A smarter person would make this column about dogs, or Tina Fey’s good looks, or stamp collecting, or The Hanseatic League.
But I fear it has to be about Tuesday night and all that that entails. Since this column has to be turned in to its editor on Friday, you have the advantage of me. So bear in mind that I don’t know what’s happened since noon on Friday.
Soon it will all be over but the celebrating and the sobbing.
And high time. It’s all been sort of fun until recently. I, for one, am now heartily sick of the whole mess.
And I am sensitive to the accusations — “screams” might be more accurate — of media bias by the right wing “base.” So I will say right now that I don’t care who wins.
Just as long as it isn’t He and She.
Just about anybody else will do.
It’s not been easy being the offspring of English teachers and few would agree with me, I fear, that assaults on the English language are a major crime. But would you agree that it’s at least a little unpatriotic to treat our glorious language sloppily? The language of Lincoln, Jefferson and, of course, that unpolitical man who, despite the lack of a college education, somehow turned out “Hamlet” and “Henry V”? (The latter known to Shakespeare actors as “Hank Cinq.”)
I salute Rachel Maddow for being alert to crimes against the mother tongue. For noting, for example, that among the dwindlings of John McCain has been his joining the ranks of those who think “pundits” is pronounced “pundints.” That one mystifies me. Do those who favor this aberration refer to “road agents” as “bandints”? In their “wallents,” do they carry their “credint cards”?
And does it work in reverse? Do they fear for the future of their “descendits”?
Never mind. Let it pass.
Better to worry about Sarah Palin’s taking over the role of Another Oval Office Occupant Who Can’t Pronounce “Nuclear” Correctly.
Herewith, a favor to you, gentle reader, if you dig this sort of stuff. Should you have missed it — in school or out — look up George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language.” It’s one of those essays so brilliant and entertaining that you’ll return to it as the years go by. (Like me, you may even crib from it.)
Back to our story. There’s one thing virtually nobody questions about John McCain and that is his heroism.
Some well-meaning readers have forwarded stuff to me that questions that heroism during the war. Much of it reeks of Swiftboatism and rankest hearsay. Some would say, of course, But where there’s smoke, there’s fire. This, in itself, is demonstrably untrue. Who hasn’t seen smoke without fire?
In alluding to this nasty McCain stuff I feel a bit like one of the numberless right-wing radio “personalities” (a misnomer, in most cases) who, when rapped for unfairly bringing up something out of someone’s past that has been thoroughly disproved, protests, “I’m not bringing it up, I’m just mentioning it.”
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Among the individuals who, like those on the “little list” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Mikado,” will not be missed: that new comet on the horizon, Joe the Plumber. This unfunny Ralph Kramden — not officially a plumber, or even a Joe — seems to have effortlessly captured the imagination of those without much of it to spare.
What will history make of this until-recently anonymous figure who has been elevated by the McCain forces to the level of a Cultural Icon, whose every utterance is treated as if from on high? (Many of his fans, waving their placards in Sarah Palin’s whooping throngs, favor an alternate spelling — “plummer” — of his revered profession.) Did you hear that he has recently required a “manager” — presumably for lecture tours and seminars and think tanks — and a recording contract? (Will he have back-up singers? “Joe and The Plumber’s Friends”?) Risking the appearance of rudeness, I expect America’s ambitious plumber will soon be down the drain.
Is it ungentlemanly of me to confess that I will not miss the pause-free stream of unparsable flapdoodle that issues from the woman chosen by McCain as capable of holding the office held by Jefferson, Lincoln and the others on Mt. Rushmore? Might those carved worthies be scowling in their granite majesty at the thought of someday having to move over a little to make room for Wasilla’s wonder woman?
A recently discovered addition to the list of semi-desirables whose departure from the scene won’t be hard to take is someone called Michael Goldfarb, identified at the bottom of the screen as the latest “McCain spokesman.” Talking to CNN’s Rick Sanchez, the just-a-touch-goonish Mr. Goldfarb asserted that Obama hangs out with many undesirables, including those who are, in his rendering of the word, “anti-SeMETic.”
Repeatedly challenged by Sanchez to name just one such, he proved unable. He kept repeating, “We all know who that is.” I didn’t. (I assume, on reflection, that it’s Rev. Wright. I and others have been giving the McCain squads credit for at least not throwing him in among their desperate closing thrusts. I hope it isn’t just that John can’t think of his name.)
One question I have failed to see John McCain asked when adrift in his pipe-dream world of “victory” and “success” in Iraq is this: What went through his head when his idol, General Petraeus, said that “victory” and “success” are not words to be applied to the Iraq situation? Maybe there is still time for that question.
Do you recall with relish, as I do, the moment when dear Tim Russert, attributing some controversial words to Senator John, was told by McCain, “I don’t know where you got that quote”? Russert’s reply: “I got it from John McCain.” Then he read it out, from one of McCain’s speeches. The senator blinked. A YouTube-ist has conveniently collated this and similar stuff in a priceless item right here. You might want to use it instead of Christmas cards.
But the scariest thing McCain has said — worthy of Scotland Yard’s “Black Museum” of horrors — is one I’ve barely seen commented on.
I heard him say that when the White House phone rings at the dread 3 o’clock in the morning, you don’t want someone picking it up who has to take time to “think and analyze the situation, but someone who will act.” This, coming from a man with the “thinking and analyzing” traits of a snapping turtle cannot help but bring the Cuban missile crisis to mind — and what the world might be today had the Arizona senior been in charge. If it (the world) would even be at all.
On his program at this very moment (that is, in your recent past) I can hear the humor-free Rush Limbaugh saying that he is “being told by my gut” — which is in evidence — that “things are moving McCain’s way.” Interesting, to say the most.
But enough of this bridled hilarity. Soon it will be time to start cutting sandwiches and perhaps selecting a tranquilizer for Tuesday night. And note that I, for one, am not making any confident predictions.
I am just old enough to remember that awful night when Dewey defeated Truman.
Editors’ note: An earlier version of the column used the word “marble” in alluding to Mt. Rushmore; that has been corrected.