International Writers Magazine:
Cool Down the Stretch
Obama Pushes McCain to the Brink
is absolute chaos cast upon the land. The economy acts like a wild
animal. The country's banking system hangs by a thread. People's
investments hemorrhage by the hour. The unemployment rate spikes
to new and alarming levels. The Middle East is a powder keg, which
is nothing new, but now we've got six years of our own blood and
treasure on the line. The president of the United States has never
been more unpopular without a pending Civil War and Congress has
voted for the most socialistic financial tourniquet since The New
Deal. As a result, the American electorate is about as angry with
government as it has been in over a generation.
Insert your appropriate caption here
In less than nineteen
days two men stand against each other to take over this mess; one, a
cranky pre-Boomer warrior -- grizzled, combative, and so desperate for
his shot at the prize he emerged undaunted from a previously derailed
presidential run while being summarily besmirched within his own party.
The second; a young, meteoric African-American junior senator, has shown
the grit and audacity to take on the most powerful of Washington political
machines and managed to traverse fairly insurmountable cultural and
ideological heights to be in position to make history.
After nearly one and a half years at peddling their integrity, philosophy
and political prowess with decisions which have ranged from unerringly
brilliant to queerly perplexing to outwardly dumb, these two combatants
have displayed incredible staying power and an enviably finite belief
in their abilities to fight on and never blink.
In the past weeks, when times called for the cooler head, a more stately
approach to handling crisis in a sprinting news cycle, and the unyielding
clamor for a symbol of change became as serious as bone cancer, only
one came to play.
Barack Obama's campaign, unflinching from the start -- grass roots,
grounding, vast and penetrating during a vicious dogfight with The Clinton
Mystique -- has put the screws to this election season. Their candidate
has been smooth under fire, handling appearances, both in the press
and on the stage, like a master tactician. He has maneuvered through
weird neck-wrenching shifts in the political and cultural climate and
time and again endured blatantly racist and increasingly absurd attacks
on his character with an almost regal flair.
In short, when the bell rang and the pressure was on, Obama has looked
presidential and as cool as the proverbial cucumber.
At the same time, his esteemed opponent has gone off the rails; playing
his campaign, which was in the driver's seat historically and culturally,
as if its candidate were the young, black, northern liberal Democrat.
In one disastrous month he has gone from the self-described "steady
hand at the till" to an erratic populist demagogue. One day he
is a champion of low taxes and deregulation, the next he is buying up
bad mortgages and restructuring national health care. He makes inroads
to rise above Rovian ugliness and then unleashes a dimwitted harpy from
the great north to rile up the Timothy McVeigh set.
In short, McCain has been such a catastrophe, almost every right wing
pundit, columnist, and now even anonymous members of the current Republican
administration openly mock him, and far more damaging, for the first
time since his opponent has been running, it is he and not the more
experienced McCain who is considered the less risky choice for president.
The word from the Right is that the economic meltdown has doomed John
McCain. Before that he was rolling. This is revisionist and whiney and
it will not stand here. The numbers moved, as expected, in McCain's
favor slightly on the national level after his convention bump and radical
VP pick of Sarah Palin, which began to backfire once the Alaska governor
began to show a fantastically imbecilic grasp of almost every subject
put to her. Then, before things had gone terribly wrong on Wall St.,
McCain denounced the Bail Out plan, followed by the inexplicable "suspension"
of his campaign to ostensibly rouse Republicans -- firmly against the
bill -- to rally in its favor.
It was at this point things began to shift.
The first debate, which many American began to believe McCain was trying
to duck, clearly ended in favor of McCain. However, while forcefully
illustrating his knowledge of foreign affairs, he subsequently came
off as condescending and mean-spirited. The standard Democrat's recipe
for defeat ala John Kerry and Al Gore had suddenly convinced the independent
voter that the Republican candidate did not respect his opponent. Thus
began a disconnect that McCain has yet to mend.
Then there is the matter of the final debate.
The first, as mentioned, went to McCain on substance and performance.
The second was a draw, with an uneven showing by McCain and Obama beginning
to flex his centrist muscles. But let it be marked that on the fifteenth
day of the tenth month of 2008, the 47 year-old Democratic Illinois
Senator wiped the floor with the 72 year-old Republican Senator from
Arizona and rendered the competitive nature of this presidential race
to near critical.
While McCain spat out one accusatory canard and ham-handed non sequitur
in his dizzyingly buncombe fashion, Obama calmly smiled, looked at the
camera, and summarily defused each charge with well-framed proposals.
McCain's only retort was to make finger quotes to mock his opponent's
"eloquence", as if being able to formulate difficult concepts
into coherent points was some kind of anti-American con job.
For ninety excruciatingly pathetic minutes, McCain failed to illustrate,
as the Weekly Standard's conservative columnist, Bill Krystol pointed
out on FOXNEWS, "one plausible reason to vote for him". This
point was echoed by NY Times conservative columnist, David Brooks,
whose wincing analysis on PBS concluded with "I'm not sure the
American people are prepared to have John McCain on their TV screens
for the next four years." Later on CNN, when asked what McCain
can do to follow up his performance that night, a bewildered David Gergen,
who has advised five of the past seven presidents said, "Beats
the hell out of me."
Contrarily, the next day conservative commentator, Dick Morris wrote
in the NY Post; "Obama looked like the better president.
Obama is smoother, prettier, younger and more presidential." This
was as word began to spread that the godfather of modern conservative
letters, William F. Buckley's son had written a column for the Daily
Beast that he planned on voting for Barack Obama.
And at the time of this writing the usually silent and non-partisan
Republican icon, Colin Powell was preparing to join these voices.
When the final face-off between the spastic rambles of the Republican
candidate dismissed by the tranquil elusiveness of his Democratic opponent
mercifully concluded, the only reason Barack Obama would not become
the 44th president of the United States, is his race.
Perhaps myopic cheerleaders on the Right, the religiously motivated,
or those rightfully worried about an all-Democratic federal government
can honestly vote for John Sydney McCain now, but no clear-thinking
unbiased observer with eyes, ears and most of its brain can seriously
make this choice.
Coolness is in and wild abandon is looking like a losing strategy. Liberalism
and inexperience are no longer factors in this contest. With three weeks
to go only the race of his opponent can save John McCain now.
© James Campion
October 17th 2008
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