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Unrelenting gossip drenches the presidential election, nonstop media nattering about Sarah’s qualities or lack of thereof, McCain’s “heroic” character, Obama’s link with real people or lack of. In between such “analytical talk” media chatterers examine candidates’ sex lives and eating habits; their dress codes become subjected to tight scrutiny. Did he wear his flag pin? Does he look better without a tie?
As the US economy continues to slide down the metaphorical toilet at home and its image plunges around the world, neither its political politicians nor media seize the opportunity to tell the truth. Who on the presidential stump or in Congress would dare to say the $700 plus billion defense budget doesn’t defend the country, contributes to conflict around the world and sucks up urgently needed funds for social programs? In addition, the government has bailed out failing financial giants, the $85 billion for AIG being the latest.
McCain attributes the crisis to greed, but apparently forgot that his legislation gave greed the high road by institutionalizing financial insatiability. McCain backed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act written by his pal and economic guru former Texas Senator Phil Gramm. This law allowed banks, insurance companies and brokerages to merge. McCain blames the current mortgage crisis and financial meltdown on the very vice his act encouraged. Yet, he learned nothing from his mistake. He helped dismantle regulation that prevented such avaricious behavior, yet McCain, still pushes to deregulate more –like social security. Would you feel secure if your pension fell into the hands of the scoundrels who destroyed Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns etc.?
Amazingly, Wall Street crashes, McCain smiles and assures the electorate the US economy stands on firm foundations. Education, transportation and health systems teeter in various stages of crisis; roads, bridges, dykes and levees need rapid attention. Water and sewage systems require repair lest we drink what we flush – or have we already begun to do it?
Compare these needs to the exigencies of “defense.” McCain insists we need a new round of nuclear weapons and must for “security” maintain 761 bases around the world and continue to fight two dubious wars. The less bellicose Obama will intensify efforts only in Afghanistan, he says, while diminishing the one in Iraq. McCain and Palin almost assure the public they will maintain ongoing conflicts and start new ones — if the peace-loving voters will only elect them.
Palin revealed in her September 11 ABC interview with Charles Gibson her unique combination of neo-con foreign policy and extreme right wing populism. “The Bush Doctrine?” She paused, thinking: “shaved or unshaved?
As Sarah met the press, McCain refused to allow members of the media to make a copy of his medical records. He simply assured everyone that his dangerous melanoma was cured and you better take the word of a hero and a patriot on that medical issue.
Meanwhile, the glitter from the Palin spectacle spread panic among some liberals. “My God, I’m leaving this country in McCain and Palin win.” Lawyers and doctors volunteered to walk Pennsylvania and Ohio precincts to register voters in key states. They registered voters and assured them of Obama’s superiority on issues of the economy, war and peace and, not least, his promise to appoint judges to the court who would not automatically reject any claim from a poor person or one of color.
Republican spinners gloat about Sarah and John as “regular people” and Obama as an elitist. No matter McCain owns nine homes (Paul Begala on “Real Time,” Sept.14) and has never represented a poor person. McCain the serious Christian cheated on his first wife – who was physically suffering — and then left her for a billionairess. Is this the meaning of maverick?
He loves his country, supports the men and women in the armed forces but votes against veterans’ benefits and programs that help the poor. He has embellished the story of his own heroism – getting shot down over Hanoi, a civilian area, and enduring five years as a POW (a model one at that) — illustrating the Talmudic saying: “When you add to the truth, you subtract from it.”
Obama called for teaching responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the use of birth control. Republican spinners insisted he wanted to teach kindergarten children all about doing the old nasty. Ironically, Republicans seem to think people won’t notice Sarah Palin’s “preggers” daughter. An example of abstinence advocacy? Palin refused to allow sex education in Alaska’s school system. Well, her daughter says she only slipped up once!
In a northern California coffee shop, two women discussed the election. “She may be a bitch,” said a middle aged housewife, “but she tells it like it is.”
I wondered what the “it” meant.
“That’s true,” said her younger companion, wiping egg yolk from her seven year old’s chin. “But she doesn’t seem to know much. I saw the whaddayacallit interview the other night and I’m not sure she’s ready for such a job. McCain’s maybe got you know cancer or something and might just die after he wins.”
“Maybe. I don’t know,” said the other. “I didn’t like Hillary all that much. She was like a snobby bitch. But I like Sarah. She kicks ass. I like what she did to protect her family members.” (This, I assumed, referred to the investigation of Sarah trying to fire an Alaskan state official who refused to fire her former brother in law who had wronged her sister or to the Enquirer stories about Sarah forcing the young man who impregnated her 17 year old daughter to marry her – against his will.)
Another market conversation: “I was going to vote for McCain, but then I realized, well, the thing about Sarah’s seventeen year old daughter. If she can’t control her own family, how is she gonna control the country?”
As H.L.Mencken observed, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” But after getting a Bush administered beating for eight years, after suffering ineptness and corruption on a scale that surpassed all previous administrations, the middle class public should say en masse: “enough of these people.” (Think ENRON, Cheney scandals about circumventing the Constitution to invade citizens’ liberties, bloody wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, routinizing torture, the “response” to Katrina, the politicization of the Justice Department). But “think” is an inappropriate word in the mass anxiety age, where distraction and super stress rule the day.
Who’d you rather drink a beer with? Isn’t it neat Sarah calls her husband “First Dude”? What a colorful family! The big dude has an old DWI conviction and didn’t go to no college! He even wanted Alaska to secede! That family has character.
Such statements occurred as Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and AIG went under; others threaten to follow. Hewlett Packard laid off 25,000 workers. The world’s seventh largest economy, California, can’t come up with a budget that allots minimal funds to maintain its education and health systems.
Voters drive on crowded freeways, worry about losing jobs, arriving late to pick up a kid, paying $60 to buy gas. They listen to radio news or talk shows where issues congeal in the equivalent of a large audio spitball. At night, TV wraps this cacophony of woes with images, adds urgent screams, desperate pants and flirting winks about how you should forget the depressing messages (news) you’re just seen and heard and buy something. During elections, candidates must use this same media to convey their own urgent messages: vote for me and end global warming, solve high gas prices and, of course, get the proverbial chicken in every pot.
Office seekers assure citizens they represent their interests. But they don’t tell the truth! Truth-telling would compromise their electability, say political handlers. Campaign spinners employ the wisdom of Maimonides. “People like the opinion to which they have become accustomed… They cling to the opinions of habit.”
So, don’t think, or engage in dialogue. Just chant: “Yes We Can. USA USA USA!” as Wall Street collapses and its representative, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, who presided over the collapse, asks Congress: “Trust me: Just give me $1 trillion of taxpayers’ money and I’ll transfer all the banks bad loans and worthless assets to the public.” USA USA USA