Actually, that was us, perched there in Clint’s empty chair. A collective non-entity, subjected to a dazzling campaign about next to nothingness.
Eastwood’s discourse with unoccupied furniture, however peculiar, seemed no less enlightening than other aspects of a presidential campaign that has been boiled down to itty bittiness, then sauced with mendacity. Lies rung up by PolitiFact, the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times fact-checking enterprise, are reported with such mind-numbing frequency that presidential politics has become a blazing pants inferno.
Paul Ryan may have broken some records the other night but his speech was only notable by degrees of dishonesty. Both sides in this deplorable campaign, as PolitiFact has demonstrated time and again over these last few months, torture the truth in ways that would never occur to CIA interrogators. Worse, still, are the super PACS, cowering behind an utterly deceitful construction — supposedly they operate independent of the candidates — to spend unlimited millions on such perfidious advertising that the effect mostly is to depress — or maybe suppress — the electorate.
Just as disheartening is the claustrophobic narrowness of the campaigns. Essentially, we are to choose between an Obama who plans to transform America into a northern European socialist nanny state or a Romney who intends to outsource our jobs and stash the profits in a Swiss bank account. Both, apparently, intend to bankrupt Medicare.
Think what you will about Todd Akin, the Missouri senate candidate with the odd notions about “legitimate” rape and pregnancy and the inner workings of the womb, but at least he provoked an actual national conversation. I’m guessing a significant chunk of the Republican constituency wanted rather badly to hear their presidential candidate reveal specific thoughts about the stuff once known as “social conservatism.” At least, both sides of the debates on abortion or gay marriage might have been roused out of their comatose states.
All that was mostly ignored last week. No deviation from the teensy message allowed. Nor was there much mention of foreign policy, other than the rote pledge to preemptively approve whatever Benjamin Netanyahu decides to do about Iran (no mention of the rather sticky problem of the Israeli religious settlements on Palestinian land). Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan made the cut. Associated Press offered this remarkable lead on its analysis of the candidate’s acceptance speech: “With America embroiled in its longest armed conflict, Mitt Romney became the first Republican since 1952 to accept his party’s nomination without mentioning war.”
WORTH A MENTION
One might think that the recent horrors of the Colorado cinema massacre, followed by the Sikh temple massacre, and the mounting toll of gang murders in urban ghettos, might spark at least a conversation among our presidential candidates about curtailing the insane amount of high powered weaponry available, even to the mentally unbalanced. But no. One national leader did say, “The fact that criminals, terrorists and other mentally ill people have access to guns is a national crisis,” but that was Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the most prominent Republican not invited to speak during last week’s convention.