in a Rhinebeck, N.Y. studio in July, concludes with a lament about the defenders of our “fragile young Republic” and should

“all the Mister Peepers fall, God help us all.”

The song is part of the Post Magazine’s foray into alternative storytelling, which includes a Betsy DeVos “board game” foray into education and a poem by former U. S Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky about James Comey (“Misguided but honest and hellbent on honor”). There’s a story with videos of the song and Ben’s Post backstory interview in Rolling Stone.


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