Something has been lacking all through this silly season of debates, and I finally figured out what it is.
We need an alarm system that will go off when the malodorous material gets piled too high.
We need a referee who will flash the yellow cards and the red cards when the elbows and the knees are being wielded too freely.
We need that guy from Oct. 10, 2008, who reminded the whole country that there must be limits to the rabid fantasies being tossed around.
Remember him? It was like a scene out of Awakenings, the movie in which Robert DeNiro briefly emerges from a coma. In Lakeville, Minn., somebody looking a lot like John McCain was making a public appearance. According to The New York Times:
When a man told him he was “scared” of an Obama presidency, Mr. McCain replied, “I want to be president of the United States and obviously I do not want Senator Obama to be, but I have to tell you -- I have to tell you -- he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared' of as president of the United States.'' The crowd booed loudly at Mr. McCain’s response.
Later, a woman stood up at the meeting, held at Lakeville South High School in a far suburb of Minneapolis, and told Mr. McCain that she could not trust Mr. Obama because he was an ''Arab.''
Mr. McCain replied: ''No, ma'am, he's a decent family man, citizen who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that's what this campaign is all about.'' At that, the crowd applauded.
That man resembled the John McCain I interviewed in his office in 1999 during a hearing into Olympic business, the same John McCain who led a bunch of vets who shipped materials over to Vietnam. When I asked him why he did that, after his suffering during captivity, McCain shrugged and said it was the right thing to do.
We need somebody like that John McCain now, when a Franklin Graham can decide who is a Christian and who is not, when a Rick Santorum can talk about a “phony theology” and when a Newt Gingrich can accuse a president of being “dangerous.” Americans know the code words; we understand what is going down.
We need an arbiter who can draw some kind of line with the words: “I have to tell you.”
We only saw that guy once in the 2008 campaign. Wouldn’t it be nice if he could have another awakening this spring, to inject a note of decency into the silly season?
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.