September was one helluva ride. It came in with a hurricane that blew the president and vice president off the RNC stage. In their place stepped a hockey mom who knows how to field-dress a moose. After making his record-setting 65th appearance on Face the Nation (a weekly program, mind you), John McCain got his first actual grilling by the ladies on The View. In her media debut, Sarah Palin quickly proved clueless regarding both foreign and domestic policy. But the circus was only just getting started.
The “easy-money boys down on Wall Street” (the correct answer to the origins of this reference earns you a 700 billion dollar line of credit) then went belly up, forcing them to undertake their standard recourse: a shakedown of the federal government. All bets were now off the board. To keep “the sucker from going down,” we needed to open up the Treasury, said the president, who now appeared ready to defer to a new King Henry. All the umpteen billions poured into Iraq—toward no clear end—seemed of little concern to either taxpayers or their representatives. His poll numbers sinking, Senator McCain surged back to Washington for photo-ops. On the last Friday of the month, Senator Obama waited patiently in a former stronghold of Jim Crow to see if his opponent would arrive.
When he got there, the Sunbelt senator refused to look his counterpart from the South Side of Chicago in the eye. McCain, a foreign policy “expert,” let it be known that he had been to Waziristan; yet despite its possession of nuclear weapons, Pakistan, he quite incorrectly asserted, was a “failed state” before Musharraf’s coup. The polls soon found that his overly generous opponent had prevailed in the debate. As two previous losers, Al Gore and John Kerry, can attest, the candidate who wins our debates is the one who seems the least condescending. As the 30-day rollercoaster ride sputtered to an end, the fate of world credit markets remained up in the air.
This coming month, to be sure, promises many more thrills. I’ve never been in a big fan of amusement parks, though. It’s October, and like Randle Patrick McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I just want to watch the World Series.
The Rail would like to join in saluting Paul Newman and David Foster Wallace, each of whom left behind a very fine artistic legacy.