Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sweet smell of desperation

Remember when the Republicans used to nominate aging movie stars and retired athletes for high office? Celebrity alone was enough of a qualification for sending George Murphy to the Senate and Jim Bunning to Congress. A career in action movies fully prepared Arnold Schwarzenegger to govern the most populous and disaster-prone state in the country, apparently -- ask the state employees who just saw their salaries cut to minimum wage (I hope that doesn't include all those exhausted firefighters and the workers who have to pick up after the latest earthquake). And I seem to remember someone called Reagan. When did all the stars go dim?

Wherever he travels, Barack Obama draws crowds that overflow the venue and make the police nervous. For this transgression, he is compared to Hitler by the pathetic Ben Stein and to Britney Spears by some Rove wannabe laboring away in a secret Fox studio. Nobody wants to watch John McCain read the price of milk off an index card and then free-associate about Iraq. Well, who nominated him, anyway? Did they actually listen to him first? Anyone would look good standing between Dead Fred Thompson and Miracle Mike Huckabee, but the other garden gnomes have left the stage. Those dedicated followers of fashion whom Calvin Trillin named the Sabbath Gasbags are fond of good old John, but even they are starting to notice his apparent failure to learn anything after all these years in the Senate besides how to bum a ride on a corporate jet. The choice of St. Paul, Minnesota, for the Republican convention may turn out to be genius -- it's much easier to make a small place look crowded. Madison Square Garden would be filled with the sound of crickets.

Guys, guys, don't hate Obama because he's charismatic -- it's time to close the Glamor Gap. May I recommend Ted Nugent for vice president? He's young -- well, younger than McCain -- and if he decides to shoot a lawyer in the face, he'll use a crossbow. It's a medieval weapon, which should appeal to your restive evangelical base. And from what I can find, he's not that busy.

Don't thank me. Just let me ride in the inaugural parade with the Shriners.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Teapot tempest time

Sorry to be so late to the party, but I now live considerably more than a hoot 'n' a holler from Times Square and only got my July 21 New Yorker today. I saw at once what the problem is: Barry Blitt has attempted to bring together every foolish right-wing myth, rumor and lie about the Obamas in a single cover painting, and very well, too. The picture is called "The Politics of Fear," but to know that, you would have to 1. open the magazine to the table of contents page and 2. be able to read. If this were, say, The New Republic, the title would appear in large red letters on the cover, and there would be a long, boring article about how The Public Discourse has been corrupted, dumbed down, and generally brought low, mostly by bloggers and The Daily Show. The New Yorker doesn't work like that. It is still famously "not edited for the old lady in Dubuque," as Harold Ross wrote in 1925, and it expects you to get the joke. If Barack and Michelle were really as cool as they're accused of being, they'd ask for the original and incorporate it into their Christmas card. But they apparently think they need the old lady's vote and even think they can get it. Such is politics.

I thought it was funny. Not as funny as a previous Blitt cover which depicted Osama bin Laden on the New York subway, staring perplexedly at a transit map while being ignored by every other straphanger. Some found it offensive. I took it to mean that New York will defeat every noisy maniac who comes against her, if only by getting him hopelessly lost somewhere between Bowling Green and New Lots Avenue. I don't recall any flap on the cables about that one, not even a squawk of indignation from the Giuliani campaign (RIP). Maybe the Muses of News didn't see it, or they'd have a passing familiarity with Blitt's work. Maybe it just didn't fit into their continuing saga Obama: Everything He Does Is Wrong.

Think about it. If he and his wife exchange a fist-bump that every high school kid has done for years, it becomes "a terrorist salute." If he wears a flag lapel pin not visible from the upper deck at Soldier Field, he hates America. If he has a cheeseburger for lunch, does his failure to order a ham sandwich signal that he is a secret Muslim? Fox thinks so. And now he's not cool enough to laugh off a magazine cover but too cool to eat donuts. Donuts? When did eating donuts become the mark of a Real American? I thought it was league bowling, or NASCAR, or knowing who won American Idol. Senator, it is now time to ignore the petty and the trivial. You can't win.

When Jesse Jackson made his latest bonehead remark, all the focus was on "Nuts! He said nuts! I'm blushing, I can't repeat it, what shall we tell the children?" Nobody said, "There are deep historical reasons why it's not funny to joke about castrating a black man in America, even (or especially) if YOU are a black man. Instead of Angelina's twins, we will now talk for five minutes about lynching." It wouldn't be good for the ratings. Dwell instead on "bad words." George Carlin would have understood.

I have plenty of problems with Barack Obama -- more every day, it seems. He has backed away from a promise to recall all American troops from Iraq in sixteen months. He has changed his mind on public campaign financing, having raised millions more than John McCain. He no longer believes phone companies should be punished for assisting the secret police in spying on their customers. Rather than scrap the fatuous No Child Left Behind, he wants to "improve" it. He opposes same-sex marriage and wants to maintain the unConstitutional White House Office of Hate-Based Organizations. At this pace, he'll have a life membership in the NRA by August. I'd be in a real quandary if McCain weren't so much worse. Such, too, is politics.

I'm ready for somebody to challenge him on the substantive stuff, but I'm not sitting in front of CNN holding my breath. They probably have someone in Kenya trying to find out what the senator's grandmother did with that chicken. Did she get the recipe from the al Qaeda cookbook? Now this.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The seventh circle of Helms

How clever of Mephistopheles to call in his marker on the Fourth of July. You can't say the dark lord lacks a sense of humor.