When the wheels fall off the campaign, the Republicans go shopping

Explain this to me: the African-American candidate is elitist because he is well-educated while the woman who spent $150,000 on a new wardrobe is one of us?

No matter how dirty the campaign may get in New Zealand in the final days, it is inconceivable to imagine the depths it would have to plumb to even scratch the scab of what America is dishing up.

This is a nation that so champions itself as the epitome of democracy that it is spending billions of dollars in what is so awfully described as ‘treasure’, and thousands of lives, both military and civilian, to ensure America’s version of ‘democracy’ is exported to such places as Iraq and Afghanistan. You know what, America? Perhaps a little housecleaning before announcing the full-scale garage sale of tarnished democratic goods would be in order. I betcha (to use one side’s vernacular) the current antics are being closely watched by those who are berated by the US as being undemocratic…that’s if their homes haven’t been blown to bits in an offensive.

Too harsh? Perhaps, but here’s the thing. When I go to write about the antics of one political party or another I have always found the first basic test of a theory is to imagine the reaction from a party if the situation were reversed. That is to say, how would the Republicans have reacted if Sarah Palin had been chosen as the Democratic candidate for Vice President? I am sorely tempted to say we would all still be deafened by the laughter and derision from McCain’s minders and Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh etc. What I do find extremely disturbing is the number of commentators and politicians who have been willing, and I use that word advisedly, to surrender their reputations because they now have no choice other than to support a candidate who is so clearly out of her depth that it is indeed embarrassing to watch. But wait, there’s more.

This is a woman who McCain sold as a “hockey mom”, a “maverick”, someone who understands everyday family issues—pregnant teen-aged daughter and Downs Syndrome baby and all that. These family issues, by the way, are legitimate areas of discussion only because the Republican ticket has used them to further the mom image of Pailn. For most politicians, outside of America anyway, family is out of bounds, and long may it stay that way. The United States, however, chooses to parade family and children as part of the package, exposing all their secrets to international ridicule, derision or perhaps praise. Once they hit the stage as part of the politician’s image, I am afraid to say they are political fodder.

Now we hear that the moose huntin’ hockey mom has been on a shopping spree—not for new all-weather gear but haute couture to the tune of $150,000. That is the value of many of the houses which are now subject to tour bus loads of foreclosure vultures throughout the United States. So why the big make-over? What was so wrong with the ‘hockey mom’ image that so qualified her for the job of being just a heartbeat away? Is this not yet another dollop of hypocrisy at a critical stage in the campaign? Just when you think the McCain campaign can do nothing else to shoot itself in the collective foot, a moose ambles by and, it does.

This spending spree dosh is coming from the coffers of the Republican Campaign Committee, the same group that is slamming the money raised by the Obama campaign. So here’s the issue, boot on the other foot and all that. When a large organisation such as the RNC hands over $150 grand to go shopping that’s okay but when ordinary everyday Americans donate on average $68 each to the Obama campaign and it happens to add up to $150 million (in September alone!) that’s somehow evil. As the Republican ticket has been presenting it, that’s “buying” the election.

So it's just fine to go shopping to change the ordinary everyday mom image, and at the same time whack the guy you call “elite” (presumably because he’s educated)? Is the problem that Obama's supporters, many of whom couldn’t currently contemplate a $150 shopping spree let alone one totalling $150,000, are so fired up they are donating on average way less than $100 each? Isn’t that democracy at work?

There are a couple of other hypocrisies that fit well with the above. Colin Powell. No, I am not calling him a hypocrite although I am sure I have much company in having been appalled at that speech he delivered to the United Nations justifying the need to go to war in Iraq. Here’s a guy who has huge gravitas, was for so long considered to be the first real possibility of a African-American President, and served as Chief of Staff and Secretary of State in both Bush administrations. He’s backing Obama, and for that he gets the blatant race card played by Fox News and co. The line is that he’s only backing Obama because they are both black. Take that argument to its cerebrally stunted conclusion and any white guy who votes for McCain is only doing so on racist grounds. It doesn’t end there. Powell was surely doing what McCain "the maverick" talks about doing all the time—in McCain speak it is “crossing the aisle”. Having served in two Bush Republican administrations, Powell has reached out to the guy on the other side of the aisle because he believed in what he stood for, what he represented, and his potential to unite an extremely divided United States, let alone the world.

With under two weeks to go till the votes are in, Americans are having to deal with Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann suggesting there should be investigations into the “un-Americaness” of some representatives in the House. Hmm, haven’t we heard this before from a certain Senator McCarthy? And then there are the candidates' “robo calls”, which would have to be about as obnoxious as politics gets. It is difficult enough to reach a person on the other end of a phone for anything. Just imagine Sarah Palin’s voice educating you on the socialist—nay communist—tendencies of candidate Obama. It is pre-recorded so perhaps it is paid for out of what was left over from the wardrobe allowance.

Hatred repackaged as the real America gives a distinct whiff of panic in the Republic campaign. The party seems to have spun in such a tizz that the latest McCain-Palin interview on NBC looks like an interrogation of two people who have never met before. It’s like a new Survivor game: bring in two people off the street, tell them secretly that neither is up to the job at stake, and watch their body language tell you how they blame the other for the proverbial they are now neck high in, and I am not talking ‘high’ as in ratings.

There is much hard work left to be done in the American campaign, for both candidates and voters. You have to really work hard to violate Palin’s standards on negative campaigning; you have to work extremely hard to find an actual policy articulated by either Palin or the old guy who sometimes appears next to her; you have to sweat to find anyone who can justify the Republican robo calls—made by the same firm that smeared McCain in his 2000 presidential bid; and you have to basically die in a ditch to solve the riddle of a black guy being elitist because he’s educated, but a white chick being down-home ‘momsy’ despite spending $150,000 at Neiman Marcus to, I guess, rid herself of her hockey sweats.

Note to Sarah: don’t chuck out the sweats just yet.