Watch this one – less than 90 seconds. It’s the judgment thing.


The McCain campaign was so pleased with their man’s performance Friday they released an ad saying he had won – several hours before the debate began.


Have you seen Sarah Palin in the swimsuit contest? Hot! AND she can field dress a moose, got a D in macro-economics, and can see Russia from her house. I think she’s pretty neat (the creationism stuff and her political views notwithstanding), but one of my formerly-Republican acquaintances put it best: ‘McCain disrespected the country by choosing her to be next in line to be President of the United States.’


At least one conservative columnist, Kathleen Parker writing for the National Review, calls Governor Palin ‘clearly out of her league.’

No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Palin wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.

☞ She calls for Palin to step aside. But as noble and patriotic as that would be, it wouldn’t matter. The fact would remain that, faced with a hugely important decision – and with six months to make it – Senator McCain entrusted the future of our country, should he be sidelined, to her.

These are seriously challenging times. They require serious, brilliant, thoughtful people who make carefully considered decisions.

Which brings us to . . .


Nobody likes the smart kids. Maybe Doogie Howser; maybe Malcolm (in the middle). But those were TV scripts written by smart kids, for ratings. In real life, the smart kids had better dumb it down. Have you noticed how even John Kerry – who used the phrase ‘who among us’ when responding to a question about NASCAR (‘who among us doesn’t love NASCAR?’) – was persuaded somehow to drop half the G’s from his gerunds? (Tryin’ to be a regular guy.)


But in every other field, we seek and celebrate excellence. The most talented athlete, not the one who runs like us. The most talented singer, not the one who sounds the way we do in the shower. The teacher of the year. The most skilled surgeon. The rocket scientist who is a rocket scientist.

So, sure, a President does need to be ‘of the people.’

But the Rhodes Scholar who came from nothing and went to Yale Law School, who lives and breathes public policy and keeps a billion statistics straight in his head (think President Clinton) really may serve us better than the guy who got into Yale because of his dad, writes off his first 40 years to youthful indiscretion, and failed in business despite his father’s connections (our current affable leader).

Do we want a man born in a log cabin who made it through law school and became an Illinois State senator based on his brains, good judgment and eloquence (think Abe Lincoln) . . .

. . . a man raised on food stamps who became President of the Harvard Law Review and an Illinois State senator, then a United States senator, based on his brains, good judgment and eloquence, whose presidential bid is backed by Warren Buffett, Susan Eisenhower, and Hillary Clinton?

. . . a man in his prime who can do more than one thing at a time?

Or do we want a guy more like George W. Bush, great to party with, descended from and married to ‘royalty’ (to the extent America has such a thing), whose presidential bid is backed by all-Enron-roads-lead-to Phil Gramm; whose campaign is run by lobbyists (and by the same guys who slimed him in South Carolina in 2000); who won’t release his medical records; and who, for all we honor his service – as we should – is, arguably, past his straight-talking prime?



I met Paul Newman three times. First in 1968, when he was Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Man of the Year. I was a member of the Pudding – not the theatrical part (no talent; nonplussed by guys in drag), just the eating and drinking part – and was somehow one of a half dozen students who got to host him for a drink before the ceremony. He had just made Cool Hand Luke, wherein he eats 50 hard-boiled eggs in an hour, so we asked him about that. (As I recall, the answer was: yeah, he really ate them.) He was unbelievably cool and gracious: just the right mix of ironic skepticism over the award (the Hasty Pudding Theatrical Society is not exactly the Royal Shakespeare Society) – and twinkle of the eye.

‘You may not remember,’ I said to him, mustering a twinkle of my own 22 years later at a fundraiser to defeat Jesse Helms, ‘but twenty-two years ago, you were Hasty Pudding Man of the Year and you came and had a drink with us and told us about the hardboiled eggs and I just had to say hello thanks for all you’ve done and are doing.’ He responded graciously: with just the right mix of ironic skepticism over the absurdity of my compliment – and twinkle of his eye.

Finally, I met him and his wife of 50 years, Joanne Woodward, at their home in Westport last summer, 2007, when he was already not well, but still magnetic and unbelievably gracious. A fundraiser for the DNC. Lemonade in their ‘barn.’ Oscars and movie posters everywhere. He welcomed us and spoke of the urgent need to get our country back on track.

And so . . . rest in peace, Paul Newman. We’re trying.


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