So long “Change.”
In the great American lexicon of rhetorical wiggling in high places, you've just been lapped by “Distance.”
We saw you coming up on the outside, Dear Distance, months ago when astute investigative reporters discovered that Mr. Candidate Obama's dear friend, counsellor, and clergyman-of-choice was given to bouts of foaming while soliciting the Lord to damn the nation which his parishioner aspired to lead to hopeful change. Or changeable hope, I forget which.
It was then when we first became impressed by the subtle and measured precision in the yin-yang art of distancing as practiced by our Mr. Obama. First he chose a gimme putt when his advisors advised it would all blow over quickly. Then a nine-iron when they advised it wouldn't. Finally a Tiger Wood signature driver when the networks got their paws on some of the spittle-flecked footage and splashed it across a nation of bitter clingers.
It was especially encouraging to see the president-elect retain his haiku-like homage to Hope and Change even while toiling at his next distance event.
Certain disrespectful writers noted the Obama association with one Professor William Ayers of the University of Illinois, the Weather Underground, and, some believe, an extensive series of unaffiliated shops where his youthful comrades were demonstrating a variety of (but mostly marginal) bomb-making skills.
Since Fox News decided this was news, you, Mr. President-elect, correctly reached for a 2-wood, right off. Bill Ayers? Barely knew the fellow. Just another chap in the neighborhood. A distant professional cousin in your business of community organizing. That Barrack Obama fund-raiser in the Ayers living room? You hardly remembered it.
Yet the sublime moment had to wait until this morning. No president-elect has ever demonstrated such mastery in invoking cosmic distance.
Many of us who consider ourselves connoisseurs of this division of the political shimmy are awed. In the history of American political distancing, all others fall light years short of your achievement.
There was George McGovern in 1972, of course, who achieved respectable distance, beginning in metaphorical coitus with his nervous running mate Thomas Eagleton. “Behind him 1,000 cent” on Monday. On Tuesday? “Tom WHO?” It was distance, but it lacked finesse.
And the glorious distance between William Jefferson Clinton and Monica. “I never touched that woman!” At the time apparently brilliant distancing. We gave that man a cigar. Later events were to prove us premature,
No doubt you understand, Mr. Obama, that we refer to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, accused of attempted seat purveyance, your former one of course, not that of a chubby young intern. He did everything but put it on EBay, and you had to do your distancing under pressure, unpleasant but perhaps good training for a commander-in-chief.
I'll never quite understand how you achieved your tactical success, observing that your distancing was not only measured and effective (at least for this news cycle), but that the media delivered it for you — you, yourself, never having to utter the term. Nor did your transitory staff, nor Michelle. It seemed to suggest itself unbidden to the media which was working, so far as we can tell, from your brief and distant statement revealing that you are “saddened.” (Note: The usual form here is “deeply saddened,” but let it pass.)
Just for example, the latest AP report (1) on its own volition mentions “distance” at least four times, e.g.:
“As Obama works to set up his new administration and deal with a national economic crisis, suddenly he also is spending time and attention trying to distance himself from Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and charges that the governor was trying to sell the now-vacant Senate post.”
And: “The episode amounts to a distraction … It also raises the specter of notorious Chicago politics, an image Obama has tried to distance himself from during his career.”
As good citizens, supportive of our leaders and willing to give them the benefit of every doubt, we must note that this distance comes only as the word of the AP reporter who may never have lived in Chicago where the only permissible distance between the individual politician and The Machine is a linear measure equal to the distance from the politician's groin to Mayor Daly's instep.
Or as one of our freedom-loving comrades put it: “I hope none of you libertarian cynics snorts out snide comments about Illinois being the political cradle of one Barrack Obama.” (2)
Personally, I think that writer has traveled quite a distance to snideness himself. We should distance ourselves from his ilk.
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