Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"That one?"

I had wanted to write something funny about tonight's presidential debate and combine it with something funny I had wanted to write about last Thursday night's vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and America's Favorite Flight Attendant Circa 1975 ("Coffee, tea or me, Joe?" . . . "You're darn tootin' right you can give my size 2 tush a squeeze" . . . "Wanna join the Mile High Club, Joe? We're a 100 miles away from home" . . . "Ever tried the Maverick in an airline washroom, Joe?" . . . "Why put your tray in the upright and locked position when you can do the same to me [WINK, WINK]?" . . . "Our pilot has informed me that we may or may not land in a jiff . . . ya see he's really not a pilot, but a former snowmobile racer who used to belong to Alaska's secessionist party.  How's that for an outsider? We don't need no fancy, FAA-certified pilot to fly this plane, now do we?"

And then I heard Senator John McCain refer to his colleague, Barack Obama, as "that one," not even looking at him with his finger pointing across his chest, while answering a question (technically; like his running mate, Sarah Palin, McCain simply refuses to answer questions and instead turns to prerecorded statements that mash the English language into nearly unidentifiable gibberish) and decided I could not continue to watch this "debate." 
Since the early 1990s, I have had a great deal of respect and admiration for Bob Dole. Until I read Richard Ben Cramer's book, "What It Takes," many years ago -- the book profiled the presidential field of 1988 -- I thought Dole was a mean-spirited crank with a chip on his shoulder a mile wide and deep.  That all changed when I learned more about his life story. McCain, on the other hand, has always come across to me as a fraud, a man whose success came to him by dint of birth and marriage.  Like W., McCain was born into a family of privilege, yet chose to reinvent himself as a Western populist, albeit one with mulitiple homes, multi-zillionaire corporate patrons and a country club social circle, and maintain that image by openly embracing medicocrity and anti-intellectualism.  McCain's turn on the national stage as a presidential candidate has been embarrassing, and I actually feel for the friends of mine who, as misguided as they are politically, are good people trapped below the deck of the S.S. Straight Talk as it continues to sink to the bottom.
Tonight's comment, coming on the heels of Palin's racially-tinged comments earlier today and yesterday about Obama's "association" with 60's radical Bill Ayers, either reveals McCain for the conventional pol he really is or adds another exclamation point to his appalling lack of judgment. Either way, his "that one" comment tonight should send shivers up the spines of men and women of a certain age who grew up in a certain part of the country. My wife and I caught it immediately. 
My guess is that McCain had no idea how offensive his comments and gestures were. That's no surprise, as McCain, his self-reinforced narrative as America's bravest soldier aside, genuinely believes that he came about his life of privilege honestly and through dint of hard work.  He didn't, as any cursory examination of his life story shows.  Obama, on the other hand, earned his place in the world (like Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Ronald Reagan and  . . . boy, does it hurt me to say this, Richard Nixon), coming from nothing to make himself into something.  Privilege, I suppose, has many advantages.  Insularity, though, is not among those advantages.  And tonight America got a full blown view of what the consequences will be of electing a 19th century man to deal with a 21st century world where the "that ones" will outnumber the Joe Sixpacks (does anyone believe that Sarah Palin's aggrieved and concerned Joe Sixpack is black?) by a margin that was once the other way around. 

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