New York Times
Dear Old Golden Dog Days
By GAIL COLLINS
Published: October 10, 2008
I miss the good old days. Remember when the presidential campaign was all about oil drilling? That sure was fun.
I miss August. August was neat. The Dow was over 10,000 and nobody had ever heard of Sarah Palin.
Remember how we used to joke about John McCain looking like an old guy yelling at kids to get off his lawn? It’s only in retrospect that we can see that the keep-off-the-grass period was the McCain campaign’s golden era. Now, he’s beginning to act like one of those movie characters who steals the wrong ring and turns into a troll.
During that last debate, while he was wandering around the stage, you almost expected to hear him start muttering: “We wants it. We needs it. Must have the precious.”
Remember when McCain’s campaign ads were all about his being a prisoner of war? I really miss them.
Now they’re all about the Evil That Is Obama. The newest one, “Ambition,” has a woman, speaking in one of those sinister semiwhispers, saying: “When convenient, he worked with terrorist Bill Ayers. When discovered, he lied.” Then suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, she starts ranting about Congressional liberals and risky subprime loans. Then John McCain pops up to say he approved it. All in 30 seconds! And, of course, McCain would think it’s great. For the first time, the Republicans appear to have captured his thought process on tape.
The Republican campaign strategy now involves sending their candidates to areas where everybody is a die-hard McCain supporter already. Then they yell about Obama until the crowd is so frenzied people start making threats. The rest of the country is supposed to watch and conclude that this would be an enjoyable way to spend the next four years.
Maybe the Republicans should have picked somebody else. I miss Mitt Romney. Sure, he was sort of smarmy. But when Mitt was around, the banks had money and Iceland was solvent. And, of course, when we got bored, we could always talk about how he drove to Canada with his Irish setter strapped to the car roof.
I miss the old George W. Bush. When he came out of the White House and made an announcement, you would usually think that whatever he wanted to do was a terrible idea. But at least you thought he could actually make the terrible idea happen.
I miss the old American public that was too busy shopping to worry about the state of the world. Now everybody is getting scared and weird. They’ve been racing off in great numbers to see “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.” And nagging Target to take the Little Mommy Cuddle ‘n Coo dolls off the shelves because people think that when it gurgles you can hear the baby say “Islam is the light.”
I miss the old Cindy McCain. The one who used to go to rallies and sit huddled in the corner looking as if she thought the audience had a communicable disease. Now, she’s right up there on stage, standing behind her husband and making disgusted faces when he rails on about the opposition. And she’s started railing herself. (The family that rants together ...) Obama is waging “the dirtiest campaign in American history.” His votes on Iraq were votes “not to fund my son when he was serving.”
Remember when the McCains wouldn’t talk about the fact that their son was in Iraq? Oh well.
Maybe Cindy is trying to hold her own against Sarah, who is with John almost as much as she is. I miss the old guy-guy McCain who had so many male pals around he looked like a walking fraternity reunion. Now, he’s starting to resemble an ambulatory patient accompanied by female attendants on an outing.
Palin has been pressing the line that people don’t really know “the real Barack Obama,” and who could make the argument better than a woman who we’ve already known for almost six weeks? Really, she’s like one of the family.
We’ve gotten so close we’ve already learned that she didn’t actually sell the plane on eBay, didn’t actually visit the troops in Iraq and didn’t really have a talk with the British ambassador. As soon as we get the Trooper thing and Alaska Independence Party thing and the tax thing figured out, she’ll be an open book.
And she’s got a point about Obama. True, he’s been campaigning for 19 months and has been interviewed by everybody from “Meet the Press” to “Men’s Health.” Which would be O.K. if we were talking about somebody from a small town rather than, as a McCain campaign co-chairman noted delicately, a “guy of the street.”
Back in August, women politicians were afraid of going negative because it might have made them look too strident. Amazing, the things you wind up being nostalgic for.
More Articles in Opinion » A version of this article appeared in print on October 11, 2008, on page A23 of the New York edition.