Tom yesterday directed my attention to this awful piece of writing by hack David Brooks. Don't feel bad if you can't get to the end of it -- it's one of the worst attempts at writing I've ever read in the Old Grey Lady.
Well, today they printed one by Gail Collins, Brooks' partner in "The Conversation," an ongoing feature. While not as jaw-droppingly awful as Brooks' piece, this one too begins with several paragraphs of pure sarcasm. Ok, you're saying, but isn't McCain's choice of a rookie governor from Alaska as his running mate the textbook example of something deserving this kind of mockery? Perhaps. But if your standard response to political maneuvering is nothing but bitter Gen-X mocking, when will you ever take anything seriously?
To cite The Simpsons, as is my standard practice: In that great episode when Homer joins the freak show at Hullabalooza, there are two slackers in the audience. After one makes some cryptic remark, the other says, "Dude, are you being sarcastic?" His friend replies, "I don't even know anymore."
Maybe the Times just launched this feature to appeal to the fans of Crossfire who've been missing that kind of escalation into absurdity since it was cancelled. (Though if they haven't been able to find it, they haven't been watching MSNBC or Fox News.) I don't know. As you may be aware, I have no problem descending into sarcasm or mockery. But all this saying something without actually saying it is getting to me.
It's easy, for instance, to hint at the importance of McCain's VP pick by alluding to his age. But let's just say it like it is: John McCain's VP pick is much more important than Obama's because there's a much greater chance that John McCain is going to die in office. Newsweek ran an interesting feature in May suggesting that the Senator is in quite good shape for his age, 72, but concedes that the stress of the Presidency is a lot different. Look at how fast Clinton and Bush went grey. McCain would be 80 at the end of a (god save us) second term. And this was a man who was beaten up daily in a POW camp for six years of his life, and has had skin cancer in the past. I don't have an economist on hand to tell me what the odds are that McCain would die in the next four or the next eight years, but I'd be interested to hear the numbers. Am I being tactless here? Maybe I am. But this is an important consideration.
I'm not saying that age means you shouldn't vote for McCain. Indeed, it's down the list of reasons why I don't want him to be President. But just for a second, drop all the political considerations of choosing Palin and focus on the facts: The man who would be the oldest President in American history has chosen someone woefully unqualified to take over for him in case he dies.
Sometimes saying things directly really is best.