It was heart-warming to be reminded of the old John McCain at yesterday's Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner. He was funny, charming, effusive, self-deprecating, and warmly generous to his opponent. After watching his hilarious performance, I had a moment of anxiety for Barack Obama, who was to follow McCain at the podium. Would he be able to relax his seriousness and self-discipline for long enough to be just funny? Would he risk losing political points for failing to come up to the standard McCain had set?
I need not have worried. Obama proved to be an entertaining stand-up comedian. He was relaxed, comfortable, ready to poke fun at his own overblown messianic image. His material was first rate, his timing and delivery flawless. He had Ellie and me in those proverbial stitches as we watched. And he seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself. What a wonderful release from the nastiness of the campaign. It was a pleasure to watch both of these men laughing out loud and with unfeigned delight, for a change, at each other's barbs.
This was one debate where it didn't matter who came out on top--and where both sides won.
(On the other hand... if you pause for long enough to analyze the press photograph above, does it not offer a distressingly regressive image of our current political and social institutions? I'm looking at the picture--ahem, excuse the pointed-headed aside--"deconstructively," with three solid rows of participants, all powerful, all wealthy--and all male!--all reveling in their own importance, chuckling comfortably in the knowledge of their own position of security. This image of unassailable temporal power protects, at its core, the medievally red-robed cardinal, the very symbol of--also male!--spiritual power. In all, a perfect and deeply disturbing evocation of the power base of Western civilization. I'm just happy to see that single, stand-out black face edging in on the company. While Hillary, we know from other pictures and television footage, is off somewhere at the periphery. The picture speaks more eloquently than words.)