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John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly

Politics, like its greed-imbued stepsister, economics, is really all about trust and faith.

When we vote for politicians we know only by words filtered through any number and manner of media, just as when we put our hard-earned money in a bank run by shadowy men (mostly) who might be either flagrant thieves or honorable stewards, we do so because we convince ourselves that we are being told the truth.

So, when it turns out that the truth was nowhere in evidence as we made our choices at the polls and the teller’s window, our faith gets shaky and we begin to feel that we can trust no one.

And that’s where so many of us stand right now, as we endure the bumpy roller-coaster ride of a titanic presidential battle and, at the same time, watch the world’s economy disintegrate before a howling wind of lies and venality.

The evidence that leads us further toward doubt and distrust is everywhere. It’s gotten to the point where anyone trying to make sense of it is as likely to drown in despair over the sheer weight of it all as he or she is to actually find a thread of decency and common sense to follow into the gloom.

Take the whole “Joe The Plumber” episode, catapulted to national prominence by the desperation of one candidate, Sen. John McCain, whose Republican bandwagon has bogged down in a swamp of insincerity and evil propaganda and appears on the verge of losing its wheels.

As soon as he brought it up at the last presidential debate, I had the feeling it was a ploy fueled by fear. All one had to do was watch his eyes and his gesticulations, or listen to his heavy breathing and muttering, to recognize that here was a man in the last throes of a nervous breakdown. All that was lacking were small flecks of spittle flying out of his mouth.

The Democrat on the other side of the table, Barack Obama, seemed bemused by McCain’s attempt to use a down-at-the-heels, blue-collar loser to bolster a campaign that has all too clearly lost its bearings. Ever unflappable, Obama managed to deflect McCain’s rambling, somewhat unhinged accusations and stick with his plan to talk about the issues, not the distractions.

In actual fact, Joe Wurzelbacher is not a licensed plumber in Ohio, and his claim to want to buy the business he works for is more of a fantasy than McCain’s own certitude that he deserves the presidency just because he was in a prison camp in Vietnam.

In addition, according to an investigation by the Miami Herald, that company Joe works for earns about $100,000 a year, and so will not see its taxes rise under Obama’s plan for yanking out economy out of its slump.

Interestingly enough, according to the same investigation, it also turns out that Joe used to live in Alaska, home state to McCain’s veep nominee, Sarah “Barracuda” Palin. I’ll leave you to ponder that coincidence on your own.

And casting Joe as an icon representing America at large was a stretch, indeed, even for McCain. Joe’s has been a peripatetic life ” he’s reportedly roamed the country looking for his destiny, even listed his address as “The North Pole” at one point ” hardly the kind of bedrock working man you’d expect McCain to hang his political fortunes on.

National press reports also found another interesting coincidence. Seems another Wurzelbacher, this one a Californian named Doug and apparently unrelated to Joe, was entered in some dogsled races in Alaska. And while Doug says he never met First Dude Todd Palin, or Joe the Plumber, the conspiracy theorists have been busy trying to figure out if old Joe was a plant by the McCain campaign.

So, where is all this going? I’m not sure, but it all seems to be tied into my rising concern that the politics of this country are swinging wildly out of control as both of our major parties rely more and more on shallow, attack-dog tactics and less on any truthful examination of the difficulties facing our country.

And as the attacks become more shrill, the lies more transparent, the attention to real problems and factual analysis of those problems falls further by the wayside.

I’m not saying its only the Republicans who engage in distraction and sleight-of-hand to keep voters confused, because unfortunately the Democrats do it, too, if not quite as consistently or well.

But it appears that Obama is not interested in going down that road, and for that I thank him. He genuinely seems to be attempting to stick to a reality-based appeal to the better instincts of the American voter.

I guess that means he has won a measure of my trust and faith, at least by comparison, and at least for the duration of this election cycle.

jcolson@aspentimes.com


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