I know it's two days before Christmas and I should be sucking down eggnog and going through my wife's sugar cookies faster than she and the girls can bake them, but I've decided to buck the holiday trend - how many times can I tell the same story before I want to kill myself? - and write about something that has troubles me for quite a while. Our political class, as many have noted, haven't seemed to outgrow high school. Of course, our pundits aren't much better, treating the campaign for the Presidency as a run for Student Council, only less interesting and certainly less important. The recent spate of politicians, in particular in the Republican Party, act as if they either never got over high school, or are exacting revenge on those who troubled them so in their years of acne and decadence.
While the rest of us were growing up, going to college, getting jobs, getting married, these folks never - quite - left the hallowed halls strewn with the books knocked from the hands of the nerdy kids. The echoes from the gymnasium keep them up at night. If they sleep, some awake in flop sweat from a nightmare that features the voice of their gym coach screeching, "Dodgeball!!"
Sarah Palin, for instance, we were told, was the star of her high school girl's basketball team. She was called "The Barracuda" which, I believe, had little to do with her skills on the roundball court. After all, when was the last time you saw a barracuda do the perfect fade-away 3-point jump shot? I'm guess the nickname had more to do with what was, in all likelihood, her being one of the small coven of girls who control the social life of most middle class high schools. Being referred to as "Barracuda" - a large, nasty, aggressive, predatory fish, a kind of salt-water relative of the Wall-Eye - would not be something most people would carry with them in later life, indicating, as it should, a streak of nastiness and even viciousness that is hardly belied by one's physical assets. Yet, wear the moniker proudly, ex-sorta-Gov. Palin certainly has. Which, it would seem, is all we really need to know, isn't it?
Remember that annoying kid all the older kids detested, and occasionally punched in the face, because he was always showing off how much he knew, usually quoting Isaac Asimov and Larry Niven? Well, that annoying kid is still quoting Isaac Asimoc and Larry Niven, and really, really needs to get punched in the face, but damn! He gets laid a whole lot more than folks who aren't nearly as annoying! Somehow, he managed to con enough people that he actually knows stuff to give him money, too. Thus, Newt Gingrich continues his life as high school nerd-in-chief. Which may well be the highest title he carries the longest, considering even disgraced former House Speaker is kind of going out of style.
Remember the President of the church youth group? She seemed to have this odd, not-quite fanatical acceptance of the strangest ideas the church was pushing, combined with an almost eerie drive to see her ascendance as head of the Youth Fellowship as Providential. Now, all these years later, running for President, Michelle Bachmann still believes all those really weird things her church was pushing, only that fanatical acceptance has deepened, reflecting in the odd blue light emanating from her eyes that ensures, if nothing else, she can find her way to the bathroom in the middle of the night without flipping any switches and waking up her husband in the next room. Fixated upon a few simple ideas, none of which actually have anything to do with reality in much the same way she wrote heated letters to sponsors of TV shows and ran paper drives convinced there was money in all those newspapers collected over the years, she shrinks in our national rear-view mirror unbowed by criticisms because, as she has been for so long, she is convinced beyond doubt of the rightness of all her beliefs. Facts, reality, the common life of real people all around her are as nothing to the conviction in her heart that she may well be the only one standing between the country and the disaster looming around the corner.
I suppose I'm being a bit unfair, because I haven't featured any prominent Democratic politicians here. At the moment, the only really prominent Democratic politician is Pres. Obama, and he has none of the qualities of a superannuated adolescent yearning either for revenge or the simple continuity of the glory days of yesteryear. The three folks featured here, however, not only leap to mind, but seem to revel in either continuing their former lives, or reaping revenge upon those in their past who wronged them for whatever reason. Since our punditry seems to believe we, as a people, enjoy wallowing in discussions like this, I thought it best just to signal how I see some folks on the national stage.