While growing up in a St. Louis suburb, a bunch of kids who lived on my street would often get together in my neighbor’s backyard to play some soccer. Occasionally, the ball would be kicked too hard and roll into the yard next door, and sometimes all the way to the back of that house, which sat perpendicularly to our soccer field. This was always a dicey, somewhat traumatic moment for us, and we would usually argue for quite some time about who had to go retrieve the ball.
You see, the guy who lived in that house and the source of our fears and consternation was a mean, nasty, grouchy old man, a regular Grampa Simpson-slash-Ebenezer Scrooge who would yell and scream at us if he caught us in his yard, and threaten to take the ball away if he ever got it first. For a bunch of nine- and ten-year-olds, the dude was just plain scary.
I’m bringing this up because John McCain has lately been reminding me of that scary old man (and Obama’s the kid with the errant soccer ball). The real odd thing is, I think it’s the image he’s trying to cultivate.
How else can one explain McCain’s recent behavior and ads, where he basically mocks Obama’s lofty, inspirational rhetoric, and derides his popularity as a symptom of our shallow, celebrity-based culture (comparing him to both Moses and Britney). I know what he’s trying to say – that there’s no there there with Obama – but to me, he just comes across as a crotchety old guy with no message of his own, nothing positive to say, so all he can do is complain about those darn whippersnappers.
McCain isn’t the first person to try this strategy with Obama; in the primaries, Hillary Clinton often questioned Obama’s substance and occasionally mocked his speeches, and I thought she too looked petty and shrill while doing so. But for McCain, who already has an age problem, this will prove to be a particularly unhelpful tactic because in addition to being mean-spirited, it also makes him look old and out-of-touch.
Or have we truly gotten to the point where we automatically scoff at terms like hope and change, pass them off as more Camelot myth-making, just part of an impossible and foolish dream that will end up doing more harm than good.
I’d like to think that after eight years of George W and his cronies, and now mired in a rather depressing economic situation, most of America is looking for someone with a vision and fresh ideas, someone who is more interested in unity and compromise than party and ideology, a leader who can inspire and motivate us and help us become that more perfect union our forefathers intended (Well, I tried, but Obamaian rhetoric is hard to do without sounding cheesy!!).
Now I’m sure an Obama presidency will likely fall short of the ambitious, lofty vision he espouses in his speeches. The real business of politics and governing can be gritty, even dirty at times; The way Obama is alternatively shifting to the center (offshore drilling OK) and pandering to his base (windfall profit tax for oil companies) may not be very appealing, but it also shows that he’s not a total idealist, that he understands this aspect of the business as well.
And in any case, I’d much rather a leader start with his head a bit in the clouds and fall short of best intentions, than have him begin in the gutter and try to rise up out of it.
In other words, I’d much rather vote for a Ned Flanders than a Grampa Simpson…
p.s. speaking of grandpas, my mom just called and reminded me my grandfather’s 97th birthday would have been today. he died about ten years ago from complications after a stroke. until he got sick, there was a guy who knew how to do the old thing right!! what a sweet beautiful man. happy birthday zeydeh!!