November 12, 2008

Naming the puppy

In these times of political change, economic upheaval and the disturbing re-appearance of AC/DC, it’s impossible to sidestep the burning question that’s on every American’s mind: What will Malia and Sasha name the puppy?

Being the first Muslim children to occupy the White House, the Obama girls might go with a traditional Islamic name like Jihad or Gyro. Or perhaps a tribute to their Kenyan roots would be in order with a traditional African name like Weezie or 50. Even better would be a nod to their father’s dramatic campaign victory, perhaps Changer or Juggernaut Of Online Fundraising.

But if they really wanted to name the puppy in commemoration of their dad’s victory, they probably should go with Handsome. Since the dawn of the TV era, Americans have always elected the better-looking of the two presidential candidates, no matter their ideology. Even butt-ugly presidents like Nixon won, thanks to the opposition of even butt-uglier opponents like Humphrey. In this year’s race, Obama was just too dreamy. John McCain never had a chance.

While many consider President-elect Obama’s victory a triumph of democracy, it seems more like a triumph of marketing, technology, branding and fashion. Like those human contrivances (plus legal tender, race, God, MasterCard, internal combustion, prostitution, breakfast and Canada), democracy is an illusion. It’s only real if you believe it’s real. (According to an exhaustive, 21-year study by the Institute for Confirmatory Reality, the only intrinsically real things in the world are love and chocolate.)

If every voter took the time to research the issues and make an informed decision, that would bring us closer to real democracy. If the media forced the candidates to cough up meaningful positions instead of empty platitudes, that would help. If our leaders reformed their system of campaign finance so that dumbed-down TV ads aren’t how most Americans choose their leaders, that would help too. But, in the sage words of Mitch McConnell, “Money equals free speech, bee-yotches!” To which he can now add: “Uh-oh.”

Obama’s campaign estimates that it raised an astonishing $750 million for the general election. Why is that number an estimate? They’re still counting. Combined with John McCain’s estimated seventy-five cents plus a bran muffin, that’s over $750,000,000.75, most of which the candidates spent on television ads that were about as informative as Katie King’s Twitter tweets.

To put it in perspective, that is enough money to buy soothing LaStone massages for every banker on Wall Street, plus dinner for four at Calistoga Bakery Café (not counting cookies). But thanks to campaign-finance reform obstructionist un-mavericks like McConnell, President-elect Obama surfed to victory on a massive wave of moolah.

Which must have made for some interesting conversation when Obama caught up with McConnell by phone at the Kroger on Bardstown Road last Thursday …

McConnell: Thanks for calling me back, Mr. President-elect.

Obama: Who is this?

McConnell: Mitch McConnell.

Obama: Oh, right. Where are you? Did I just hear “Mop-up in aisle 5?”
 
McConnell: Yeah, I’m shopping at Kroger. They er … um … love me here in the Highlands. Say, do you know how long it takes to roast a duck?
 
Obama: Depends. Is it lame?
 
McConnell: Ha ha. Good one. I’ve heard a lot about your hilarious sense of humor. From Nancy Reagan’s nurse. Obama: Look, Mitch, I’m kinda busy. I’ve got a cabinet to choose, a world economic crisis to study, a hypoallergenic puppy to buy … McConnell: Right. Listen, congratulations on your victory.
 
Obama: Thanks.
 
McConnell: Aren’t you going to congratulate me? Obama: Why, for shopping at a union store? McConnell: Kroger is union? I gotta go.
 
Obama: Well, congratulations. And thanks for helping me win. We really couldn’t have done it without you. Good luck with that duck.  
 
So maybe Malia and Sasha should name the puppy Mitch.