Every bit of America’s presidential campaign is a lie, even the punctuation…
One nice thing about writing about America’s presidential race is that the writer runs no risk of libeling the candidates; he can say that Mrs. Clinton is a scalawag or that Mr. Giuliani is a scoundrel. No jury in the world – given a fair hearing of the evidence – would ever find him guilty. No National Secrets Act prevents him from revealing that Mr. Huckabee is a moron. Nor will he be brought up on libel charges when he says that Mr. Obama’s entire campaign premise is nothing but a bold-faced fib.
On the Democratic side, Madame Clinton, like Kristina Kirschner in Argentina, and Evita Peron before her, aims to replace her husband as head of state – after giving the nation eight years to recover. She is probably the least amusing of all the candidates in this presidential campaign, in that she has been in a mote in the public eye for so long we assume we are stuck with her forever.
Her main opponent, Barack Obama, is a fresh face. So far, his clowning achievement is that he has managed to make himself the campaign’s greatest mountebank. This month’s issue of The New Statesman has a photo of the man in his office. On the wall behind him are photos of the men who “inspired him” – Martin Luther King, John Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi. More honest would be a photo of Tony Rezko, one of his key Chicago supporters, who is now awaiting trial for extortion, money laundering and fraud. But honesty is not a part of this election; the voters won’t stand for it.
It is all a “fairy tale,” said Bill Clinton. Of course it’s a fairy tale. The whole presidential campaign is a fairy tale – lies told by delusional desperadoes…earnestly reported by hacks…and taken up by a public eager for make-believe.
American politics, like the empire itself, suffers from some wasting disease. But even from its hospital bed, it still puts on a good show. The whole baroque fandango is one part Dada theatre, one part religious revival…and one part low-budget circus. Nothing that is said is reliable; most is absurd or incomprehensible…and there are clowns everywhere. The important thing from the spectator’s point of view is to suspend disbelief…and enjoy it.
Lining up for an election in the United States is like lining up at a security point before getting on an airplane. The old lady in front of you knows perfectly well she is not going to hijack the plane. The fellow giving her the once-over knows it too. So does everyone waiting in line. Still, the woman gets such a thorough pat-down that she doesn’t know whether to lodge a complaint or get back in line. And the Republic is spared!
“Change” is the word that appears most often in the candidates’ guff. Google “presidential candidates” and “change” and you get 4,560,000 examples. Barack Obama promises “change you can believe in.” The democrats suggest that you can “vote for change” by choosing one of them. John Edwards website says, “if you’re ready to change our country, please join us.”
Change is the only thing that all of the candidates agree on in this presidential campaign – they’re all opposed to it; each one pledges to do his level best to stop it. If there is going to be any change at all, it is going to be over their dead bodies. Which would probably be the best way. Voltaire once remarked that the best form of government was democracy, “with an occasional assassination.” But it would be a waste of time. For not only are the candidates are opposed to change; it’s the last thing voters want, too.
Mr. Market has begun a worldwide credit crunch; shares and houses are headed down. America’s money is losing its value; its stock is in decline. If Mr. Market has his way, a recession will follow. The only disagreement between the major candidates is how to stop him. One promises tax hikes – on the rich, of course. Another promises tax rebates. Still another calls for tax credits to help one group of voters or another. Each and every candidate puts his hand over his heart and pledges to do all he can to keep the boom alive.
Mitt Romney, appearing in Michigan – one of the slumpiest states in the union – says the recession could be “diverted,” whatever that means. Mike Huckabee, too, pledges to set things right in Michigan. The former Arkansas governor has an understanding of economics at least as good as a smart German shepherd. “Michigan is in trouble,” he said. “We owe it to Michigan to help it, just like we had to do for the people of the Gulf Coast” after Hurricane Katrina.
The whole art of politics is coming up with the right lie at the right moment. We don’t know what went through the candidate’s mind at that moment. But we can imagine what went through the voters’ minds – images of bloated bodies floating through the streets of New Orleans; desperate, frightened refugees huddled in the convention center; and acres of boarded up, washed out shacks still vacant two years after the storm. Mr. Huckabee is known to have a sense of humor; perhaps he was joking. Or worse, perhaps he was not.
Markets and Money