Sunday, September 07, 2008


Miraculously, the rain stopped, the skies cleared, and Hurricane Hanna moved on just as I arrived in Washington yesterday. Perhaps because of my good fortune, though I've been wary for the last day... You know the scene in Independence Day when Will Smith shoots down the alien in the desert, then goes and opens up his spaceship, punches him in the face, and says "Welcome to Earth"? For whatever reason, I've been expecting a "BAM. Welcome to Washington" moment. Hasn't really happened yet. I didn't get shot or mugged, I didn't get hit by a car, and I didn't meet any Senators. I will remain on my guard.

As promised, I offer below my thoughts on the current political race in the form of an aimless rant.

Sarah Palin is, of course, the story of the moment. Baby-mama-drama aside, we should be a seriously asking whether she's even a half-decent choice to be our next vice-president. She certainly presented very well at the RNC-- she looked good, she spoke well, and it became clear that, politically, she benefits the ticket in a few crucial ways. She’s mobilizing the socially conservative base, she brings a much more lively feel to the Republican ticket, considering McCain's lack of, shall we say, energy, and I'm sorry to say it, but this pit bull with lipstick may turn out to be a pretty effective attack dog. In her big speech, I found her snide, sarcastic tone to be totally off-putting, but it may fit the cynical humor of our time. We'll see if it remains palatable for the people.

But Palin darn near torpedoes the "experience" argument against Obama, and frankly, it just seems irresponsible to choose a VP with such a short, unremarkable political career. The gasbags on TV who are arguing that she's more experienced than Obama and Biden combined ought to be perforated and hung out to dry. If it isn't obvious enough that running Wasilla-- or even Alaska-- is a fair bit less responsibility than serving as a Senator, it should at least be obvious that that their metric suggests that she's also more experienced than McCain. Idiots. What it comes down to with Palin, I think, is the old competition of style vs. substance. She looks good, she talks good, and she seems to be a great political choice-- but a deeply, cynically political choice as well. Beyond her electoral benefits, I'm just not sure she's got much to offer.

McCain, as I think his speech made apparent, is running on a phony argument and the fumes of W's coalition. He flipped back and forth between dishing on the Bush administration-- talking about "change," and about moving above the morass of Washington politics-- and blowing the same old jingoistic smoke out of his ass. How is it that the right wing seems to have a monopoly on patriotism? Why does the American flag feel like a symbol of the Republican party? To me, the hyper-nationalism of the sort on display at the RNC—the random USA chants, the “my country, right or wrong” idea, the whole concept of “country first”— feels like the precursor to fascism.

He has a compelling personal story, there's no doubt about it, but is he starting to seem like an old man who tells the same stories over and over? At a certain point, one has to say: Ok John, I like you, I respect you, and I salute your service, but that was forty years ago; why should I vote for you now? Once again, I think it comes down to style vs. substance, bluster vs. ideas. Will people see past the posturing and recognize that McCain's stated policies make him frightfully similar to Bush? Will they get over the patriotic urge to vote for a vet, and realize that a McCain presidency would make things worse, not better for our military and their families?

A last note on the RNC: Far and away, I thought the most tasteless shtick at the convention was the bashing of Obama’s experience as a community organizer. Thompson did it, Giuliani did it, Palin did it twice. Since when is working to help underprivileged families a laughable pursuit? Especially if they’re then turning around to talk about the importance of service—why is one kind of service so much more honorable? I think that was a mistake that they can’t keep making. It may have been good for a laugh in St. Paul, but if they keep at it, I think it will backfire.

Someday soon, I’ll go beyond telling you why you shouldn’t vote for McCain, and tell you why you should vote for Obama. But that is a task for another day.


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