Sad news has come in from Germany. Paul the Octopus is dead. He had gained world-wide attention for his uncanny ability to pick winners in the World Cup soccer match-ups. He was only 2 12 years old and seems to have died of natural causes.

Paul was a Progressive, of course. How can I tell? Octopuses are highly intelligent. They have eight arms. Theyre well-equipped by nature for taking our wallets. European outlook. Soccer fan. A perfect fit.

Ive often wondered why liberals and conservatives dont have animal mascots, just like Democrats and Republicans do. The famous donkey and elephant symbols came from the talented pen of Thomas Nast, a nineteenth century cartoonist. Its hard to believe it, but Nasts animal symbols date only from the 1870s. Abraham Lincoln and U.S. Grant, the first two Republican presidents, never ran with the elephants.

Nast also portrayed the Democrats of New York Citythe powerful and dreaded Tammany Hall political machineas a tiger. Tigers have big appetites. It took a lot of graft to keep those Tammany Hall Democrats satisfied. Lots of stimulus projects were gobbled up.

Nast was a genius and a true artist. He had, though, an unfortunate habit of vilifying the Irish. For all his championing of black freedmenwho needed his help--he sank to a regrettable bigotry with Catholics and immigrants. Thats a good thing for us to avoid today.

Nasts portraying Republicans as elephants is not too surprising. Its fun to see the comical pachyderms running in a circle at the circus. Theyre great big strong beasts, basically benign. I mean, do you know anyone whos mad at elephants?

Theodore Roosevelt was--at least in 1912, when he was denied nomination to a third term by the Republican Party. It was then that TR ran as a Progressive. The party was better known as The Bull Moose Party. Thats because Theodore shook off an assassination attempt. It takes more than that to kill a bull moose, he said.

That was one of the most colorful additions. Liberal Republicans in the nineteenth century were known as Mugwumps. Thats because, one wag said, their mugs were on one side of the fence and their wumps were on the other. Liberal Republicans today are called RINOsRepublicans in Name Only. They dont seem to mind the designation as Rhinos. And they add to the political zoo.

Independents today dont have the imagination that Teddy Roosevelt had. Take Ross Perot, for example. His independent bid in 1992 was the strongest of any since Roosevelt in 1912. Maybe he should have run with a Texas armadillo as a mascot.

When we look at todays TEA Party, we note they dont have a mascot. Theyre still working mostly within the Republican Party, so Id imagine theyre some kind of elephant. They sure dont take direction from the Ring Master of the Circus.

Maybe their mascot should be a woolly mammoth. We may see a woolly mammoth herd stampeding next Tuesday.

Lets pause a moment to pay respects to Paul the Progressive Octopus. They say he died at age 2 12 from natural causes. Maybe so. But I think he expired from overeating. You cant go on and on grabbing everything in sight with your eight arms and consuming it. Itll kill a political movement as fast as it kills an octopus. Its only natural.