The Making of the Presidents

Political grist for a lifetime of grinding: McCarthy's nomination speech in 1960, McCain's desperation, Silverman's Schlep, and Powell's tightrope-walking endorsement.

As an almost lifelong observer of presidential politics--which I have come to view as the American quadrennial carnival of democracy--I sadly assert that the once energizing and redemptive spectacle of Americans choosing their president has become a pallid, limpid specter of democracy. This observation began with the Adlai Stevenson-Dwight Eisenhower campaign of 1956 and was ramped up by Theodore H. White's The Making of The President 1960 (he went on to write three more volumes) and Sen. Eugene McCarthy's nomination speech for Stevenson in Los Angeles at the 1960 Democratic Convention.

The clip does McCarthy's eloquence and Stevenson's stature scant justice.

I have in other places claimed and, hopefully, argued well that that scoundrel of mid-century politics and disgraced president, Richard Nixon, had much to do with the degradation of American democracy--though it was inevitable that advertising and marketing would become the lingua franca of our political process. And elsewere I have bemoaned the virtual disappearance of those singular journalists and reportorial voices with original points of view--the journalism of the pack (which often includes feeble references to the existence of such a thing) having become the current rising tide. Mailer, Izzy Stone, Jules Feiffer, Murray Kempton, Hunter S. Thompson, Tim Cruise, Michael Thomas, Michael Ventura--where are they?

But that's grist for another grinding.

Thankfully there are now easily accessed alternatives to the gibberish and blather of the television world. (Can someone explain to me what CNN's claim of being the number one election center means and why Wolf Blather needs to repeat such claims endlessly?) Anyway, I came away from the last (so-called) presidential debate (less candidates Bob Barr and Ralph Nader) dismayed. John McCain continued to expose his lack of impulse control and made his desperation frighteningly prominent. Really, does he believe that Barack Obama (a United States senator, like himself) is a terrorist? Either way one answers that, does it put McCain in a favorable light? And, as Obama succinctly pointed out (at 37 minutes and 20 seconds in), this line of attack says more about McCain than about Obama.

The point (finally) is that there has been so little commentary, rhetoric, or declamation that rises to a level of inspiration or revelation--what we are bombarded with is the odiferous detritus of big money media.

A few exceptions to note: And if you need a refresher in political tightrope-walking, here is Colin Powell offering a solemn and careful appraisal of Barack Obama and a reminder that the manic popinjay version of McCain we are seeing--rather than the well-regarded war hero and political independent Sen. McCain--is a disabling dose of late-onset entitlement and ambition.

You tell me.
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