Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Temper Fugit

"The queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. 'Off with his head!' she said without even looking around."

-- "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"
There are certainly interesting political waters roiling around the U.S. these days. Since we're talking about politics, it can be hard to swim clear of the usual boatloads of punditry, rhetoric and demagoguery. However, amongst this noise and turbulence, it's nice to find occasional conservative and liberal islands of calm and rationality. It's especially interesting when some of them seem to be in agreement for a change.

In McCain Loses His Head, George Will recently likened John McCain and his temper to that of the Queen of Hearts, and opines:
Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama...

...It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?
Another good read is The Choice, an equally thoughtful editorial by the editors of The New Yorker:
...The longer the campaign goes on, the more the issues of personality and character have reflected badly on McCain. Unless appearances are very deceiving, he is impulsive, impatient, self-dramatizing, erratic, and a compulsive risk-taker. These qualities may have contributed to his usefulness as a “maverick” senator. But in a President they would be a menace...

...Although his opponents have tried to attack him as a man of “mere” words, Obama has returned eloquence to its essential place in American politics. The choice between experience and eloquence is a false one––something that Lincoln, out of office after a single term in Congress, proved in his own campaign of political and national renewal...
This sort of bipartisan congruence of opinions is something that I have fantasized about ever since seeing "The Supremes", one of the best episodes ever of The West Wing. The story line therein revolves around an upcoming presidential nomination to the U. S. Supreme Court. The heart of the episode is when an arch-liberal (Glenn Close) and an arch-conservative candidate (William Fichtner) for the nomination meet unexpectedly in the White House. The wonderful conversation that ensues is one of my favorite moments ever on television.

IMHO, it's worth buying the whole 5th season of West Wing just for this one episode. The following YouTube clip captures a tiny bit of the flavor of that episode, albeit with distracting commentary.

This sort of meeting of the minds between smart conservatives and liberals is something the U. S. needs badly. Alas, unlike the TV version, the real U. S. continues to be hampered by the lack of an Emmy award-winning screenwriter to make it all come out right in the end.

Call me Pollyanna, but when George Will and The New Yorker start seeing eye to eye on something, it gives me hope for the coming election. Maybe this time we'll get it right, and get the screenplay, director and cast that the country deserves.

No comments: