January 8, 2008

No More False Dichotomies: Don’t piecemeal me, bro

It’s too bad we can’t elect a president by pastiche. There are various bits to like about various candidates, but no single one seems worth swooning over. John McCain wouldn’t wet himself if things got hairy, and he’d eat Osama bin Laden’s liver with some fava beans. Then again, McCain may be just that crazy, which could turn out very badly for all of us. McCain says he’ll adopt a Marshall Plan mindset toward the global environmental crisis. That’s hard not to like, assuming you believe he would follow through. Recall how Bush postured as a moderate before the 2000 election, and it’s easy to imagine how some “pledges” never materialize. McCain seems more realistic than many about the Mexican migration situation. He also seems willing to adopt counterintuitive political positions that open him to major criticism, a positive trait that, unfortunately, baldly contrasts with the status quo.Barack Obama offers a finger in the eye (of the non-in-your-face variety) of the established political order. His ascension would send a fabulous message to the rest of the world, that we are attenuating our arrogant and alienating ways in favor of deeper understanding of how to give and take with people and nations who can be assets. Listening to him when he speaks extemporaneously, however, it’s not clear Obama is a big-idea guy, beyond the idea that he’d sure like to be president. Criticisms of his inexperience seem salient. John Edwards seems to be the most genuine muckraker, the one who knows you can’t politely ask the agents of political corruption to step aside. He’s golden on the issues of poverty and corporate greed. Something in his delivery, though, smacks of insincerity, like he’s merely making a closing argument meant to deflect your focus from nagging things he wants you to overlook.Hillary Clinton is exceedingly bright, and while her style grates, she comes off as ultra-informed and able to think broadly. It is shocking that our nation has not crossed the gender threshold, but the fact that she can’t seem to make a stronger case for herself in that respect may say something about how alienating some women find Hillary.Bill Richardson has the best sense of humor, but he’s slicker than he wants you to think. Richardson’s been around some tough stuff, though, and he probably wouldn’t wet himself either. Veep material?Mike Huckabee plays a pretty decent bass guitar. He’s an insurgent who’s driving his party nuts, which is tasty in its own right, but ol’ Huck’s got a funny name, and he is so Christy. As a former minister, he can put the sales pitch on you and seem like he means it. You might think people would know that act when they see it, but this is the country that swallowed Ronald Reagan’s bobble-headed rhetoric whole, so you never can tell.Ron Paul’s a breath of fresh air because he’s so odd, and his war stance is strong. But holy Internet fundraising Batman, a good deal of Paul’s political worldview seems, frankly, nutty. Joe Biden would’ve offered something like moral clarity in foreign affairs. He’s the guy, remember, who always said to keep an eye on Pakistan. It got him nothing. Chris Dodd’s a solid guy too. He got no traction. But the fact that our nation will apparently be delivered from Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani or Fred Thompson proves there must be a benevolent force after all.To those who’ll point out that such cutting and pasting lends too much credibility to objectionable scalawags, I say get over it. What makes you think for a minute that anyone can plug into the contemporary American political system without being tangled in a mass of relativistic bullshit? These people are participants in a bloody game where expedience is perhaps the only thing that matters.It has, in fact, come down to a dirty game of picking your battles, of considering the unsavory prospect of voting for someone who’s less objectionable than other candidates. That’s the game.This week LEO devotes a number of pages to Bob Schulman, a longtime journalist who passed away Sunday. The blurb on the cover is a play on something Schulman said years ago, when, asked about LEO, he replied to the effect that “it’s crap — but interesting crap.” That sound bite turned into a non-sequitur LEO cover blurb, and I feel safe in saying Bob would appreciate LEO turning it on its head at his expense. He was kinda like that. Contact the writer at cstemle@leoweekly.com