This will be screedy, but not in a way that will make anyone happy, I fear.

There’s nothing like toiling on a site for a solid week, tweaking all the elements in Photoshop, fine-tuning the color selections (black and white, or white and black?), translating it all into Dreamweaver, loading into a browser, standing back and thinking: that sucks. That sucks like a 29st century black-hole-powered shop vac, the kind that sucks everything up but keeps the image remaining at the event horizon so you can stare at it, aghast. So. We’ll be doing some more work this week.

Conversation at the breakfast table:

Is there going to be an election?

Yes. For a new president.


No, hon.


No, there was President Clinton when you were younger.

I hope they don’t elect someone like Hitler.

We won’t, hon.

Because I hate Hitler. (Makes a fist.) It’s sad that
George Bush will just be an ordinary person now.

We’ll always call him Mr. President. Anyway, the next president could be a woman.

Really? Cool. No, wait, we had female presidents before.

I paused, because given the homework she gets, I expected her to bring up Woodrow Wilson’s wife. Her teacher works in American history whenever possible; one of the spelling sheets she brought back this week said GEORGE W. BUSH DICK CHANIY WORLD WAR II JAPANESE, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d gotten into World War One and Wilson’s stroke. But she was thinking of First Ladies.

Off to the bus.

I’m still kinda sad about George W. Bush, she said, and I thought: you’re one in a million, kid. Literally.

On the Hewitt show tonight I was talking about the end result of the administration’s overall rhetorical failure, its inability to assert and explain ideas near and/or dear to many who elected him.  I think  people gave up expecting high fine oratorical flourishes about matters other than the war and the ancillary issues long ago, but it does gall; like the squandered Congressional majority, it was a sign that the thick institutional inertia had filled the vacant crevasses in the domestic agenda. So we get campaign finance “reform,” and we get an energy bill that will require everyone to switch to bulbs that cost ten times more and require an EPA HAZMAT team to ninja their way through your skylights if you drop a bulb. (Yes, I know, it mandates efficiencies, and if old-style bulbs meet the standards, they’ll pass, but given the higher cost of fluorescents and the general planet-friendly rep they have, I expect that a combination of foot-dragging, ad campaigns, somewhat lower prices and improved quality will move people away from incandescents.)  I don’t think the administration is in the pocket of Big Flourescent; I just think they don’t care.

Either they figured the logic of their case was self-evident, or saw no short-term gain to making arguments that polled low.

The Middle East? Don’t get me started. At the end of the Bush term Syria will run Lebanon, Israel will pressured to concede, Iran will unsanctioned and unbowed. Iraq will work in the end if we care and try and stay, and that’s no small thing; that’s the big thing, in the end. History won’t give a fig about the fluorescent-bulb bill. You could say that second terms always end like this. Clinton, however, would probably have gotten a third term. You could say he was an anomaly, since his appeal was more personal than ideological, and you could say that he didn’t spend his time making speeches in his second term defining liberalism for the 21st century.  But he didn’t have to explain his ideas; they were part of the free-floating cloud of Unexamined Good Things instinctively accepted by the overclass, so he wasn’t exactly fighting an uphill battle. Bush had an opportunity to redefine certain ideas as progressive, not retrograde. Really: if the public school paradigm is the status quo, then attempts to upend the Etch-A-Sketch and find new solutions are progressive – unless you’re one of those blunt-headed types who believe that “conservatives” (a meaningless term, here) want to destroy unions and punish inner-city schools and funnel public bucks to nuns who prowl the aisles with a ruler, whapping knuckles when anyone mentions Darwin. Rethinking Social Security is progressive, especially if it means giving young people more control over how their forced contributions are invested. Nuclear power is progressive; the status quo, in place for twenty years, still thinks “The China Syndrome” is a documentary. I know it’s a different definition of progressive, but heck: redefining “progressive”  is progressive.

It’s frustrating. The world is full of new ideas. New approaches to old solutions. But we keep looking to leaders who have little but new ways to defend the old ideas. It’s not a matter of liberal v. conservative; the tension is between statists and individualists.  This is why I think McCain is up, and why I still think Rudy will be up down the road; it’s part of a strange inchoate sense that the old labels are frayed and faded. McCain or Rudy won’t satisfy the base – but you go to war with the electorate you have.

Et cetera. Like I know anything. I’ve been sitting here bopping to Brian Setzer while I write this, and it’s more fun than thinking about politics. I still think we should take a big poll and find one band that satisfies everyone, and the day after the election we have a big grand beer bash to celebrate the fact that everyone loves “Rock Around the Clock” and tanks won’t roll when the baton passes, and that’s no small thing. Because if you can’t find yourself at 1 AM laughing and arguing about the glories of American popular culture with someone who’s on the absolute opposite site of the political aisle, well, here: one big ticket redeemable for a quart of pity. I don’t want unity about the secondary issues; I want constant conflict and tension and friction and argument and eventual compromises, even if it's a decade after the argument faded. About the great glorious uniqueness of this country and the things we can do, yes: at least we can agree on that. So let’s elect a president and fix some stuff and screw up the things we can’t help but screw up and go to Mars. We can argue about what the flag meant and what it will mean tomorrow, but can’t you see a day where everyone’s leaning forward on the sofa, in the bars, in Times Square, watching the pole drive down into red soil? Wouldn’t there be a grand nationwide huzzah, and wouldn’t that be great?  Wouldn’t that be cool?

Off from tomorrow, but there’s a chance I’ll have something up in the morn.