Friday, August 29, 2008

Fixing boilers with Biden

One of the most constant things about the United States is our set of criteria for choosing candidates. Although we regularly elect aristocrats; aristocratic in terms of money and power at least, we place great store in their sometimes real and sometimes fabricated proletarian roots. Although our first presidents could be numbered amongst the landed gentry, at least by American standards, we have always had a very obvious love of the log cabin bred, self-made man, and that image has been important in the selling of candidates from Andrew Jackson to Abraham Lincoln. It played a part in such diverse campaigns as Jimmy Carter's and Richard Nixon's, Ronald Reagan's and of course George W Bush, the AWOL, drunk diving, president's son born with a silver spoon in his nose.

My take is that we Americans hate to be looked down on by anyone; we hate even to imagine that anyone is smarter or has better ideas, particularly if they actually are and do. I don't remember any president more condescending toward those of his fellow citizens having more brains than money than our current Commander Guy, but somehow his cowboy boots and vacation ranch bought him a lot of sympathy and a lot of time before his ratings began to slide. Of course intellectuals like Kerry or Dukakis never really had a chance because they never were able to play the part well enough to seem natural at it and indeed were worse off for trying to drive tanks and shoot ducks. We forgave them nothing, least of all their education and accomplishments and ability to run a government.

So it's no surprise that we're already being officially reminded of Joe Biden's "regular guy" credentials. James Rowley writes today at Bloomberg.com about Biden's ability with hand tools and how quick a study he was at learning boiler maintenance, even though the writer doesn't seem to know the difference between a boiler and a furnace, we can bet Biden does -- and of course Joe can swish a basketball from half court too, just like Barak.

I'm no different than anybody else. I give credit for being able to adjust a gas burner and knowing the difference between a Morrison tube and a firebox, but having been in the boiler business and having worked in a boiler plant, I don't recall any of my friends there being prime presidential material. In fact I know more than one ex-prisoner of war and the same thing applies.

If we've learned nothing else, we should have learned that regular guyness at G8 conferences comes across as childish and ignorant buffoonery, but of course we probably haven't. We haven't even learned to tell a rich New England playboy phony from a real cowboy or rancher. Perhaps we even prefer the sedentary slug with a larcenous, condescending and failing heart ( and bad aim) to the real hunter.

So OK, Biden does not appear to be pretentious or socially condescending, and those who insist that Obama is "elitist" are simply referring to the fact that he's a damn sight smarter than most of us and far better educated in things that directly relate to the job description of president. That's snobbery of the worst sort, which brings me at last to my point: we're not hiring a boiler inspector or basketball coach or ranch hand. We don't need a hero or a mediocre pilot and even though we don't need a guy like McCain, for whom money does indeed grow on trees, to tell us how to fix a failing economy, ability and integrety and intelligence and honesty are independent of nearly everything we seem to be looking for. Presidents aren't going to drink beer at Your Moose lodge and no matter what they think about abortion or gay marriage, they don't decide such issues. Whether their faith in some invisible entity is unshakable or non-existent has no effect on your life or mine any more than their ability to bowl or shoot baskets or hunt or even wind-surf. Fulsome promises of unconditional love for America, its flag and each and everything the country has done speak more to dishonesty than anything else, but we go on being snobs with the conceit that nobody who might in any way feel socially superior shoule hold the office. And so we elect the greedy, inept, corrupt and basically stupid who feel so superior that they don't obey our laws or tell us the truth. Odds are we'll do it again.

6 comments:

Buffalo said...

You can't expect a hell of a lot out of someone that wants to rule.

Capt. Fogg said...

Sad, but true.

d.K. said...

I don't know 20th century history as well as I should, but someone pointed me to an article on the obscure Calvin Coolidge the other day. Seems the guy really didn't want to be president. His endorsement on his successor, Hoover, was something like, "he's given me tons and tons of advice over the years, all of it bad." Wouldn't it be nice to have someone run, truly reluctantly, fix a few things (and screw up a few others - being human and all that) and then get out as fast as he could after coming to the conclusion that life's too short to spend all that time running the country?

Capt. Fogg said...

Well a 6 year term limit would have given us 25% less Bush. But as the man says, maybe we shouldn't expect much from anyone who wants the job.

expatbrian said...

A good post Cap'n and a very valid point. I too am sick and tired of all the meaningless hoopla the candidates know they have to engage in to get the bulk of ignorant voters. I'm sure that Obama secured a few thousand votes simply because he sunk that basket. And McCain will get countless votes simply because his plane got hit by enemy fire.

Neither has anything to do with the ability to solve our problems or run this country but Americans don't understand the real requirements to do those things anyway.

McCains choice for VP is not just an absurd gesture on his part. I mean, the woman is about as ready to be president as Elmer Fudd. It's a tactical move to play on the absolutely mindless American public who will, while picking their nose and their teeth say, "oh its a woman-I'll vote for him" or "oh, she's young, so I'll vote for him" or "oh, she's cute, so I'll vote for him. God.

I am reversing my position here and now and announcing it in this comment. I am 100% behind McCain and will vote for him in November.

Because it's finally time that the US learn the hard lesson. I won't elaborate on what I mean because Fogg, you already know.

Capt. Fogg said...

Elmer Fudd is a great comparison. I can see here out there with a shotgun.

What it says to me, is that any stiff makes a suitable candidate as long as she/he thinks abortion is murder and supports the rest of the Christianist aganda, including religious definitions of civil marriage. Might as well be Elmer - or Goofy or any other cartoon character, because the Republicans live in a cartoon world.

But yes, it may be time just to embrace the horror.