I feel like a combination of the Ancient Mariner and Rip van Winkle. Spent most
of the last three weeks inching a small sailboat from Maine to New York against
adverse winds and the odd hurricane. But it was a great deal of fun, all in all,
and, better yet, I missed a big chunk of the Presidential campaign, certainly
an undiluted blessing.
Unfortunately I was unable to miss the "debate" last night. A sad spectacle.
The personal contrast between the two candidates couldn't be sharper, of course. The plodding, incoherent, dully perseverative McCain, and the quick, articulate, obviously
intelligent Obama -- day and night, right?
Wrong. The trouble is that smart though Obama may be, he's imprisoned himself in the same mental Gulag as his dimwit opponent. McCain is stupid by nature, but Obama is stupid
So the two of them tangoed tediously round all the tired talking points of the last thirty years -- tax cuts, "earmarks", waste, supporting the troops, where exactly
the war-du-jour should take place, the dire Iranian threat, and the dire Russian threat -- re-heating for the seventh or eighth time the rancid intellectual leftovers of the Reagan days.
* * *
I was talking the other day with a born-and-bred New York liberal friend of mine -- call him Benedick. Benedick knows my views on the presidential shell game, but our conversation naturally turned
to it anyway, and Benedick finally burst out: "But won't you be glad to see the last of these... these... hicks
? These moose-skinners, these gun nuts, these NASCAR idiots, with their dumb pseudo-cowboy talk and their beer cans and their offroad buggies tearing up the land? I know, I know, Obama's a warmonger and an imperialist and a tool of Wall Street and all that, but shit, at least he's a person like us
It got me thinking. I'm not all that crazy about hicks. I grew up in a hick town, and left as soon as I could. I don't have any romantic illusions about the world of daytime television and Budweiser.
But maybe because I know that world so well, I also don't have any particular fear of it. To Benedick hicks are scary dangerous alien people, and Obama at least looks to him like somebody who wouldn't do or say anything creepy and embarrassing if you asked him to dinner. And for Benedick, though he understands Obama's limitations quite well intellectually, that is reason enough to prefer him: he's People Like Us, or PLU for short.
Benedick, in other words, is doing precisely what the rest of the electorate does in
our content-free political process: he is going with the person he identifies with. He will cast his vote in November for a man he knows will hand out boundless largesse to busted Wall Street speculators; who will jump through any hoop the Israel lobby holds up for him; who will continue to wage war in Iraq and wage more war in Afghanistan and probably Pakistan, too; who will continue to provoke and goad Russia and try to regain dominance over Iran; who will solve the health care mess by making people buy private insurance. And Benedick will sign off on all this because Obama is -- as FDR said about the elder Somaza -- a son of a bitch; but he's our son of a bitch.