Saturday, August 30, 2008

the new decider

OK, but just cause I guess I gotta.

As great as Obama’s speech the other night was, and it was, if this whole presidential campaign were a movie that I was watching on TV, it actually wouldn’t have been until yesterday morning, with McCain’s announcement that he has selected Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential nominee, that I would begin backtracking in my mind to try to figure out when the dream sequence actually began.

In fact, I may go back to bed, lie down, close my eyes, open them, and see if it’s still true, this strikes me as being so utterly ridiculous. Where is the backwards-talking midget?

But let us set aside for now the question of whether the woman is worthy, or whether her background or credentials even remotely qualify her to take over the Presidency of the United States in the event that the actuaries prevail again.

Let’s just look at this pick, and Obama’s, from the perspective of what it tells us about how these men run things, and make decisions, because in both cases, their methods are on such vivid display.

In Obama’s case, the selection of Joe Biden turns out not merely to have been correct, it is the clear product of reasoned assessment – not cynical assessment, mind you – but a capacity to step back, take a slow, calm look and the pluses and minus of all the various candidates, include the politics of the choice, the personality, the intangibles and the tangibles, include the all-important question of whether he can present a running-mate with whom the country can rest easy, knowing that he or she would be capable of taking over at a tragic moment’s notice -- take all that in, check your gut, look in the mirror, and you come out with…Joe Biden. Correct. Ding, doing, ding. And it’s a choice that looked better and more obvious on day two than day one, better on day three than two, and today, well, today it practically closes the deal.

Now look at John McCain's selection and ask yourself if it doesn’t vindicate all of one's deepest suspicions about how this man goes about making decisions at this point in his life, even the very important decision which he has been given ample time to think about and mull? To be blunt, this is transparently alf-assed, ill-considered, seat-of-the-pants, hail-Mary bullsh*t, the only remotely legitimate appeal of which is that it gives the appearance of being gutsy, of being "out-there," of being “so crazy, you know, it just might work,” when in truth, it represent the worst imaginable combination of desperation, spinelessness, recklessness, and cynicism. Even those singing the praises of the choice can only do so by the tortured logic that it makes political sense. It’s only brilliant if it’s a brilliant shake-up, a way of winning a state, and some women, or shoring up the "base," but it has nothing to do with what the country needs out of an actual vice-president. It’s running-mate as prop. Moreoever, it demonstrates that McCain has no grasp of how the world actually works today – by which I mean, no apparent awareness of the fact that as of 11:00 AM ET yesterday there was some guy eating donuts for breakfast in his mother’s basement who already knew more about Sarah Palin than John McCain did, or his staff did, or anyone else in the Republican party did. I'm sure there were all thrilled.

In that respect, and with all respect to Ms. Palin, her selection as McCain’s running mate is a spit in the face; it’s an insult to his party; it’s an insult to the American people; it’s an insult to the grains of truth that still lingered in McCain's ever-diminshing arguments for being president – that these are serious times when we cannot afford to gamble. So serious that you would throw a completely unvetted political novice into the lion’s den of a presidential campaign, an assignment that will oblige her to face-off with Joe Biden (and God helps us all in watching what happens to the bar of expecations prior to that engagement – absence of drool will crown her the victor) and then maybe, just maybe, once she’s cleared that bar, have to go face down Vladimir Putin and Ahmedinajab and whatever other boogeyman that Republicans has self-generated when the great day of cosmic thermo-nuclear reckoning comes.

Donnez Moi un freno, as my cousin would say.

To all but the dead-enders, who are regrettably both legion and certifiably insane, there is simply no positive argument that can be made on behalf of McCain’s candidacy at this point – not simply because his policies are out of touch; not simply because he is temperamentally unsuited to the office; not because his command of polity of so scandalously uninformed; not simply because he has become an inveterate and shamleless liar in the course of this campaign; not because he has clearly made a deal with the devil and gives the appearance of being a man hollowed of his very soul; none of that, but because we can all see now, this is how he makes his decisions; these are the sorts of decisions he makes. Decisions where, if he can actually thump a table when he makes, well, it must be good. These are the decision of a gambler, which we know McCain is, a craps man (dumbest game there is) – a reckless rich gambler who plays with lots of money he didn’t make.

All along I’ve been of the mind that the very best argument for Obama, the best evidence we have for his worthiness, his readiness, his preparedness, consists is the campaign we have all watched him run, which by any objective standard has been a marvel of strategic execution, of economically and expertly deployed resources, of setting achievable goals, figuring out what needs to be done, and then doing it, whether we’re talking about his state by state, caucus by primary, breakdown of exactly what he would need to do to beat Clinton; or, say, pulling off a two week trip to the mid-east and Europe without a glitch; or holding rousing part convention that builds to an unprecedented climax. If this man can run the executive office with even a fraction of the aptitude he has shown running a campaign, I dare say we will be a very good and capable hands, (Indeed, on the basis of having watched his run so far, I’m willing to admit that Obama is one of the few individuals I might actually trust to go try and topple a foreign government and install democracy where it had never existed before. God bless him, as with all people who might even be able to pull such a thing off, he would never try.)

But that is not the point, the point is (and which needs be remembered as an answer to those fatuous boobs who would suggest that Palin and Obama come to this with equivalent experience and preparation): no. As has been said countless times by the Presidents themselves, there is no preparation for being President, other than life itself, but outside of that, maybe the best and only viable training ground for the Presidency is actual campaigning, and Obama has campaigned far better, more hitchelssly, with a stronger grasp for tactic strategy, integrity, purpose, theater, substance, ground game, air game, rope a dope, rebuttal, you name it, than any candidate we have ever seen. That’s how come he vanquished the most powerful political machine in his own party party. That’s how come he’s the first black man in the history of the United States to stand this good a chance. That’s how come we know he’s “ready,” because we have all been watching him in the hottest spotlight on earth for over a year now, and we have yet to see a bead of sweat.

While over on the McCain side of the ledger? An Amy Winehouse tour is run with more efficiency, more integrity, a more abiding sense of purpose...

...and certainly more recognition of the needs of the people in the seats.