Life in the land of make-believe
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.