August 10, 2008: Pundits are puzzled; why no lasting bounce for Obama post Berlin? He did boffo box office Over There. Evoking Kennedy and Reagan while recasting their image in 21st Century Bland. Back at the ranch John McCain straddled a hog-- aka the war in Iraq-- while hanging with bikers and firing off negative campaign ads. McCain may be older than Methuselah but he didn't shoot blanks. The Obama camp cried foul over the Britney/Paris/Barack analogy but the real zinger was Charlton Heston.
For years NRA guy Heston was gun fun for gazillion stand-ups. Turn around was fairly playful in the McCain spot that featured Obama at his most messianic then cut to a shot of Heston as Moses parting the Red Sea. Subliminal image alert: did the split sea symbolize the divide between Dems re Hillary and Barack? Or was the jump-cut from Heston to a mental image of Obama parting a large body of water (a classic female symbol) meant to rile sexual insecurity in white men? According to New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, the ad comparing Barack to Britney and Paris was chock full of racist subtext and phallic symbols. As Freud said “When correctly viewed everything is lewd”.
Though sometimes it's just an exploding cigar.
Savvy pols snap jokes back at the cracker. Obama should have gotten into the Moses act-- riffing how Republicans, as repped by Bush and McCain, are like unto a plague of locusts. Instead O and crew got seriously pious, calling the McCain ads “juvenile” and “cynical”. The latter being the big bad. Cynicism is a sin in the Age Of Hope. But cynics won't go gently into the goody good night...
Q: Wouldn't President Obama and his robe riders mine the same bottomless pit of taxpayer money as President McCain and his cronies? And wield the same amount of insufficiently limited power?
A: Though the operational circumstances of an Obama administration would be the same, the outcome would be different because the intentions would be pure and guided by correct ideology.
The Peep's Lawyer Speaks
The national stage isn't the only place where cynicism is denounced. On July 22nd a crowd gathered at Albany High in Albany, New York (the state capital) to hear State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo give a speech about listening to the community. The event, which I attended, was part of the statewide (and state funded) Community Partnership Initiative, a project aimed at making the AG's office more community friendly. Workshops were to be held after Cuomo's speech under the aegis of officials from various departments. Since a slew of major political scandals have erupted in New York and Albany is the seat of state government, I figured a workshop on public corruption would be on the bill. Alas. No such. Mortgage fraud didn't rate either. Even though New York ranks in the top ten states for the crime.
Mortgage fraud leads to waves of foreclosures that devastate neighborhoods. These days even folks who thought fraud was a wink-wink way to boost property values are concerned about foreclosures. Inner city nabes in Albany have been hit hard by mortgage fraud. Why no workshop? As said, the Community Partnership event was held at Albany High. The school has a record of violent incidents. The city has street crime problems. A 10 year old girl was recently killed by a stray bullet. Yet no workshops on gangs or drug trade were held either.
The local pols on stage with Cuomo were Democratic big wigs. The community as represented by the audience seemed heavily weighted with employees of state, county, and municipal governments and non-profit agencies. Well seasoned neighborhood activists were also present. Before Cuomo spoke the wigs made speeches. Including Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings and Albany County Executive Michael Breslin. Mayor Jennings (a former principal of Albany High) looked as tan and fit as ever and was as enthusiastic about the community coming together to solve problems as he's been for 15 years. Providing problem solving doesn't involve “being critical”. Because “pointing fingers doesn't work”.
County Exec Mike Breslin struck a stern note. Expressing concern over the widespread perception of state government as dysfunctional. Saying if “we're not careful we become cynics”. That Breslin included himself in the “we” made his warning all the more powerful. If such a venerable machine pol is in danger of becoming a cynic what hope is there for the average citizen?
Andrew Cuomo also addressed the cynicism issue. But first he tipped his hat to the pols who proceeded him. When giving Mayor Jennings the tip, Cuomo made a light reference to the 100 million bucks he'd delivered to Jennings when he (Cuomo) headed the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the Clinton administration. Someone sitting behind me hissed to a friend “I'd like to know where it all went”. More proof (as if it were needed) of how pervasive cynicism has become!
Cuomo acknowledged that given recent events New Yorkers might have “good cause” for feeling negative about government and declared that a “lack of integrity” in public servants wasn't acceptable. But according to Cuomo this “snapshot of cynicism” isn't what New York State government is really about. He rhapsodized about the architectural grandeur of Albany's many government buildings and how they symbolize the power and the glory of government. Cuomo's rhetoric soared as he invoked the noble mission of politicians. I swan-- it was almost like being in church. If cops hadn't lined the aisles I wouldn't have been shocked to see the government community holy rolling and speaking in tongues.
Cuomo did talk about other subjects. For instance, he described himself and his office as the “people's lawyer” and urged the audience to “use us”. The 20 or so unaffiliated citizens in the room made note of the invitation. You never know when a fender bender might turn ugly.
Seriously folks, what's with the anti-cynicism theme? Do pols fear the sneer is a sword aimed at the wack belief that government is way more than a necessary evil? Yet can't be expected to provide basic services? To quote presidential candidate Paris Hilton: whatever. The cynics, united, can never be defeated!
Incidentally, workshops at the Community Partnership forum included ones on environmental protection, consumer issues, and Internet safety. The latter was addressed by several speakers. Albany County Exec Mike Breslin lauded Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for “protecting us and our children from pornography”. Cuomo's comments on child porn included a denunciation of Internet anonymity.
Kiddie porn purveyors and users are scum. Still, I suspect pols want to crack down on Internet anonymity for a whole host of reasons. But then-- I'm a cynic.
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
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