Posts Tagged ‘John McCain’

Goddamit, America – I make one small promise not to blog anymore about your ludicrous electoral processes until after the Big Day (which neatly coincides with the Melbourne Cup: just one more reason to crack open a series of bottles and screeeeam at the television) but I just can’t do it. The pressure of saying nothing has both exhausted and weighed upon me, so that I feel like Will Smith in Independence Day, hauling a half-dead alien through the desert. And now – by jingo! – I need to get some things off my chest.

1. The Republican Party

It doesn’t seem unreasonable to compare a vote for John McCain at this point to a vote for Nixon after Watergate. The Republican ticket has demonstrated itself to be so duplicitous, hypocritical and untrustworthy – not to mention downright insane – that electing them on the offchance of improvement makes about as much as sense as giving a serial DUI offender a bottle of single malt and the keys to a vintage roadster. Do Not Want.

2. John McCain

Is a cranky old man, and everyone knows it. That’s not the only reason he shouldn’t be president, but it does explain his prejudices, selective ignorance and random interview tantrums. Assuming he ever was, McCain is no longer a statesman for whom patience and tact come easily. Can you imagine him facing tricky questions over the foregin negotiating table without physically lunging for the nearest Russian throat? Having an excellent poker face is moot if your temper never allows it play, and whenever the media starts talking about McCain on a ‘good day’, like they did during the last Presidential debate, I instantly think of a nurse describing a dementia patient during a moment of lucidity, viz: someone undergoing a temporary return to form, not a step towards recovery. Age can bring experience, but only when tempered by self-control and a lively mind. McCain boasts neither – at this point, he can’t even keep his running mate in check. Which brings us to:

3. Sarah Palin

Lord, how this woman scares me. I could talk about her jibberish jargon-babble, winks to the camera, campaign wardrobe, complete and utter ignorance of foreign policy, purposeful deviations from the party line and the Alaskan trooper scandal, but those are all just symptoms of the woman herself. When I look at Sarah Palin – when I read about her, listen to her and examine her actions – I see someone convinced of their own self-righteousness but lacking introspection. I see a politician who takes instinct unlevened by either experience or education as her primary guiding star, and who believes that the Biblican injunction for man and wife to work together overrides political confdentiality. I see a woman so powerfully convinced of the rightness of her vision for America that she’s willing to disregard all due processes – even go against her party leader – to see it take shape. I see a woman who, deep down, believes that intellectuals don’t know what they’re talking about if they don’t know God, and that even intellectuals who do know God are still too far removed from the common man to be useful. I see a rich, power-hungry politician who still believes in her own humility and down-to-earthness because, although she wears the trappings of success, she’s really just a layman on a holy crusade. I see someone who’ll burn the world and call it Rapture.

……..aaaand I’m back to the American Apocalypse. Great. This is exactly what I didn’t want, and the reason I’ve been keeping my Goddam mouth shut. I’m rooting for Obama, all the evidence says he’s going to win, but I can’t shake the awful fear that the USA will vote GOP. Like taking a flu shot to combat the actual flu, I feel the need to fill up on bile and bitterness now, the better to deal with disappointment. Logically, I know it’s not the end of the world. American hegemony was always going to end around now, and I’m not so Yankee-centric as to assume it bespells horror for the rest of us. But the writer in me – the fantasist, lover of apocalyptic fiction – keeps theorising on How It Can All Go Wrong.

Damn America. I give up.

Remember that episode of the Simpsons when Mr Burns ran for Governor? It was called Two Cars In Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish, and began with toxic waste from the nuclear power plant causing one fish to mutate a third eye. Burns starts up on the campaign trail in order to avoid being prosecuted; because of his unpopularity, however, he hires a team of spin doctors, mud-rakers and media advisors to oust Mary Bailey, his beloved competitor. Eventually (because this is, after all, the Simpsons) Burns’ victory hinges on having a middle-class dinner with Homer et al. Marge, a Bailey supporter, has been forbidden to ask political questions during dinner, but gets her own back by serving Mr Buns the same three-eyed fish his campaign has been calling harmless. At the cruical, televised moment, Burns spits out the meat, losing the election as a direct consequence. Family fun all round.

Eighteen years after the episode first aired, John McCain is running for president. There’s a distinct physical similarity between the current Republican candidate and Monty B, but that’s not what makes the comparison so disturbing. Rather, it’s how he refers to average voters, viz: Johnny Lunchpail, Joe Meatball, Sally Housecoat, Eddie Punchclock and – wait for it – Joe Sixpack.

Huh. Now, where did we hear that recently?

Dear America,

You are imploding. You are imploding so powerfully, so utterly, so comprehensively, that the ever-hungry vortex of your doom is like a star gone nova. Last night, I dreamed that John McCain and Barrack Obama could both fly like Superman, debating each other as they pirouetted and bounced off the skyscrapers of New York, only to look down and notice, all-too-belatedly, that the ground was collapsing beneath the city, giant sinkholes opening up as chunks of pavement crumbled into them, yawning into great black depths of nothing. I don’t mind saying, I woke up with a feeling of dread like I should apply for a Goddam prophecy permit, but then again, realising the obvious hardly makes me Miss Cleo. You are hurting, America, hurting bad, and like a dog with a broken leg, you’re lashing out with crazed, unbalanced mania.

First: that $700 billion bailout? In the immortal words of William Butler Yeats, Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” Put another way, without land in sight, there is only so much distance you can sail a sinking ship before even bailing becomes ineffectual. What you need are structural repairs, while the best you can currently do is limp for land faster, the better to haul out, turn the whole thing belly-up and work some serious shipwrighting mojo. And hey, Wall Street? I’ve got a reality check (not cheque) for you. It’s a major election year. You’ve screwed things up. You’ve screwed up royally. Maybe in the past you could take a golden handshake and walk away smelling of Midas roses, but right here, now, there’s two would-be presidents locking horns like a couple of twelve-tine harts in rutt, and you, my friends, are the fat ole’ tree they’re going to shine their ivories on. Good luck with that.

That’s another thing: the election. Way back in Season 2, remember that episode of The Simpsons where Bart and Martin ran against each other for class president? Bart dominated the campagin, won all the popular support and even held a preemptory victory party under the slide, while Martin ended up a sweating, shivering, nervous wreck. But Martin won: because only Martin and one other person remembered to vote.  And America, let me speak frankly: if you vote McCain and Palin in through apathy and fear, the rest of the world will not forgive it lightly. You have laughed – or rather, certain of your media has laughed – at Obama’s popularity overseas while simultaneously scorning his lack of foreign policy experience. The fact that this isn’t touted as an obvious contradiction should set off alarm bells, because we – the people who, in future, will need to be most impressed by the President’s l337 n3g0ti47ing s|<i11z – are impressed already. Contrast to Sarah Palin, a woman I wouldn’t trust to run a primary school fete, who still thinks the proximity of Alaska to Russia equals foreign policy experience.

Your own media has already kept you well abreast of troubles in the McCain camp, and the economic dangers they’re so willing to hide behind in order to avoid debating anything that hasn’t stopped in the interim. If your eyes are half open, you know the score, even if the sacrosanct Laws of Armchair Sport forbid you to ask who’s playing or what game it is; and if your eyes are wilfully closed, there’s little I can do but weep with mine.

But oh, America, if you stumble now, then Yeats was right: mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

Lord have mercy – Sarah Palin is ready and willing to declare war on Russia. Newsflash, guys: the Iron Curtain has fallen. Whenever John McCain starts talking about communism and Eastern Europe, I start to hear flashes of Dr Strangelove: “Mr President, we cannot allow the development of a mineshaft gap!” Has satire taught us nothing? Earth to America: Dmitry Medvedev has seen the Big Board. The spies have come in from the cold and are sunning themselves in Cuba. No, wait, not spies – I’m thinking of enemy non-combatants unprotected by the Geneva Convention. They’re the ones in scenic Guantanamo. Cuba. Thingy. Damn!

Where was I?

Ah, yes, Sarah Palin and her delightful proclivity for warfare. Who knew: not only do the Republicans support a return to the moralism of the 1950’s, but they also hunger for Cold War politics! In cinemas, it could play as McCarthyism 2: The Hottening. Get it? Cold becomes hot. I just kill me (or, if I were Sarah Palin, lots of Russians). But while on the film theme, might I draw your attention to Kyle’s Mom, aka Sheila Brovlovsky, of South Park fame? Remember in the South Park Movie when Sheila declared war on potty mouths and Canada?

This is who I picture when Sarah Palin talks about war. Criminy: they even look alike. (Bonus: if the Republicans win, we can all have a rousing chorus of Cartman’s song.)

And who says life doesn’t imitate art?

It’s hard to know whether the near-constant presence of Barrack Obama in the global media of late – compared to the marked absence of John McCain from anything outside the American press – is the result of a broader campaign, a reflection of its success, or simply based on the novelty of a black American presidential candidate. It might even be a mixture of all three. But reading today about Obama’s stirring speech to a crowd of 200,000 in Berlin, it struck me that the crux of this election isn’t experience, race or even – to a certain extent – the age-old battle between Republican and Democrat. No. Come 4 November 2008, what the American people will vote on is a choice between isolationism and a policy of global cooperation.

Throughout history, American isolationism has had a sporadic role in world politics, notably in 1914 at the outbreak of WWI. While George Bush’s attitude to foreign affairs doesn’t fall exactly into this category, his attitude has long been one of America versus The World, dividing the planet into those for the War on Terror and those against, an approach which has entailed precious little middleground and not much elbow-room for diplomacy. As a policy, isolationsim tends to suggest a self-assuredness that the country in question reigns supreme – in its own opinion, anyway – and therefore need not sully its hands in external affairs, except as a kind of global policeman. Bush has simply pushed this to the next logical point: active interference, rather than passive, but still with the view that America is prima inter pares.

Should McCain be elected President, it seems likely that this approach will continue, possibly followed by a return to genuine isolationism, should circumstances allow. Certainly, I can’t see the opposite happening. Almost exclusively, his pitch has been to the American people – pragmatic, in the sense that these are, after all, his voters, but symptomatic of a mindset which says: the rest of you can go hang. We haven’t asked for your opinion, and we sure as hell aren’t going to.

By contrast, Obama has set out not just to woo his constituency, but the world at large. And it’s working. Whether or not other nations like America or agree with its current foreign policy, it remains an indsiputable superpower, and for many governments, the thought of a President who might actually bring their kind of diplomacy to the table, regardless which party he belongs to, is an exceedingly welcome change. As far as campaigns go, it portrays foresight, shrewd politics and a view that America needs to take the rest of the world into consideration – to compromise, not just when a strongarm approach has failed, but because it’s good politics to do so.

But the question, as always, rests with American voters. Can enough of them be persuaded to care what the rest of the world thinks? Is the idea of a change in foreign policy more attractive than the prospect of same-old, same-old? Have the failings of the Bush government resonated strongly enough that McCain can’t play to the idea of change = danger, familiarity = safe? Does increased global confidence in the President rate as an important electoral consideration? Or is the idea of foreign policy beyond military commitments so far off the radar that when the polls open, everything will hinge on the pitch-and-toss of national concerns?

I can’t be sure. But as a citizen of the world beyond the States, I know what my plea to voters is.

Choose, America. But choose wisely.