21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine: Reality Check

Joe Cool Down the Stretch
James Campion
Obama Pushes McCain to the Brink

There 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.

Until now.
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
More Comment


© Hackwriters 1999-2008 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.