Sunday, August 31, 2008

Getting the inside track

I am Important. I know this because I've been getting text messages from Barack Obama. Joe Biden and Michelle Obama wrote me emails. They were addressed to me, personally, starting off with "Dear Ian."

Actually, the Obama campaign has become more like the annoying co-worker who won't stop sending email forwards. I've gotten ones presumably from all the top players in the campaign, and they're normally breathless reviews of the last night's speeches (and always accompanied with links to YouTube videos of the same), or indignant "taking the high road" rejoinders to the McCain camp's latest juvenile TV spot ("He's the most popular person in America... but he also might be the antichrist").

What they all are is marketing. Image creation and manipulation is the name of the game today -- and that extends to both sides' purported "plans" for this great nation of ours.

After eight years of George Bush and Republican boondoggles, I was only too happy to jump on board the Obamawagon. But the infatuation is now over, and I'm getting that September sinking feeling, knowing all too well that campaign promises -- whether it's Winning the War or Bringing About Change -- are all just so much hot air, delivered, often eloquently, by individuals whose sole goal is to get into office.

I'm not alone in that theory. In fact, according to a textbook I bought just last week and read the first few pages of, getting into and staying in office are the first and foremost priorities of any polticial leader. Every decision made by a politician, the authors of this overpriced book say, is designed to hold on to or gain more power.

So, posed with the ethics question, "Is it better to lie or to tell the truth," our hypothetical politician would most likely say, "Well, which one would get me elected?"

Which brings us to Sen. McCain's choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential nominee. A startling choice (if one is to believe the AP headlines), particularly since Palin is a rank rookie in American politics, whose resume still includes her service on her small-town PTA.

But she does bring a seemingly important trait to the table: she is, indeed, a woman, which apparently is all a certain bloc of Hillary Clinton supporters need to jump ship and turn Republican.

I don't have any particular problems with Palin at the moment, but it's worth pointing out that her selection to the GOP ticket shoots holes in McCain's favorite criticism of Obama -- "He's popular, but is he ready to lead?" Sure, the vice president doesn't necessarily need the leadership skills that the president does, but isn't the whole point of having a vice president so that you have a qualified person ready to take over should the president become unable to lead? I mean, if not, why not have Rebecca Romjin as your vice president?

But, as I've been pointing out at every opportunity possible, experience either matters, or it doesn't. When you're talking about potential presidents and vice presidents, the same requirements should be expected out of all of them. And to me, "experience" is a bit of an ephemeral idea, anyway. I heard someone make the claim that Palin actually has more "executive" experience than anyone else in the race -- all the rest of the candidates only have legislative political experience.

Well, okay, but I think it's fair to draw a distinction between running a po-dunk town of 5,000 and governing the "Great" state of Alaska, and governing the entire United States of America. In fact, my own feeling is that serving on the U.S. Senate would probably be a better set of "experience" for executive office than being governor of the only state where your building codes have to make allowances for igloos.

Anyway, all that aside, the point I was setting out to make here was that Palin is a marketing choice on McCain's part. She's easy on the eyes, has a kid headed to Iraq, and is by all accounts a social conservative. These aren't really indicators of the influence she'll have on policy (should she and McCain make it into the White House), but they're tags that make her marketable to a certain demographic of voters.

I feel pretty much the same way about Joseph Biden, who clearly was picked to counteract the "inexperience" Obama has been constantly criticized for. Of course, Biden is now considered a "Washington Insider" and a "good old boy," so I'm not sure where one is supposed to draw the line.

Or if you're supposed to draw one at all. At this point, I'm pretty convinced that the whole lot of them are cynical scumbags out to advance their own careers at whatever cost. I'd love to see some change -- some REAL change -- but I'm afraid that the way we have things set up, change is about the last thing we're ever going to get... at least on our own.