Life in the land of make-be­lieve

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - Opin­ion by Wes­ley Pru­den

These are hard times for grown-ups in Amer­ica. Since al­most no­body wants to grow up, it’s hard for grown-ups to find a grown-up can­di­date for po­lit­i­cal of­fice. The prospec­tive can­di­dates are on the road de­ter­mined to en­ter­tain Amer­ica to death.

All a politi­cian, a pun­dit or a preacher needs to qual­ify for “lead­er­ship” is a toothy grin, a lame joke, a gui­tar or, if you’re a con­gress­man, a dig­i­tal cam­era to take pho­to­graphs of what you imag­ine you do best. It’s im­por­tant to keep your con­stituents in­formed about what’s go­ing on in your un­der­wear.

Sarah Palin, the only one of the usual sus­pects with star power, is hav­ing a high old time with her bus tour of Amer­ica, or at least a “na­tional” tour of a cou­ple of the states cru­cial to the pur­suit of the pres­i­dency. She’s still a lit­tle rusty on his­tory and cur­rent events, but the moose-killer from Alaska is the pret­ti­est can­di­date, though we’re not sup­posed to no­tice such things any­more.

Not so long ago, a slot on a cable chan­nel was thought to be an au­di­tion for run­ning for pres­i­dent, though that may be chang­ing. Run­ning for pres­i­dent now is an audi- tion for a slot on a cable chan­nel. If you al­ready have such a slot, run­ning for pres­i­dent can goose de­clin­ing rat­ings.

Mrs. Palin won’t tell the re­porters fol­low­ing her mag­i­cal mys­tery tour where she’s go­ing, if in fact she knows. She in­sists that just be­cause she’s a tourist fol­lowed by a throng of cam­paign cor­re­spon­dents doesn’t mean she’s run­ning, though she did think to wear a Cross pen­dant around her neck for a biker rally in Wash­ing­ton, ex­changed for a Star of David pen­dant by the time she got to Gotham. Run­ning or not, the spec­ta­cle of 15 cars, SUVs, trucks and trail­ers fol­low­ing close be­hind her bus makes for good film at 11. She gets the thrill of stick­ing it to her me­dia tor­men­tors and her fans get to watch her en­joy­ing the thrill of stick­ing it to her tor­men­tors. One net­work re­porter com­plains that Mrs. Palin en­dan­gers the lives of oth­ers on the high­way by mak­ing the press fol­low dumbly be­hind, not know­ing where they’re go­ing, ei­ther. This concern isn’t likely to im­press any­one, since a wreck on the high- way is just the kind of pic­tures tele­vi­sion lusts for, par­tic­u­larly if two or three of the cars ex­plode to scat­ter hair, teeth and limbs all over the high­way.

So who can blame Mike Huck­abee for think­ing that maybe he came in out of the rain too soon? A Bap­tist preacher needs a lit­tle funk, too. Mike is care­ful to keep his gui­tar tuned, oc­ca­sion­ally step­ping up to a mike to knock out the mu­sic for the kind of lyrics he once scorned as not fit for his con­gre­ga­tion. But that was then, and this now, and Mike told by­standers back home in Lit­tle Rock last week that just be­cause he said he wasn’t run­ning doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily make it so.

“Ev­ery­thing is still open,” he said. “I haven’t closed doors.” And this: “It’s not go­ing to be an easy path for who­ever the Repub­li­can is. Who­ever it is, is go­ing to come out of a bloody pri­mary broke and bat­tered.”

This ought to be good news for Pres­i­dent Obama, ex­cept that grown-ups have pretty much given up on him. The hopey-changy man was sup­posed to have the econ­omy hum­ming by now, and only Pollyanna with a mi­cro­scope can find ev­i­dence of that. The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ports that prices of houses, a re­li­able in­di­ca­tor of the health of the econ­omy, fell an as­ton­ish­ing 4.2 per­cent in the first quar­ter of this year. The av­er­age value of a house is now 33 per­cent be­low the peak in 2006, a big­ger drop than any recorded in the (gulp) Great De­pres­sion. Ras­mussen, one of the most re­li­able poll­sters, finds that Mr. Obama, though the pun­dits in­vari­ably call him a likely win­ner, polls two points be­hind the “generic” Repub­li­can nom­i­nee. Ras­mussen says 66 per­cent of likely vot­ers, in­clud­ing 41 per­cent of likely Demo­cratic vot­ers, say the coun­try is head­ing down the wrong track. The wrong track rarely leads to 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue.

The coun­try speeds on, like a mighty pas­sen­ger train hurtling down the tracks to­ward a miss­ing bridge across the river. But why worry? The great en­ter­tain­ers are in charge.

Wes­ley Pru­den is edi­tor emer­i­tus of The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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