I have not been thinking much about sports lately and doubt that any one could fault me under the circumstances. Two weeks ago, a Bears team that I once loved played its most brutal game in my lifetime: a 48 to 41 debacle at Soldier Field against a staggeringly incompetent Vikings squad. DC United lost a heartbreaking game on Sunday against the Columbus Crew that keeps them out of the post-season. And Charlton, well, Charlton is terrible. Listening to the game on Saturday, the shock of Luke Varney's failure to slot home a horrible mistake by Burnley's back line two minutes from time had me in total shock (and wondering how many times the young man will fail before Izale McLeod or Chris Dickson is given a chance up front next to Todorov or Gray). Charlton is now two points ahead of Southhampton. Oh well, basketball season is coming up -- Vinny's Bulls open up tomorrow at home against Skiles' Bucks... the Derrick Rose hype has already begun. And Gtown's basketball season starts in a few weeks (7th in the Big East preseason poll?).
So, instead of sports, I am way, way too focused on the upcoming elections. We've spent the last two weekends in West Virginia volunteering at a phone bank and canvassing in the Eastern panhandle for the Obama campaign. With thousands of volunteers from the DC/Maryland area heading to Virginia, we headed west to where there were significantly less carpetbaggers. It has been an honor to support the incredibly nice and committed folks in Jefferson County that are the backbone of Obama's campaign out there. Good times had by all.
The problem, however, is that I am ostensibly a Republican and while I have been a relatively proud RINO for the last five years, the level of my disloyalty has now reached absurd heights. Nevertheless, at this point, I am comforted by the thought that there is little question that the party has left me as much as I have wandered a bit astray. Earlier this month, we had the misfortune of being in Clearwater, Florida when the first major rally featuring Gov. Sarah Palin took place in the town. Moving past the rally's attendees, we were shocked by the level of anger and frustration radiating from the group and were not terribly surprised by Dana Milbank's take on the event. Since that day, I have been stunned by how the McCain campaign appears to be stoking the irrational fears of people who desperately want the country to turn around for them. The scenes from Palin-McCain rallies have been almost uniformly marred by vitriolic hate and stupidity spewed by some comically imbecilic people that would struggle to be taken seriously at 9/11 Truth Movement meeting. As Senator McCain, a man I greatly admire and the only member of Congress that I have ever personally lobbied (taking my mother along for the experience), continued to fuel the fires of this insipid lunacy by loudly, frequently, dishonorably implying that Sen. Obama had a soft-spot in his dark heart for TERRORISTS, I swallowed hard, gave the maximum amount to the Illinois Senator's campaign (well after firing off a pointless e-mail to Bill Burton months earlier swearing that I would give nothing further to the campaign after the primary) and agreed to help my wife with any volunteer activities she wanted to participate in. Sen. McCain is unquestionably a national hero; completed copies of Citizen McCain and Worth the Fighting For sit on my bookshelves in the basement; I get and accept this premise. But the scurrilous campaign that he has allowed to be waged in his name, aimed at inflaming divisions in America, and provoking anger from the populace has been shameful.
The most amazing thing of all, however, has been the nomination of Gov. Palin, an unforgivable act proving that even the Peter Principle is insufficient to predict the levels to which incompetence can rise in this nation. The presently offered conventional wisdom excuse that the economy doomed Sen. McCain's campaign might have worked if not for the stunning way that the Alaskan Governor has galvanized opposition to Sen. McCain's campaign by simultaneously energizing scary crowds with quips of brilliance about who Sen. Obama pals around with and bewildering duplicitous media types who elicit from the candidate the conclusion that a right to privacy exists in the Constitution (through gotcha questions like "do you believe there is a right to privacy in the Constitution?," but if not for that infernal media filter, everything would be just hunky dory).
Check that, Gov. Palin is an irritating sideshow in this mess, the most amazing thing has been the fact that, at long last, there are those in my party who are finally willing to speak what could only previously be whispered: The Emperor has no clothes (whether from Neiman Marcus or elsewhere).
When Gen. Powell made his preference known to Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press two Sundays ago, we were sitting in a diner in Charles Town. I fought back tears surrounded by dudes in Redskins jerseys when the good General decided not only to back Obama but repudiate the bile that has characterized the McCain campaign throughout October and capped his criticism with the following:
I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.
Gen. Powell's stand comes nearly two months after the person who probably is more responsible for my party affiliation than anyone else broke with the Republicans and gave a brilliant (though greatly under-appreciated) speech in Denver to the Democratic National Convention where he offered the following terse and unquestionably accurate rebuke of his party:
The party that once emphasized individual rights has gravitated in recent years toward regulating values. The party of military responsibility has taken us to war with a country that did not attack us. The party that formerly led the world in arms control has moved to undercut treaties crucial to the defense of the earth. The party that prides itself on conservation has abdicated its responsibilities in the face of global warming. And the party historically anchored in fiscal restraint has nearly doubled the national debt, squandering our precious resources in an undisciplined and unprecedented effort to finance a war with tax cuts.
Now, others have similarly come un-moored. Francis Fukuyama, once the darling of the neo-conservative movement turned outspoken apostate, recently endorsed Sen. Obama in the pages of the American Conservative. Prof. Fukuyama opined:
McCain’s appeal was always that he could think for himself, but as the campaign has progressed, he has seemed simply erratic and hotheaded. His choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate was highly irresponsible; we have suffered under the current president who entered office without much knowledge of the world and was easily captured by the wrong advisers. McCain’s lurching from Reaganite free- marketer to populist tribune makes one wonder whether he has any underlying principles at all.
Christopher Buckley, two weeks past, added his voice to the cacophony of those so troubled by the Republican voter-suppression/country-dividing/Palin lovin machine (and alternatively enthralled(?) with the purported brilliance and poise of Sen. Obama) by lending the Buckley name to the Obama movement.
What will the party do in response? Apparently, per Rush Limbaugh, celebrate the departure of the moderates. Wonderful. A party run by know nothings for know nothings. Ladies and gentlemen, the platform of the minority party in 2010: Taxes bad! Government bad! Expertise bad! Excellence in academic achievement bad! Science, insofar as it makes me question my deeply held religious views, bad! Different people bad! Environmental protection bad! Endless, pointless wars good! Unregulated super corporations good! Stunning inequity in resources amongst the American population good!
It may well be that the angry, ranting denizens of the hard right inhabiting the fantasy black/white world of conservative talk radio take control of the party after this election. But what will they do once in control? Out secret Muslims? Construct a new communist threat from whole cloth? Identify those of us who hold non-pro-American views?
Until the day the hard-right takes control and purges the disloyal moderates, its not their party. Until that day it is still my party and, if those folks think they are going to simply take the party of Lincoln and bastardize it into the party of ditto-heads, they at least ought to be aware that we're spoiling for a fight.