I tried not to stay in this week because I heard stupidity was contagious. â€œStay away from the TV, stay away from the News,â€ I told myself. â€œDonâ€™t watch any video that pops up with â€˜Katie Couricâ€™ in the title.â€ Amid the barbecues, the concerts, the Oktoberfests and the debate parties, I couldnâ€™t help but be drawn back to the headlines time and time again. Finally, I broke down and gorged myself on the stories, careful to mouthwash with The Classics â€“ you know, a little Hemingway here, a little Emerson there, a smidge of Walter Cronkite â€“ and Iâ€™ll thwart the rampant stupidity with these talismans.
So what AM I referring to exactly anyway? Donâ€™t worry: Iâ€™ve brought you specific examples. (What do you think this is â€“ a presidential debate?) We’ve got a little bit of Obama, a little bit of McCain, a little bit of Biden, a little bit of Palin. This week I was feeling a little like WC Fields when he said, “I’m not prejudiced: I hate everyone equally.”
Exhibit A : Well, fine, letâ€™s talk about the debates. Barack Obama refers to the â€œRepublican Guard in Iran,â€ rather than the â€œRevolutionary Guard in Iranâ€ in a classic slip-up. Then poor McCain stumbled over the pronunciation of â€œAhmadinejad,â€ which admittedly is a tricky tongue twisterâ€¦ the first time you try to say it. While CNN wistfully declared Obama the winner and Fox overwhelmingly deemed McCain the winner, I thought they both came out losers. Obama was on the defense (interrupting relentlessly), while McCain nit-picked Obama over semantics (â€œStrategyâ€ vs. â€œTacticsâ€). Even Jim Lehrer caught the stupid as he continually asked the same question on the economy for the first 45 minutes of the debate!
Exhibit B: I donâ€™t want to get too off-topic here. After all, itâ€™s the VEEPs that are the object of my fascination — the people who werenâ€™t crazy enough to ascend to the presidential nomination but got usurped out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Joe Biden at least has thrown himself out there before, although heâ€™s also proved that experience doesnâ€™t necessarily breed wisdom. This week he was in Ohio giving some off-the-cuff remarks about energy policy in a creepy, drunk Uncle sort of way. In the video, you can see him leaning in, grasping onto this college student and spewing out all sorts of craziness about China and coal plants. â€œNo coal plants here in America,â€ he said â€“ even though the Obama-Biden website explicitly states, â€œObama’s Department of Energy will enter into public-private partnerships to develop five ‘first of a kind’ commercial scale coal-fired plants with clean carbon capture and sequestration technology.” Did I mention there are over 90 active coal mining operations in Ohio, which bring in $626 million to the local economy?
Thereâ€™s more. He recently reckoned himself a coal miner at a stop in Virginia, where he said, â€œI hope you wonâ€™t hold it against me but Iâ€™m a hard coal-miner, anthracite coal, Scranton, Pa. Itâ€™s nice to be back in coal country. â€¦ Itâ€™s a different accent [in Southwest Virginia] â€¦ but itâ€™s the same deal.” (Note: This is where you smack your palm against your forehead.) Donâ€™t think any of this slipped by the McCain camp either. They parodied it in this ad.
Exhibit C: Just when you thought it couldnâ€™t get worse, thereâ€™s that video floating around of Bidenâ€™s interview with Katie Couric. For as galling as I think she is, thereâ€™s just something about Katie that entices people to let their guard down and just start spewing nonsense. She seems too soft to be so unforgiving â€“ but donâ€™t be fooled, Joe Biden: her public is a shrewd, astute bunch. So they get to talking about the economy. Biden says, “When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the princes of greed. He said, ‘Look, here’s what happened.’” OOPS! In reality, Franklin Roosevelt wasn’t president until 1933 — three years after the stock market crash… not to mention, televisions weren’t in every household until the 1950s — years after Roosevelt died in 1945!
In that same interview, Biden disparaged the Obama Camp’s own ad mocking John McCain for being out-of-touch because he doesn’t use the computer. “I thought it was terrible. I didn’t know we did it…. If I had anything to do with it, we never would have done it,” he said.Â It was so painful.
Exhibit D: Katieâ€™s back at it again, this time tricking Sarah Palin into her web of political doom. You really have to watch the full video to comprehend the scope of the stupidity expressed in what seemed like every other response. She had rolling meanderings, slipping back to talking points like this: “That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, we’re ill about this position that we have been put inâ€¦ where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh — it’s got to be all about job creation too. Shoring up our economy, and putting it back on the right track. So healthcare reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade, we’ve got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, um, scary thing, but 1 in 5 jobs being created in the trade sector today. We’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.”
Then there was her adamant claim that her proximity to Russia grants her â€œforeign policy credentials.â€ She told Katie, “We have trade missions back and forth. We, we do, it’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where, where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to, to our state.”
And lest not we forget the grand finale, when Couric pressed her to back up her quote that John McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business. Couric inquired, â€œI’m just going to ask you one more time, not to belabor the pointâ€¦ specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation?â€ Palinâ€™s response? â€œI’ll try to find you some and I’ll bring them to you.â€ I almost want to like her, but sheâ€™s killing me here.
Still there? Good. I was worried you may be drooling on your keyboard, blankly staring at the screen, permanently scarred by what youâ€™ve read. You know, people often ask me why my generation is so full of cynics and apathetic nihilists. The proof is in the pudding, my friends. Part of me is horrified by the limited choices we have and this pathetic charade we like to call a Democracy, which is probably little more than the masturbation of a theocratic police state. But another part of me is thrilled by the amount of cannon fodder that these public figures keep coughing up time and time again. Itâ€™s really quite bold and self-deprecating in a way â€“ how they throw themselves with reckless abandonment into the piranha pit for our amusement (and horror). The race is looking more and more like the Special Olympics. You really want them to win and obtain that glory, that honor as a reward for all their hard efforts and personal sacrifice; but you also feel a pang of sadness for the very real humans beneath the veneer. I can also liken it to a tragic car wreck: you donâ€™t want to look, you donâ€™t want to think about it â€“ but you do.
Now go read your Hemingway, Emerson and Cronkite, friend. Youâ€™ve been warned.
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