Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Shack! and The Wonder Twins

No, I'm not talking about the book, 'The Shack', though from what I hear the first four chapters are gut-wrenching but everybody should read it, even though I haven't.

'Shack' is a term that pilots use when they drop a bomb on a target and hit dead-center. It's a term one of my partners in my radiology group uses with some authenticity since he's a former Air Force Flight Surgeon. And it's also the term one former Navy Aviator who happens to be the GOP nominee for President would be familiar with, and might have used when he saw this ad his campaign put together:

It's only 74 seconds long, but it's 74 more seconds of truth than you'll get from any average 74 seconds of network news coverage this morning, or this evening.

I disagree with Barack Obama on a lot of things. More than that, it's the Obamessiah complex his devoted followers (the Obamatons) display that really sticks in my craw, and I'm glad McCain's campaign finally called him on it. If you look up the term "cypher" in the dictionary, Barack Obama's picture should be next to the political subdefinition, if there is one.

Shelby Steele has gone into this effect in detail, that Obama is a vessel for unfulfilled wants and needs in some segments of our national populace, and that as a vessel he cannot become too specific. Like Bruce Lee said about Jeet Kun Do, he is like water -- taking the form of whatever container he finds himself placed into. His policy positions meander like a stream, even doubling back on themselves to create oxbow lakes of forgetfulness that the media lovingly dries with the blazing fire of their devotion. NAFTA? I was for it before I was against it, when I was in Ohio. Capital punishment? Totally inappropriate when I was a state Senator and lecturer in constitutional law, but when I need to win in Louisiana it's fine and dandy to string up child rapists. The list goes on. And on.

While the concept of the Wonder Twins transformative abilities (the ability to Change, if you will) was interesting, what they could actually do was something else. The Wonder Twins had theoretical promise but in execution they became a running joke, even to children. Shape of...a cocker spaniel! Form of...a slurpee! They were among the more useful Superfriends if you needed a sheet of ice for a pratfall, or a mouse to retrieve a key for a prison cell but ultimately their special ability was borderline useless.

The problem with being like water, and with being a figure rather than a leader, is that at some point you're going to have to solidify around a position or two, like one of the Wonder Twins from the old Superfriends cartoon series becoming an ice sculpture. And since art is subjective, some people who like your concept will disagree with the execution, and be rather iffy on the particular form you take even if they bought into the concept to begin with. Having a super-power is great, but don't expect legions of fans if your super-power turns out to be lame. Obama's appeal cannot but diminish as the things people project upon his deliberately nebulous persona are found to not fit the specifics that the election process will require.

Besides promising change, you have to deliver. When someone comes along and asks me to believe them that they are a change agent, it would be helpful to see their portfolio of change. It would be similar to me telling you I am a superb painter and describing the beautiful painting I would create for you, full of vivid color, dynamic movement and inspirational fire, if only you'll pay me an astronomical sum up front.

This is the crux of my problem with Obama. He looks great on stage, he's telegenic, has a great voice. He speaks well, and runs a teleprompter the way Stevie Ray Vaughn ran a guitar. If elected he will likely not display the apparent eloquitionary ineptness that characterizes George W. Bush, of whose speeches Tucker Carlson famously was reminded of "a drunk crossing an icy street". But really, do we elect Presidents to give speeches? If so, Alec Baldwin would be President For Life.

I prefer to elect Presidents based on what they want to do and what they believe. When they're coy about those things, or show that they don't really have any guiding principles by changing policies like others change socks, I am not convinced. And when, as the McCain piece points out, the centerpiece of their campaign is their personality and presence, rather than their positions and beliefs, they're not going to sway me and in the longer run (i.e., the next few months) I believe the 'Elect me because I'm Me' ploy will weaken.

Meanwhile, I'm glad the McCain campaign has discovered the wonderful power of humor. Of the two candidates, it's pretty clear McCain takes himself less seriously, though in truth there is a bit of self-mocking sarcasm and grandiosity in some of Obama's statements. He should know, though, that McCain's best weapons are Obama's own words, and vice-versa. This ad is just one example of having them served back at the utterer. It remains to be seen whether Obama's campaign will let this lie. The worst possible response would be anger, as it would only further inflate the pomposity that the ad seeks to puncture.

I also find it interesting that the first post-racial candidate, who wants to open a dialogue about race, is supported by people who are extremely quick to pronounce any criticism as racism. Wouldn't you think that the supporters of a candidate who is ostensibly trying to put race behind him would quit crying 'RACISM!' every time there is an effective campaign ad? I wonder how well that method of stifling criticsm and deflecting observations will play internationally if Obama becomes President? Will Ahmedinejad be labeled a racist because Obama asked him stop the Iranian nuclear program and he doesn't? Even if Obama can leave racism behind personally, and I hope he can, it would be a tragedy if the synchophants who trail him into the White House in 2009 brought Political Correctness in as national and foreign policy.

We went to Europe last week for a cruise/continuing medical education thing. Some pictures and a trip report later.


stuckinthe80s said...


By the way...what do you think about Hawk Nelson???

Darren Duvall said...

Never heard of them, but I'll check into them. They appear to have some videos on YouTube.

Thanks for reading my blog, man! Take some time off to work and other stuff and the traffic really dies down. Ah well.