I have not turned on the television in over a week and have refused to listen to NPR’s reverent coverage of the Democratic National Convention. Still, I cannot help picking up stray bits from here and there. What self-absorbed little people, doing star turns in the little plays they have scripted for themselves. Even James Carville could not help observing that the Democrats wasted their first night on the soft soap operatics of Ted Kennedy and Michelle Obama.
I get the inside dope on the Obama campaign because in trying to check out their website for information—it is as empty as Obama’s résumé—I had to register, which means a steady stream of “Dear Thomas” messages, first from Obama and then from Joe Biden, who is thrilled to be playing second fiddle to the great man. I am assured that Obama’s plan for the economy is better than Bush’s plan, but since neither man has a clue, much less a plan, it is hard to evaluate the claim.
It is not just the Democrats who are getting personal. A few days ago I got a call from a nice lady who assured me that Newt Gingrich was interested in hearing the views of important business and professional leaders like me. Ordinarily, I might have believed her, but having been the recipient of this pitch every few months or so either from the RNC or some other conspiracy against the common good, I knew they wanted money for nothing. I told the nice lady that she had made a mistake: There was nothing I would give to Mr. Gingrich including the time of day.
What a country in which a two-bit college teacher, smarmy hypocrite, and serial wife-dumper gets to be a “conservative” “leader,” where the presidential candidate of the Republican party has ditched his wife for a younger woman, who claims to be an only child even though she has a half-sister. Cindy’s mother, it seems, set the pattern by stealing a rich man from his wife and child. Then there is the millionaire without a past, Barack Obama, who lets his brother George Hussein Obama live on $100 a month in a hut. Then there is the John Edwards—“vote for me, my wife is dying”— comedic tear-jerker. All the time he was chasing around with another woman. It is not the immorality that is so striking but the stupidity. Edwards is so ill-read he probably had never heard the Gary Hart episode.
Why go on. Celebrity politicians in America are so much human slime, and, since bits of slime tend to stick together, Obama and Biden—the “pro-choice Catholic”—are a perfect fit. Perhaps Nancy Pelosi, who says she has read Augustine and concluded that the Church is ambiguous on the morality of abortion—can be chosen as the Secretary of Catholic Theology.
Cynics would say that politicians have always been like this but that is because they are not making cynics as they used to. To acknowledge the moral inferiority of American politicians would require a hard look at American reality that few people can bear to take because the politicians are only a supersized version of the average American. Politicians have always had large egos and too much testosterone, but, apart from a few notorious Roman emperors and French kings, they have had to comply—or at least pretend to—with the moral and social rules of their societies. American pols are no exception. Obama’s compassion for the world and neglect of his brother is only a caricature of people who neglect their neighbors and write checks only a caricature of people who neglect their neighbors and write big checks to the Red Cross; the vixen moral code of Cindy McCain and her mom is no different from the morals of the millions of the women who watch Desperate Housewives, and the Catholic theology of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi is shared by tens of millions of Catholics who think they are entitled to make up their own moral theology as they go along. How are they different from people who put their libertarian philosophy above the Church’s teachings on charity and usury?
We are a feeble, stupid, and childish nation, incapable of leading the gaudy life that would put us somewhere in Dante’s Hell. We’d have to take a number and wait in line and then get seated somewhere near the kitchen. That is why this election means nothing, because we have—as every nation almost always has—the leaders we deserve.