Sunday, August 31, 2008

Is this on?

"Hey, it's a roll of the dice, you bet it is -- but that's the kind of maverick, independent spirit this country was founded on -- taking a big chance! I tell you, my friends, it's true I didn't meet her for very long, but I could tell in an instant: she's got the right stuff. Call me crazy, but if God forbid something did happen to me, I have no doubt Sarah Palin would rise to the occasion. And yes, of course, there may have been others whose 'resumes' were better... but resumes don't speak to character, and my worthy opponent, Mr. Obama, knows that as well as anyone. I trust Sarah Palin's character.... On top of which, I love her politics. So she disagrees with me on Abortion, and Evolution, and Birth control. What do you think, I'm just looking for a yes man, or a yes babe? A healthy disagreement is the basis of a strong Democracy!

"And, let me make one other thing crystal clear: I am a very healthy man! The next person who mentions that I am a 72 year-old cancer survivor gets a knuckle sandwich!"

Something like that might have worked.

This Way to the Magnificent Egress

Quite a week.

Nothing will ever match, I don't think, the 24 hours that included both Obama's acceptance speech, and the announcement of McCain's running mate for the sheer, stark, black-and-white contrast between these two men and these two campaigns.

To put it too simply, it's Hope vs. Cynicism. It's a man in the prime of his life offering a true vision for where he wants the country to go vs. a desperate old fart trying to do whatever he can to win an election; it's experience (experience in thinking seriously about important matters) vs. judgment (bad judgment, if you are thinking about the realities of the the world and the little matter of governing; possibly brilliant judgment if you are thinking strictly politically); it's ambition on behalf of the country vs. ambition on behalf of the self... I am not sure I would go so far as it call it Good vs. Evil, but man, it's pretty darn close.

History, of course, will be the final judge -- or at least November 4 will be. Typically (for me), I find myself thinking this is one cynical gamble that is all too likely to succeed. Governor Palin is extremely appealing; her story is a great one; the underdog who makes good is a rich tradition, at least in show business ('Kid, you're going out there the wife of an Eskimo, but you've got to come back a star!'); and it has helped The Old Coot most seriously in the two most important things he needed to do in this election: namely, nailing down the Conservative vote (you know, the people who believe in the teaching of creationism in schools and don't mind their VP candidate being against all forms of contraception, even for married couples -- is it 1921?!) and, maybe just as important, distancing himself (or appearing to) from George W.

McCain likes to joke (mistakenly) that he has as many scars as Frankenstein (any third grader could correct him by pointing out Dr. Frankenstein had few scars that we know of; it's his monster that was disfigured), but in any event, it's a bolt of lightning that may well invigorate his whole cynical campaign.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Kick Off

As the polls tightened, I didn't worry. I thought, no one's really paying attention yet, and he hasn't begun to fight, really. The man had to go on vacation, he had to get away from the public eye if only because Obama fatigue was setting in, and unfortunately that gave old McCain the chance to look tough and Presidential (if moronic and Bush 43-like in his defiant pose of 'strength') when a now-inevitable-seeming foreign crisis broke out.

But no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

This 'houses' backlash is among the most incredible, through-the-looking glass type of political experiences I can remember and is starting to leave me inarticulate with rage, which is, as always, a good time to blog...

The idea that by pointing out that McCain's inability to remember how many houses he owns is somehow 'going negative' -- that this 'opened the door' to Republican counter-attacks on Obama's patriotism and ties to presumed 'past radicals'.... McCain's defending his inability to remember not with a simple kinda 'aw-shucks, you know, we live in 4, and have 4 as investment properties, so it's kinda complicated' but by reminding us all, yet again, that he was a POW there for a while and didn't have any house at all to call his own... it's not how many houses he has, though that's bad enough from a strictly Joe Sixpack point of view -- it's that you have so many you can't remember, you mean old coot.... the continuing notion (I refuse to justify the word 'meme''s existence) that Obama is beloved by the press while McCain gets harsher treatment when by any objective measure it's the other way around...

All of it has me feeling, for the first time since Hillary conceded, that Obama might actually lose this election, and lose it badly.

Now that's not a bad place to be, of course. There's clearly been evidence of over-confidence in Obama's camp, and if they're like me, that over-confidence has now evaporated. Now it's game on. I am ready to rumble, and I am sure they are too.

But my long-held prediction of how this thing would play out is no longer as firm -- for the record, since I never got it down here, that prediction went something like this: Obama will have a slim summer lead, see it evaporate by the time the conventions roll around, then steamroller into a nearly double digit lead after a well-orchestrated and Unity-rich convention, highlighted by a speech that, while it isn't anywhere near his best, is darn good enough for those just tuning in, and which will be enough to give him a big boost in the polls, which will almost certainly be whittled away but not quite completely by the Republican convention, at which McCain will 'surprise' people by actually being able to give a decent speech of his own -- for the rest of the campaign it will be neck and neck, but in the end, as with Kennedy only narrowly able to defeat Nixon (and through some definite possible shenanigans), the better man will prevail, though only slimly, and over some definite cries of protest from those watching for voting irregularity.

So there it is - or was.

Now, on the eve of Denver (or the morning it begins), I am less sure.

What I know is that more than ever, I care about this election, and I cannot wait to live in a country that is Presided over by someone with as much keen intelligence and understanding and intuitive grasp of the dynamic complexities of Life in the Global 21st Century as this presumptive Democratic nominee. But I also know that more than ever, I may not get to live in that world, I may have to live in a country Presided over by a crabby old military dick. He'll soothe a lot of morons, and the country will continue its inevitable decline...

Like I said, I am not feeling particularly articulate or hopeful right now. I think the next ten weeks are going to be brutal. This isn't a blog post I'm all that proud of.

Wake me when it's over.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Elie Wiesel was right

At dinner last night, my daughter asked me a troubling question: "How often are the Olympics held?"

Of course, when I was a kid, this was a no-brainer -- every four years, during election years. But now? I guess you could say every two years, since technically they do hold some kind of Olympiad every two years - Winter, Summer, Winter, Summer, etc... But since they hold the Winter Olympics every four years and the Summer Olympics every four years... well, very few Olympians compete in both (Eric Heiden? Who else?), it seems like 'every four years' is still the best answer.

Okay, but that's not what was most troubling. What got me was, when in Hell did they switch over, and why didn't we all speak out about it at the time? What was wrong with waiting every four years? Is the TV ratings monster that much bigger if they get to throw a Winter Olympics at us every four years in the off-year? (I know the answer, by the way -- Lillehammer, Norway, 1994 -- that's not the point. The point is, there should have been a massive outcry, and there wasn't. And I want to know why.)

So as I sat there, trying to explain it to Lily, it occurred to me that this is a phenomenon that comes up quite a bit: some relatively trivial, often sports-related, change is made to the status quo, and most of us, having adult lives of our own to lead and our own passions and concerns to muddle through, simply don't have the time or inclination to battle every little thing that upsets our apple cart. Thus: in baseball alone, three divisions, interleague play, the upcoming use of television replays to overrule umpires, etc., etc. I'm sure there are literally hundreds of examples of Little Unnecessary Changes that are Made to Things that are Perfectly Fine to Begin With. (Anyone wanna buy And yet very few of us bother to speak out about such things, because it's so damn trivial, and who has the time, and wouldn't you look kind of silly leading the charge against, say, having a pro football division called the NFC North?

So after dinner, Lily had a birthday present she wanted me to open -- because, guess what, it was wrapped in one of those idiotic plastic things that are sealed industrial-tight to prevent someone from injecting anthrax into it. And I realized, here's another one. About a decade ago, they started packaging things this way -- and at the risk of turning into Andy Rooney, what the hell was wrong with a cardboard box with cellophane around it? Children's toys are the absolute worst, especially dolls, with these little plastic ties around the head, through the piece of cardboard on the back, through a little plastic doohickey, then all twisted around and taped to the underside of the cardboard -- and that's just the doll's head -- then there are the same things for the arms, the legs, the gowns, the purses, all the damn little accessories, to the point that it takes ten minutes to open a gift now, and the Dads of America have to be working like maniacs with the scissors just to keep up.

And that's when I cut myself, with the damn scissors, trying to cut alongside the sealed plastic edge of the packaging the digital camera came in.

Today, I wear a Barbie band-aid on my palm, a symbol of my failure to speak out.