Lonely Street and Other Observations

  Jerome Shea       September 29, 2008      Weekend Wonk

For an Obamanista, my street–my neighborhood for that matter–is enemy territory. McCain signs all over the place. Some front lawns fairly bristle with Republican attitude: “McCain/Palin,” “Darren White for Congress,” “Steve Pearce for Senate,” “Another Family for McCain!” It’s their right, of course, but my “Obama/Biden” sign stands there like the last legionnaire, daunted but not, I hope, doomed. No one has ripped it up or defaced it. I’ll give my neighbors that.

Last night’s debate was, I thought, really refreshing, and in stark contrast to the Bush/Gore debates or the Bush/Kerry debates. Here were two thoughtful and committed people laying out their positions as best they could while thrusting and parrying. Hats off to both of them, and also to Jim Lehrer, the moderator, who tried to get them to address one another directly (having a bit more success with Obama than with McCain). I agree with most of the commentators: if it wasn’t an absolute, statistical draw, it was too close to call. I think we all look forward to the next two sparrings. Was I hoping that McCain would do or say something fatally embarrassing, that he would implode “right here on our stage,” as the late Ed Sullivan would say? You don’t expect me to answer that, do you?

McCain and Obama have both blundered at times, as each will gleefully point out about the other. But they are bush league (sorry, I couldn’t resist) compared to Frick and Frack—I mean Biden and Palin—their benighted running mates. One wants to ask, “Where do they get these people?”

Joe Biden was easy to find, right there in the bowels of the Beltway where he has lurked almost forever. I’ve always liked Joe Biden. He’s a smart man, experienced and articulate. He could always hold his own among what Calvin Trillin calls the Sabbath gasbags (“Meet the Press,” etc.). But as someone who is also in love with the sound of his own sonorous voice, I feel especially sorry for the man. When the words start flowing it is very hard to stop, hard to deny your audience your wisdom—until you hear from somewhere in the recesses of your brain, “Oh sh*t! Did I really say that?” So on the stump Joe wonders out loud if Hillary might not have been a better choice than he! And he claims that when the stock market crashed in 1929—when FDR was not yet president—he immediately went on TELEVISION to assign blame and reassure an anxious nation! Oh, Joe, Joe. The good news is that most of the electorate seems to be ignoring him, which is good training for a Vice-President. He should slip right in in January. Noiselessly, one hopes.

Then there is Sarah Palin, the big noise from Wasilla, who came from out of nowhere in most people’s geography and took the Republican convention and the country by storm for a few heady days. Here was a Hockey Mom from the Last Frontier! And she can field dress a moose!* Well, the McCain folks got what they deserved for this cynical ploy, this desperate attempt to reignite the culture wars (you can bet that that elitist Obama can’t field dress a moose; heck, he can’t even bowl). Now Palin’s poll numbers are plummeting as people—even those who went wild about her—are realizing—see the Charlie Gibson interview, the Katie Couric interview–how hopelessly out of her depth the woman is (not to mention her serial fibs on the stump). The mood seems to have gone from excitement to bemusement to pity for her. And a sense that McCain and his advisors should be ashamed of themselves.

And so the Great Quadrennial Juggernaut trundles on. The greatest show on earth it is. I voted for the first time in 1964 (Johnson/Goldwater…you guess) and have not missed a vote since. People say that this is the most important presidential election in a long, long time and I think they are right. And I desperately want the Democrats to take back my country for me.

No hard feelings, neighbors.

*Now there’s a skill I always look for in a candidate. How ‘bout you?

Postscript: Today, 27 September 2008, my big brother turns 70! How in the world did that happen? Happy Birthday, Steve, and many more.

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