“Step right up, folks! Step right up and see the amazing Alligator Lady! She walks! She talks! She crawls on her belly like a reptile! A leapin’, screamin’, creepin’, crawlin’ monster! She’s eleven foot long, folks, and she’s alive!”.
That’s right, folks: the circus is in town and it’s time for us to play everybody’s favorite game, “Choose a President”!
The rules are simple, really. First you pick your candidate along about, oh, say nine or ten months before the election. Then, for sanity’s sake, you inject a double helping of novocaine into your frontal lobe on a regular basis until Election Day.
When Election Day finally does roll around, you go and do your civic duty and vote for your candidate. Then the voting machine either tallies your vote or simply throws it out, based on who you voted for.
And finally, in the end, while you’re off somewhere drinking heavily and wondering how it all went so wrong and how the electorate could possibly be so stupid as to re-elect the same bunch who have been systematically destroying the country for the past eight years… Jesus comes back. Riding a dinosaur. Carrying the names of his chosen people on a very short list. That you’re not on. Because you, who were blessed with a functional frontal lobe (hence all the pre-election novocaine to keep it from exploding) actually tend to think and question and reason your way through life — which is clearly an affront to God.
But then the gods of Olympus (and no, I’m not talking about Michael sodding Phelps! I’m talking about fucking Apollo, Athena, Ares, Hephaestus, Aphrodite (hubba hubba!), Hera, and oh yeah, motherfucking Zeus!) descend to Earth and give Jesus a thunderbolt wedgie and then bitch-slap him clear into the next dimension for being so pedantic and uninventive when screwing with people. And then they fire up the Weber and throw a big tyrannosaurus barbeque for humanity by way of apologizing for not turning up a hell of a lot sooner to put a stop to all this nonsense.
Well hell, folks, it’s not like that’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve heard this week, right?
The Republicans, after all, have somebody on their presidential ticket who claims to have “oodles and oodles of foreign policy experience, yah, you betcha!” because she can see Russia from Alaska. That, of course, means that anyone who’s ever looked up into the night sky and seen the moon is in fact a fully qualified astronaut. Boy, isn’t that gonna look spiffy on my resume!
Plus, y’know, I’ve seen the movie Patton I don’t even know how many times, so therefore I’m evidently also qualified to command the Third Army as it sweeps across France on its way to Berlin. I’m thinking there’s gotta be some sort of pension coming to me for that one, no?
And hey, speaking of cold, hard cash, shouldn’t I be getting some checks from the state lottery right about now? I mean, I’ve been standing right there at the gas station, the supermarket, the S’leven, watching people pony up and pay their idiot tax enough times that I have to have seen a bunch of ’em buying winning tickets. That makes me a winner too, right? So kick down the liquid assets here already!
I mean, come on, if we’re going to do this observational parity thing, let’s get serious about it, shall we?
Now, I’ll freely admit a bit of a bias here. I tend to favor Barack Obama just a wee bit in this year’s presidential race, though I probably should qualify that by pointing out that after eight years of BushCo systematically hacking away at the underpinnings of our government (and making a supreme effort to do the same to our society in general), the Democrats could have run Pauly friggin’ Shore for president with a gunny sack of stunned crickets as his running mate and I’d have voted for him.
But the thing is, usually I can find shit on both sides of the aisle to make fun of during a presidential race. John Kerry looked like Herman Munster on a jet ski, Al Gore made every conceivable effort to convince the world that he was in fact made of teak wood, and Bill Clinton would obviously fuck anything that brought him a pizza. (And really, when does that ever stop being funny?)
This time out, though, I’m profoundly disturbed by the fact that the Republican ticket is so blatant and cartoonish with their smear campaign antics and so laughably unqualified for the offices for which they’re running, and are basically just providing so damned much comedic material overall that they’ve effectively eclipsed any comparable fodder that Obama may have to offer.
And really, I guess I also have to consider the possibility that the bar of “comparable fodder” has been raised so high by Team McCain that there may not actually be much material on Obama’s part. Because when set next to the likes of McCain (who is, to put it mildly, out of his fucking mind with anger management issues and a never-ending need to refight the Vietnam War at any given opportunity so as to prove to himself that we somehow won the damned thing) and Sarah Palin (with her adherence to a hardcore Armageddonist religious sect and her long-standing connection to an Alaskan secessionist group whose founder, Joe Vogler, considered members of the John Birch Society to be “too damn liberal” and was quoted as saying “The fires of Hell are glaciers compared to my hate for the American government,”)… well, there’s really not much about Obama that registers on the old Flake-O-Meter by comparison, is there?
“Oh, but he’s using a cliché like Change as his campaign slogan!” Yeah, I’d have been able to get a little mileage out of that as recently as a month or so ago (just watch Eddie Murphy’s victory speech when he wins his Congressional campaign in The Distinguished Gentleman for a great take on that one), but now that the McCain campaign has essentially adopted the slogan “Hey, we want some of that thar change too, Pappy!” it’s kinda robbed that particular sail of its wind, wouldn’t you say?
“Oh, but he’s so inexperienced!” Well… that one vanished in a puff of smoke the night McCain had a conniption fit watching Obama’s convention speech and, in what appears to have been a sudden whirl of Viagra-fuelled inspiration, chose Caribou Barbie as his running mate. She has served for slightly more than a year-and-a-half as governor of a state where the moose-to-person ratio is about four-to-one, and about a decade ago she spent a few years as mayor of a town of less than 7,000 — a town she somehow managed to leave with more than $20 million in debt. McCain’s people briefly interviewed her on Wednesday, McCain chose her late Thursday night as the flop sweat poured off of him in wave after creamed-corn-and-bourbon-reeking wave, and then the official announcement was made on Friday morning.
I’ve seen more thorough deliberation over the hiring of a grocery store bag boy.
Now, I know that there’s been a great deal of admonishment of those of us who lean a bit left politically, saying that we shouldn’t pay a lick of attention to Palin and instead focus our attentions and criticisms on McCain, since he’s at the top of the ticket. The problem is, any actuary worth his or her salt is going to point out the high probability that John McCain would, if elected, be unable to serve out his entire term — which would leave Mrs. Loopner as our president. And, let us not forget, she’s not only thoroughly unqualified to be one little ol’ broken McHip away from the presidency, but she’s also completely and dangerously out of her tiny little mind. So yes, actually we do need to blast away at her just as much as we need to go after McCain.
McCain himself is just about as shameless a political whore as I’ve ever seen, no question about it. He changes his political positions and alliances with disquieting ease, depending on what he feels is going to get him the most votes at any given moment. And despite his attempts to maintain the fiction that he’s a maverick and a straight talker who’s going to clean up Washington by sheer force of his unwavering principles, his last pretense at integrity died the second he signed onboard with the Bush administration’s torture policies (under which, by definition, McCain himself was never tortured by his Vietnamese captors).
Which brings us to his theme of “All POW, All the Time.” Somehow, John McCain has managed to flog his prisoner of war experience so desperately and incessantly that something that serious has become little more than a punch line. It’s gotten to the point that any time anyone levels even the slightest criticism at McCain (or even dares to question him about much of anything, really), either he or one of his surrogates throws out “Five years in a Viet Cong cage, motherfuckers!” as their attempt at a trump card. And of course it’s often done in response to something that hasn’t the slightest hint of a parallel to McCain’s POW story in the first place. In much the same way that hardcore God jockeys will inject Jesus into any and all conversations regardless of topic — for instance, if your computer has been hit with a virus and you’re trying to figure out how to get it fixed, and there’s a Christian around, you’ll invariably hear something like, “You know who would have been the best computer fixer-upper in the world if they’d had computers back then? Jesus.” — John McCain and his drones will throw the POW thing in everyone’s face as often and as insistently as they can.
“Mortgage crisis? Mortgage crisis!?! You know who didn’t have the luxury of making a mortgage payment for five long years while he was in a bamboo cage in Vietnam? JOHN MCCAIN!”
And then, of course, there’s the fact that McCain has given his people free rein to simply lie as much as they can about Obama and his positions, and is personally leading by example. I know we’re trained as Americans to react to such news with a reflexive, “Well, politicians all lie, so what’s the big deal?” but McCain has surpassed even that, by a long shot — to the point where he’s even making dyed-in-the-wool Republicans nervous.
Obama announces a plan whereby he will raise taxes on people making well over $600,000 per year (mostly by closing tax loopholes and rescinding Bush’s ill-conceived upper-class tax cuts) and lower them for people making under $200,000? Fine, the McCain team will start hollering about how Obama is going to raise everyone’s taxes.
Obama once cast a committee vote in the Illinois Senate in favor of a sex-ed bill that advocated “age- and developmentally appropriate” sexual education in Illinois public schools — a bill which, furthermore, never made it further than that committee vote? Fine, the McCain team will start producing ads that accuse Obama of wanting to teach sex-ed to kindergarteners, and that furthermore not-so-subtly imply that Obama himself is some sort of pedophile.
Obama describes McCain’s attempts to dress up BushCo’s failed policies as something new by calling it “putting lipstick on a pig”? Fine, the McCain team will flap their arms wildly and claim (with as much faux outrage as they can muster) that Obama actually called Palin herself a pig.
This has gotten so bad that the “McCain the Liar” meme seems to have actually begun to replace the standard “McCain the Maverick” characterization in the news media, with the New York Times, the Washington Post, and even the Wall Street Journal weighing in on how far overboard McCain and his team have gone. And, in fact, even that pig-eyed, rat-fucking sack of shit Karl Rove has gone on record as saying that the McCain campaign has gone over the line.
Now, personally I don’t believe Karl Rove is capable of uttering a single syllable without his bets being covered on about a dozen different levels. Even the lowest form of rodent has survival instincts. But the fact that one of McCain’s own backroom advisers is pretending to criticize the McCain campaign (however mildly) for its blatant lies certainly indicates that a line has been crossed.
Nowhere is that more evident than in McCain’s choice of running mate. His first real “presidential” decision, and he chooses a running mate with about five minutes of relevant political experience who has the added bonus of being a pathological liar? This is a woman who cannot seem to tell the truth about much of anything — at all. I’m assuming her kid’s names are accurate (what with their being named like a pack of sled dogs and all, I think Sean Connery’s line from The Untouchables says it best: “Who would claim to be that, who was not?”) and that she actually is from the itsy-bitsy little Alaskan town of Wasilla and so forth. Beyond that basic level, however, it’s clear that Sarah Palin wouldn’t know the truth if it froze to her ass.
It’s bad enough that it’d likely be a shorter job to compile a list of things that she hasn’t lied about since becoming McCain’s running mate. But those things which she hasn’t outright lied about she’s tended to just get completely and mind-bogglingly wrong.
She claims repeatedly to have vigorously opposed the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” pork project, even though she actually supported it until it became political rat poison.
She has gone on record as saying of the Pledge of Allegiance that, “If it was good enough for the Founding Fathers, then it’s good enough for me,” even though the Pledge wasn’t written until 1892.
She claims to be a crusader against wasteful government spending, and makes a point of telling a tale in her stump speech about how she got rid of the Alaskan governor’s private jet by “putting it on eBay,” even though she wasn’t the one who put it on eBay (it’s common practice for the state of Alaska to sell large assets such as this airplane), it never sold on eBay, and it was ultimately sold through a broker at a loss to the state. On top of all that, it turns out that in addition to being the governor’s private jet, the plane was also used to transport prisoners between jails across the state of Alaska, and now that it’s gone, the state spends even more money transferring prisoners via private charter flights.
She claims to join McCain in strongly opposing government earmark funds, even though this year alone she requested $197 million in federal earmarks, more per person than any other state requested. In addition to this, before she was mayor of Wasilla the town had never gotten much at all in the way of federal earmarks, but once in office she grabbed all the federal money she could get, to the point that she and Wasilla ended up being singled out for criticism over earmark projects by none other than … wait for it! … Senator John McCain.
She claims to be strong on women’s issues, even though she not only opposes Roe v. Wade and equal pay for women, but when she was mayor of Wasilla she and her crew changed city policy so that sexual assault victims had to pay for their own forensic rape kits, to the tune of $800 to $1,300.
I’ll let that one sink in for a second and repeat it. While Sarah Palin was mayor, the town of Wasilla, Alaska changed city policy to require that sexual assault victims (in the state with the highest sexual assault rate in the country, mind you!) pay an average of about a thousand dollars for their own rape kits. In other words, the name of the game for sexual assault victims as far as Mayor Palin was concerned was “The Best Justice Money Can Buy.” The state of Alaska actually had to pass a law banning this practice, mainly because of Wasilla’s demented new policy.
She also claims to oppose corruption and cronyism, even though she’s currently under investigation for firing Alaska’s Public Safety Commissioner because he didn’t fire somebody with whom she had a personal beef (which turns out to have been a fairly common reason for her when firing various public officials) and even though she regularly hires personal friends for government appointments for which they have no qualifications. For instance, according to the New York Times:
...when there was a vacancy at the top of the State Division of Agriculture, she appointed a high school classmate, Franci Havemeister, to the $95,000-a-year directorship. A former real estate agent, Ms. Havemeister cited her childhood love of cows as a qualification for running the roughly $2-million agency.
A childhood love of cows. A childhood. Love. Of cows. This is a qualification for, at best, being a lifelong compulsive collector of “roadside attraction” moo-cow trinkets. But Palin for some reason chose to give an old high school “BFF” a top-level position at the state agricultural office because that friend has a thing for cows? How is this not, oh, what’s the phrase, exactly like Bush hiring the goddamned horsey show lawyer to run FEMA?
The McCain campaign has of course been keeping Sarah Palin shielded from the press lest they actually ask her a question that hasn’t been approved and rehearsed ahead of time. She can give her stump speech and that’s it. Beyond that, she’s receiving a crash course in… well, in just about everything a vice president ought to know long before being selected for the job. Evidently the Republicans can’t be happy unless somebody on their presidential ticket is so ill-prepared for the job that they have to cram for it as though it were an exam for which they’d forgotten to study.
They let Palin out briefly to do a softball interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson, of course, and she couldn’t even hack that. So it’s back to her “Vice Presidenting for Dummies” classes, in which a slew of right-wing nutjobs try to teach a fellow right-wing nutjob the basics of Republican domestic and foreign policy before she embarrasses herself, the campaign, and the nation by flapping her yapper about how we’re On a Mission from God over in Iraq or how we just might have to go to war with Russia, you betcha.
But with apologies to Barack Obama (and everyone else who ever used this phrase, like f’rinstance, John McCain himself), it doesn’t appear that it’s possible to put enough lipstick on this Pygmalion to ultimately make her pass as much of anything other than the worst sort of right-wing extremist. She may be red meat to the Republican evangelical base, but that’s about it if the current polls are any indication. Another Christian “end times” nut who is good at preaching to the choir and not much else… how novel.
And so, John McCain and Sarah Palin remain awash in a sea of their own bullshit — and they’re right up against a lee shore as well. As I crank this article out, word has come down that two massive investment banks, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, are failing. Several other major financial entities, including American International Group and Washington Mutual, are projected to tank within the next week or so. Expectations seem to be, as they’ve been for a number of months now, that a chain reaction of banks and other financial corporations may ultimately follow these companies down the tubes.
Glib answers and “narrative-based” campaigning (not to mention the two-bit smear campaign they insist on running) from Senator McPOW and Governor Moose-olini aren’t going to address the growing financial crisis. Saint Ronald Reagan’s “trickle-down” economic model (along with the runaway deregulation he and his acolytes always advocated) is finally showing what its inevitable result always was: gradual economic collapse as the loot-and-scoot crowd run Ponzi scheme after Ponzi scheme on a system that is increasingly unable to handle it.
And y’know, damn it… none of this is particularly funny anymore, is it?
Copyright 2008, Patrick Russell
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