Saturday, September 27, 2008

Barack Obunny and Elmer McFudd

The thought had occurred to me before, perhaps from something that I’d read, but the image was so striking as soon as they walked out on stage to shake hands with the moderator that I wasn’t able to shake it through the whole debate: Barack Obama, long, lean and debonair, looked just like Bugs Bunny, and John McCain, the hunched-over and stumpy old man, made a perfect Elmer Fudd.

I’d also never noticed before how much McCain sounded like Elmer Fudd (without the speech impediment). His voice has the same kind of high-pitched, sing-songy raspiness as Elmer’s; and he telegraphs his plans to trap Barack with the same kind of evil glints in his eye that Elmer displayed when he was cooking up a plan for the Wascally Wabbit.

McCain is more Nixonesque than Fudd, however, something else I’d never really noticed before. I hadn’t watched the Republican primary debates at any length, but in those, McCain’s essential creepiness just made him one of the crowd. You didn’t have the focus you did in last night’s debate. I also appreciated the split screen broadcast that let us watch the reactions of the candidates when the other one was speaking.

Obama usually looked like he was standing on the outside of the garden fence, holding a bunch of carrots. McCain was either deviously calculating when he was going to spring his next pre-planned talking point, nervously chuckling at his own jokes, or frantically fuming as his plans blew up in his face, and he’s watching Bugs Obunny escape again—just like Elmer.

It wasn’t all a cartoon, though. At times I felt like I was watching one of the best presidential debates since Kennedy and Nixon (it’s heartbreaking to listen to those debates today, and hear them trying to outdo each other in how they are going to help the poor). Obama was his usual cool and highly-prepared self, unflappably handsome and intelligent. You could really see the impressive young man who made so many early admirers think of him as a future president. Obama, for all his faults, has the real potential to be one of those transformative American presidents whose name is left on an historical era.

To give McCain his due, he was also better prepared than I expected, and he showed up to fight. Earlier in the day, I had written to my niece—who was confused why McCain pulled the lamebrain stunt of trying to cancel the debate—that I thought McCain really, in his heart of hearts, wants to lose the election and retire to his houses and cars in sunny, dry Arizona. He’s an old man.

But after watching last night, I no longer think that. This was an old man who was putting up a fight, a cantankerous old codger with an inbred sense of supreme privilege—he’s owed for all those years he spent tortured in prison, the son of an admiral, no less—and on transparent display throughout the debate was the boy his schoolmates, in their childish frankness, nicknamed “McNasty.” The reason McCain pulled the debate stunt is because he’s still the same person he always was, the guy investigator Cliff Schecter calls “the Real McCain:” the Naval Academy fuckup who couldn’t keep a plane in the air, even before he was shot down.

Senator, I knew Elmer Fudd. You’re no Elmer Fudd.


Reid B. said...

Yes, the mean man McCain was definitely on display. Perhaps those snide looks will be most of what folks will take away from the evening.

Jim D said...


I read your blog with great interest. Having grown up in a totally secular world void of any religious teachings, it has been easy for me to reject this superstition called religion. It must be difficult having been fully immersed in Catholicism to break away from the trappings of religious dogma because of the fear and guilt inflicted on converts to secularism. I sensed that in your blog as you pointed out the doctrine of James.

Institutional religion has chosen the elements that most instill fear into its dogma. I have always questioned why Christians elevated Jesus to God – an utterly ridiculous concept. Wouldn’t it have served the church beneficially if they would have presented him more as a Gandhi or Buddha type character, becoming a role model for humanity? But then again, this wouldn’t have been enough to create a new religion and instill the fear needed.

Michael, I am really glad to see you writing consistently again. You inspired me to start writing, and it is a great release for all the cerebral pressure that builds in my head. Being able to spill my thoughts onto a page gives me not only great satisfaction, but it allows me a medium to make attempts at intellectual discourse – a confidence building exercise.

I also enjoyed your comments on the debate and your description of John McCain as “creepy.” That’s exactly how I feel about him. I do believe he has some very serious underlying conflicts within himself, and his bid for President is an attempt to validate himself to himself.

Michael, please keep us posted on your blog – I will be reading it with great interest, and it’s nice to see you back.