ST. PAUL – The good news for George Bush is that he has most of his autumn freed up.
When Bush decided that his administration was getting too much heat from having Karl Rove around, he decided to hand his longtime friend and political svengali his layoff in the most public place he could think of where the notoriously temper-prone Rove couldn’t lose his cool and upbraid the President for his disloyalty and using his position that he wouldn’t even have without Rove to dispatch his Machiavellian string-puller–a Sunday church service.
He probably saw it coming, but on the occasion of what surely he imagined many times throughout his two terms as President would be the solidifying of his legacy where his heir apparent would take the national stage and declare his intent to accept the mantle of his President and promise to carry on his good works into the next term, George Bush had to watch GOP nominee John McCain brush him off like a well-meaning but embarrassing girlfriend and distance himself from almost everything that happened in America in the last eight years.
Watching John McCain tonight, one got the sense that Senator McCain was lobbying to succeed the CEO by thanking the boss for his service, but trying to convince the board that he was busy doing trying to do the company’s business these past several years, the man in the big chair–God love him–was busy fiddling and soiling the corporate brand.
And just for good measure, he tossed in a healthy dose of mea culpa, admitting the he’s been “an imperfect servant” and admitting his complicity with a legislative branch that’s let down the country. This is the kind of humility that people love and that George Bush has proven himself entirely incapable of (witness 2004 when he was speechless when asked to cop to his single-biggest mistake of his first term).
If you believe the vibe tonight, Barack Obama suddenly has a name-recognition problem. The country is talking about the white war hero and his hot, gun-toting, moose-skinning MILF running mate, and the skinny black kid with the Muslim middle name is a cipher upstart who would make a great alderman but shouldn’t be trusted anywhere near the reins of the American Presidency.
Behold the miracle of stagecraft, and why Bill Clinton is the only Democrat to win the Presidency in the last 32 years.
Senator Obama has his work cut out for him. America is in love with John McCain this evening, and the right-wing is utterly agog over Sarah Palin. Even worse, while McCain has used a bludgeon on the media that has loved his accessibility and the wonderful barbecues he invites them to, cancelling his appearance on with Larry King after CNN’s Campbell Brown managed an unusually-easy bitch-slap of McCain spokesman, Tucker Bounds, when he couldn’t answer her question as to what decisive executive decision GOP VP nominee, Sarah Palin, made during her gubernatorial tenure.
Obama, unfortunately, has yet to flex his general campaign muscles and show that he can take it to the codger Senator from Arizona–perhaps it’s out of deference to McCain’s showcase this week, but this is a courteous tendency he needs to lose in a hurry. Of all the war movies I’ve seen, I’ve yet to witness Miss Manners present to weigh in on the most appropriate way to slit the throat of a German soldier.
Then there’s the problem of McCain’s simpatico with the Common Man. He has money oozing out of his ears, and Cindy McCain didn’t exactly bring her best Eleanor Roosevelt this week when her $300,000 canary-yellow Monday night outfit was priced at nearly twice Senator Joe Biden’s entire net worth.
And despite their best efforts, former Pennsylvania Governor/Homeland Security Secretary/VP short-lister Tom Ridge, didn’t help their overall cause with his Freudian slip referring to the GOP nominee as “John Bush.”
Of course, no Paul McCartney concert is complete without the obligatory “Hey Jude”, and McCain climaxed his address with a moving if entirely expected telling of his time in the Hanoi Hilton. We all love “Hey Jude,” but it’s 40 years old. We’ll give it its proper reverence, but most of us would rather hear something fresher.
This is all the blur of the immediate right now, though. Perspective is at least a few weeks away, regardless of what the polls tell us tomorrow and Sunday and Monday. John McCain still has an enormity of things to answer for on his flip-flops over the last eight years, not to mention what will be the endless repeat showings of the disgraceful Bush-McCain hug from 2004. And Governor Palin? She’s a pinata split five days ago that hasn’t stopped spilling yet, and the kids in the media are still gleefully sorting out the bounty.
Don’t count on a blowout on either side, though. We could be fighting this one out through the new year.