Look, Iím here to disappoint today.
Iíd just as soon not do any disappointing, but this isnít a popularity contest. This isnít a contest of words or ideals, or that cute little phrase that has cropped up in the past few years. Spin.
Spin should be something your four year old does on the tether ball pole when heís had one too many slices of cake at the neighbors pool party. Damn shame that such a good word has to be a 21st century code for ďlies that donít smellĒ.
Nope, Iíll try to keep the spinning to a minimum.
But a lot of you are pretty upset at this whole Presidential election thing. Youíre mad at one candidate or the other, or disgusted with one or both, or at the very least ready for the whole affair to come staggering to its conclusion. I think itís safe to say that youíve made up your mind about who to vote for. I donít know how anyone could play the undecided card with two personalities as different as these.
Iím gonna take a little history tour here, both to satisfy my memory and to let you think that Iím an aging, grumpy bastard with an attitude. Which, come to think of it, I is.
Letís deal up a handful of Presidents and see which one will fish.
LBJ: I guess you could say this was my first President, I truly donít remember Kennedy, who was shot when I was all of 5 years old. But Johnson, geez. Talk about a grumpy bastard. This was a wild man who was all Texas, the very visage of a leader, a big guy who also knew how to project a father image. He knew he was the leader of the free world, and had an irony of moral conflict that made him stop being that very leader after his term. I admired him, in one sense he was the last of his kind, a President who could get things done, but man enough to admit that his ideals and the country were playing horrible games with each other.
Dick: I remember a really funny skit that came out on SNL years after Nixon was gone, probably when Carter or Clinton was President. ďCountryís gone to hell! Commieís are taking over everything, economyís in the crapper, punk kids running wild! Well, what the hell we gonna do about all this?Ē drumroll ďIíll tell ya what weíre gonna do. BRING BACK DICK! DICK!Ē And the audience collapsed, and I laughed right along with Ďem, but somewhere in the wee nuances of my brain, a little spark of something was saying, ďYou know, itís not as farfetched as it sounds.Ē
ĎCause Dick might have been a puny little sumbitch, but he could get asses kicked. Hard. He had an impossible task. He had the whole country going against him, a terrible war going on, back door dealings right and left, and he never wavered. In the end, of course, the biggest ass he kicked was his own. He was stupid in a criminal way, but I very much believe he didnít do things much differently than a lot of his contemporaries. He had just enough of an ego to let it all catch up with him.
I donít think Iíll ever forget what my Dad, who was the most morally upright man Iíve ever known had to say on the evening of Dickís resignation. After hearing all the back room dealings, the cussing on tape, and all the unQuaker like things that Nixon pulled off, Dad shook his head wearily and said, ďI still say he was a prince of a man.Ē And at the time I thought it was the most Archie Bunker of things to say, and my budding little hippie love child brain was spinning (whoops, sorry) around trying to grasp why anyone could possibly see any goodness in that man. Why, that liar. That killer of innocent Vietnamese. That mean little man who caused an entire generation to grow facial hair and disavow bathing.
Iíll tell you what. Iíd take mean little Dick Nixon for two terms right now. Right now today. Because mean little Dick would take this foreign policy and this economy and kick it in the teeth. And the day after that, heíd bitch slap Osama and a few Saudi sheiks right back to the Stone Age. Laughing? Obviously, you never looked Dick Nixon in the eye. A wolverine had less balls.
Jerry Ford: Was the Rodney Dangerfield of his day. Talk about mis-assignments. Bring back Dick!
Jimmy: You know, Jimmy was and is a pretty fair country carpenter. He does some admirable work in his retirement, is not an unintelligent fellow, and heís from the South. All things I look for in a good friend. But Iíll tell you what. First time I saw Jimmy in a sweater on nationwide TV with that soft little voice, telling us it was all going to be better. Well. I think my reaction was something along the lines of ďHoly shit we just elected Captain Kangaroo.Ē
And the business and money interests in this country? I know they were expecting Jimmy to rain on their parade a little, but damn. He just let the wang hang out while standing on some tenement fire escape and poured piss on Ďem. 20% interest rates? Unemployment, inflation? Oh my lord did it pour. Jimmyís presidency took me right up to the point of my marriage to Ally and if weíd been a little less naÔve in the ways of love and economics we woulda postponed it. Jesus, we were both making minimum wage! And I wonít even remind you of what that was in those days because you canít even buy coffee with it now. Scary.
And less we forget, the man who would one day be noted for his foreign affairs was being stalked by a foreign devil who made Saddam look like Martha Stewart. Thus began the whole fascination with mid-east countries that start with ďIĒ, Alex.
The Gipper: And Iíll be right upfront here. I voted for Reagan, but it was totally a reactionary thing. No way was Jimmy the wage killer getting my vote. I had no real love for Ronnie but hey, what was the difference? But something interesting happened on inaugural day, and you can argue the whyís and wherefores till the end of time, but youíll never convince me. Youíll never change my mind that the devil didnít take a look at Ron Reagan sideways glare and the second coming of the Bad-Ass White Men and release those hostages in between emergency trips to the john and calls to his Met-Life guy.
Seems like I recall a lot of Democrats at that time, and for all of Reaganís eight years, talk a great deal of smack about ďlack of substanceĒ. As if by being a former actor, the man had no smarts about him, no great cosmic thinking or ideas. Let me tell ye something. The man didnít have to be Carl Sagan. I donít think any President does. The trick is to get the thinkers you need on the team. Surround yourself with the best and let them do their job. Reagan did what he did so well, he put out the vision, he looked you in the eye and told you something and by God, he generally went out and did what he said he was going to do. He was a man, he was an adult, he was absolutely a leader.
I made more money, in terms of staying ahead of the inflationary curve, during those eight years than I suspect I ever will. Reagan got the real estate and construction markets in this country going, and for that I loved him. Pretty shallow I know, but I had three kids to feed by the time his second term was winding down. Judging by the activity in the maternity wards at the time, I suspect a fair number of us were thinking the same thing. ďHey! Itís okay to have kids again!Ē
If you give the man nothing else, just remember. The USSR. And the reason why they are, and will be, a memory. Why we are immeasurably safer as a world for that.
Herbert: The day Saddam flipped olí Herb off for the last time and we went in there and slapped him all the way back to the Tigris? The day we brought the boys and girls home from the Gulf? ĎMember? George Bush Sr. had one of the highest levels of support, confidence and approval any President ever had. Period. ďWeíre going to go over there and kick ass.Ē Remember? And we did. No doubt.
Couple years later and he was gone. He was a wooden personality, a smart man who had poor personable skills, speaking skills. He couldíve worked on the economy a little better, I mean Reagan basically handed him a big stuffed turkey with sweet potatoes and a cherry cobbler and George turned it into the blue plate special at Murielís. On a Tuesday.
He just wasnít ready to make friends with the common man. Oh they liked him well enough when he was making war, and he was good at it. It happened to be one of his special skills, hell heíd trained at it for long enough.
But something fundamental was happening. And Iíll just allude to it and let it lay there. Cable TV. Personal computers. The infancy of the internet. For all his capable skills, Herb wasnít ready for the consumer revolution.
His Slickness: My brother, who is a minister and man of letters and generally a pain in my exasperated ass for most of my adult life, observed. ďIf Bill Clinton is elected this country will regret it forever. Be the worst mistake we ever made.Ē Pretty sweeping, no?
I didnít vote for him, in either of the two terms. But hold on for a minute (assuming youíve made it this far, that is) and Iíll tell ye why.
I look at people, and after nearly 5 decades I can judge them pretty well by appearance. Maybe the Bible says not to, and the Bible is often right. But, you can call it the car salesman look or the Slick look or whatever. Willie just oozed slime, to me. Iím sure I looked like Uriah Heap, writhing and gnashing and generally flailing around when that boy got hooked up.
It didnít stop for me, ever, looking at this man and seeing all the things that I find distasteful in a person. The deflection, the shading of truth, the cocky little smile, the ďshit donít stinkĒ attitude. Even his choice in women. God, I donít think Iíve ever met an adulterer who had worst taste. Gotdamn! The man could pick out some winners, eh?
Now a funny thing happened in his last couple of years. And I was slow to realize it, but I had to admit that, very grudgingly, I was starting to not dislike his Administration. I never really have gotten to respect him personally, but what of it? The broad picture of a country that wasnít falling off the cliff, either at home or abroad, was impossible to ignore. Stu and I had started our business, and it became brisk in an economy that was in pretty good shape.
I think really, that Clinton mellowed, and I did too.
But heís still a fuckstick. Heh.
And finally. . .
The Anointed One: I call him the anointed one not because he was duck walked into office. Or because what many of you call Corporate America supposedly molded him in their image and sent him to do their evil bidding.
I think the GOP was doing the anointing. Think there isnít a lack of candidates here in 2004? Have mercy, Al Gore and George W, now there was a fiasco of confident leadership. How the Republicans arrived at George must have been a matter of someone losing a hand of Texas hold-em, Ďcause there wasnít much logic behind it.
But if you think I voted for Al, and got my panties all in a bunch afterwards, youíd be wrong. That guy. Biggest waste of a wool suit ever, was Al. A confused and, progressively confusing sort of drone without an original thought. Horrific public relations, scattered policy.
If you follow the concept of the apple not falling far from the tree, consider George the Junior. Wooden personality, poor public speaking skills. No real vision on a fair amount of domestic things. Had the sense to put in some damn fine hired help. Sound familiar?
But I saw it in his eye, three years ago. I looked the man in the face, and heís a muddled sort of lad who makes true the things his detractors say about his appearance. But I saw it.
Look of eagles. He saw a sack of shit thrown at this country and smelled smoke, and flesh. There were no words then, or now, to put right the most bastar d of days.
I saw a man who was ready to start the fire in the slaughterhouse. I could almost see a hand ready for an axe, and a tree to fell. And deep down, my friends. Even if for a moment, there arenít many of us who could truthfully say that we didnít feel it too.
Put that aside for a minute. Take away the need for a warrior. Think with me, and remember all the days youíve spent in this country. Give me a minute.
Thereís a common thread in the strength of men who have been at the wheel of America. The best of them, to me, were those who led by their refusal to compromise. To just get up on the stump and point toward the mountain. All the words of, say, Jimmy Carter were not enough to make evil things not happen, or bread to appear on your table. If Dick Nixon was the most hated of our time, it didnít break anything beyond repair. If Bill Clinton was a third rate philanderer, he grew up a little and learned that maybe, just maybe, trust was important and that every word that dripped from his lips wasnít revealed truth.
Itís interesting that every one of them (Carter excepted, I suppose, and Reagan in a way) was groomed for politics from the get go. Youíd think we would have had enough of them by now, and be willing to throw in a Truman or a Coolidge once in a while. But it just doesnít happen. Farmers and businessmen, or professors and restaurant owners just donít seem to make the big show. Moreís the pity.
I can tell you what we donít need. We donít need the shrieking I heard the other day, the one that basically accused George W of killing Superman. Didnít jump on stem cell fast enough, did you George? Yah, you murdered our man Chris Reeves just as surely as if youíd pulled the trigger.
What utter, and complete assholery.
Donít need a long time newscaster and broadcast team trying to make something juicy out of whole cloth either. Donít especially need the delving of both sides into things that happened so long ago. That constant and irritating sheep noise from an industry bent on doing nothing but stirring up a vat of vile. Just shut up already.
Shut up and grow up. For my Democratic friends Ė Bill Clinton did it. He grew up and got good at his job, and we let him. Why not afford George W the same courtesy? Are you intellectually convinced that we live in the most fascist state since 1930ís Germany? Are you really? Real certain, after all the pot stirring has been done for you by all the hundreds of sheep that there is some vast and evil force in charge here?
And canít you Republicans for once stop beating the shit out of anyone who casually (or even seriously) disagrees? Thereís some wisdom out there, and it doesnít all begin and end with the sanctimonious harping that you are so fond of.
Iím not a consensus builder. Thereís fewer of them out there than there are adults. We donít need to chase a consensus that will never come.
Letís go chase some terrorists. Itís a wartime election, seems like the thing to do. Letís chase the economy for a while. Letís see if my personal pet peeve of gas prices can get unfucked.
I mean, we had them relatively under control after the Gulf War, right?
All of this is pretty simplistic, isnít it? I havenít quoted one news piece, or linked to one blog or provided evidence or anything.
Which is, if youíve been following me, the point. Think for yourself, put whoever you choose in office. Look them in the eye. What do you see there?
I can guarantee this country can survive either choice. Take a look at where weíve been.
Do this for yourself. Allow everybody the chance to be a grown up.
Do not. Make me BRING BACK DICK!
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