Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Sometimes I get so tickled I can't stop laughing.

Bush made a spectacle of himself at the debate by leaning heavily on Poland as a member of the Coalition of the Coerced -- "He forgot Poland!" shouted Chimpy, as if he had finally caught the smart kid in an error.

Poland returned the favor by announcing that it is withdrawing from Iraq.



Tonight, we get the spectacle of Dead-Eye Dick versus the Breck Boy, and it could be a sight to behold. The GOP demanded the sit-down format, which favors Cheney because it does not require him to exert himself in any way. Edwards has to sit down instead of standing and talking to voters -- which is what he does best. Nevertheless, it will be an entertaining fight. People generally believe that Cheney (1) knows what he's talking about, but (2) is kinda creepy. Edwards might be able to make that work for him, especially if he carries a flaming torch and scares the Frankenpresident. "FIRE!" shouts Cheney. "ME HATE FIRE! AARRRRRR!"

The most interesting thing to me about the post-debate period is the attitude of Bush supporters that it "wasn't his best performance, I admit." There is so much bound up in that statement -- that the only problem with the debate was an uncharacteristic lapse of charisma, that his fundamental plans for the world are intact. That is, the debate wasn't reality.

I see the problem as being exactly the opposite: what America saw was Dubya's real side, just as Iraq is really a disaster, and the federal budget is really screwing over our soldiers to provide tax cuts, and Bush really only talks to groups where the members sign a loyalty oath, and Bush really is so ignorant about his supposed "faith" that he cannot recall whether Jesus supported the death penalty.

For instance, there are Americans -- not to name any in particular, but I'm related to a few -- who were upset that Kerry called Iyad Allawi's veracity into question. How insulting! How disrespectful! Of course, they never bothered to discover that Allawi's speech was filled with objectively disprovable facts. (e.g. "Iraq is a safe place -- come visit and see for yourself.") They do not recall that (1) Allawi was a CIA asset (2) installed by the US (3) after the US unilaterally vetoed the UN choice for the job. He's the Prime Minister of Iraq! Just like Thieu was the Prime Minister of South Vietnam!

Easy shots aside, I'm disturbed at how the electorate is dividing into two camps. Probably because I am torn between the two camps on a daily basis.

One side is the people for whom "faith" is more important than anything. Faith is honor. Faith is the basis of leadership and personal skills, which is why this camp has so many business leaders and professionals -- people who understand that a man's honor can be more important than his ability to regurgitate facts. For this camp, faith trumps arguments about "objective proof," because there is no such thing as "objective proof" any more -- the "media" are so biased that there is no such thing as "truth" coming from the media. Sure, Fox News is slanted (they admit in their more candid moments), but it's no less plausible than any other news organization. Because there is no hard proof to the contrary, they follow their higher calling to faith and personal insight. As a result, they follow their gut, and the gut says to trust the President. After all, he has said that God wanted him to be President, and I trust God. Generally, this camp has people of strong religious faith, accustomed to the long-standing war between faith and science. (They want "intelligent design" taught in schools, for instance, under the rhetoric of "teaching the debate" between Creationism and Evolution.) Science is too slippery and too contradictory -- so what's the exact "lineage of man" this week? -- but faith in the transcendent is unchanging. They see themselves in the President, and they trust him when he says that the media is lying to them.

The other camp in America does not have "faith" in anything or anyone, and get angry at those that do because they see it as ignorance. They believe that the media are more or less reliable, so long as one is careful to follow multiple sources. As a result, they know more facts, but are prone to ignore the media's more flagrant outrages. They are less interested in the personal aspects of honor and faith, and tend to confuse those qualities with any sort of personal charisma. As a result, they don't think it matters that an extremely personable president had a cheap, low-rent fling with an intern and then lied about it. Why should it? He's still an effective speaker, and the economy kept on ticking in the meantime. More critically, this camp doesn't believe there is a culture war under way, or that there is anything wrong with the rapidly changing morals of the country. They just enjoy reality television (though they don't admit it). As for science, they believe what scientists say -- not because they have a good education in the sciences, but because they trust scientists in more or less the same way they trust the media.

This divide is why Barack Obama caused such a stir with his "We worship an awesome God in the blue states" speech. It's a message of hope, but it is somewhat out of touch with reality. For instance, every day I feel more and more uncomfortable as a professing Christian who opposes the faith-based politics of the Right. I hope that Obama can bridge the gap for people like me, but I am losing faith. Ironically.

This divide is also why Bush's performance in the debate was so devastating -- he seemed untrustworthy. It's hard to have faith in someone when he is petulant, angry and uninformed. It's hard to call someone a "flip-flopper" when he has direct answers to questions.

And most importantly of all, this divide is why the President elected (or selected) in 2004 is going to have a hell of a time getting anything done.

 8:34 AM

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