Essay: Crouching badger, hidden Clinton

What's really sad is, based on how the McCain campaign is being run - and particularly the "discussion" of Obama's non-relationship with Bill Ayers - plus the fact that the Clintons are notably absent from the Obama campaign, this column by Maureen Dowd seems more and more plausible with every passing day. What's really sad is that the Clintons' legacy (whatever that is) can be seen as an exercise in pure political ambition.

Also, what's really sad is that voting for the smart guy means you're an elitist asshole, apparently. But I say - and have always said - elitism needs a renaissance. And every renaissance needs a Michelangelo.

It's hard to believe that even 30% of Americans (the minimum of all the available polls) feel that John McCain "won" the debate last night. "Won" is a fairly subjective term here - but I find it impossible to defend McCain's performance on any grounds. In terms of hard data/information/substance, McCain has no command at all. He throws around generalities and tells you what he "will" do, or is "determined" to do, but never how he's going to do it. In terms of demeanor and behavior, McCain was an outright loon, and an offensive one at that. During the several instances where he tried to deride Obama for this or that, his face looked like a badger's, especially during the already-infamous "that one" remark (seemingly innocuous words which McCain somehow made sound exactly like "nigra.") His ongoing habit of addressing the audience as "My friends" was evidently adopted from 19th-century snake oil salesmen, i.e., "My friends, you've never seen a product like this one! It cures Hair Loss, Loss of Nerves, and Curvy-Finger!" He says he can do it, that he's got experience, that he's determined, etc., but he could barely make it from Section A to Section F of the audience without limping. And at the end of the debate - he FLED! Like the average political couple seeking votes, Barack Obama mixed with the audience for a good twenty minutes; autographs were signed and photos were snapped. I would have expected McCain - who had so many "friends" and fellow servicemen in the crowd, after all - to stay as well. But it was past his bedtime, and he and Cindy slipped out without the cameras catching it.

Maybe I should get away from the snarkier stuff. It's annoying. It's annoying to read about & hear about on the political talk shows. It's so easy to cover all of the "personality" issues because they're obvious and telegenic. Issue-based details are harder to cover and discuss because they're flat and sometimes complicated. But let's be honest - no matter how you actually FEEL about the various issues: the economy, foreign policy, energy production, or health care. Obama clearly and consistently describes how he would deal with those issues. McCain does not. McCain believes that two things preclude the need to go into detail: 1) People's ignorance (i.e., "You probably never even heard of Fannie or Freddie before this crisis," one of his more condescending lines from last night. Is he joking? At the very least, most college students have heard of them because of their role in the student loan system - and what about homeowners?) and 2) his apparent belief that George W. Bush's ways have worked out okay. If he didn't believe that, why isn't he using his Maverickyness to change them more drastically? At best, his policies are just W. with an extra dash of Reagan.

Whether or not you agree with Obama's or McCain's approach to solving national problems, it is nearly impossible to countenance the opinion that McCain is more thoughtful or detailed in his solutions. I guess what I'm really trying to get at here is this: After 8 years of grammatical blunders - grammatical blunders that are directly related to grave foreign & domestic blunders, the connections between which have yet to be fully explored by anyone - I have decided that I will always vote for the more intelligent, more thoughtful candidate. And if, as in the recent past, it becomes difficult to distinguish any difference on that score, I will not vote at all. Sure, Jimmy Carter was not a great president - although historians differ a bit on whether the failings of his presidency were really his own or those of his predecessor, and about which I hold no opinion at all, since I was 4 when he left office - but he is a good man, an intelligent and honest one who is curious about the world and whose opinions are developed as a result of investigation, reflection, and analysis. And on that basis alone, I would vote for him if he were running against McCain today.

McCain's supposed asset, his great experience, is exactly what is weighing him down in this election. We've had eight years of predetermined conclusions, bullheaded aggression, and a total lack of consequence-weighing or curiosity. McCain is 72. He doesn't use a computer. His hero is Ronald Reagan - not the absolute worst hero to have, but one whose era has come and gone. Times have changed. But you still can't teach an old badger new tricks.

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