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What Kind of Fall is This Going to Be?

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Wednesday night after Sarah Palin's speech, I went to bed with a pit in my stomach that reminded me not of November, 2004, but rather October, 2003.

I agree that the Cubs' game six loss in '03 wasn't Steve Bartman's fault, but it remains a fact of my soul that in the instant I realized Moises Alou didn't have the foul ball in his glove, my slowly built belief that the Cubs were going to the World Series yielded to an agonizingly certain knowledge that they were not.

And it wasn't that Sarah Palin's great speech was going to win the election by itself, it was that the Republicans seemed to have found the perfect monster to appeal to the monstrousness in Americans in the most perfectly monstrous ways, deftly equating intellect with arrogance, questions with insult, eloquence with bullshit.

Her insults of Obama were so perfectly timed and perfectly pitched that they seemed like the finely honed lines of a comedian.

For instance, I had the feeling I'd been waiting for months to hear someone make fun of "community organizing," an activity that most Americans wouldn't be able to define beyond a loose impression as an activity of the radical, hapless, childish left.

I heard her say, "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities." And I whispered to my wife, "Shit."

I also remember trying to comfort myself after that game-six collapse by reminding myself that Kerry Wood was pitching, we still had a chance.

Thursday morning after the Palin speech I surfed the blogosphere looking to be disabused of my gloom.

Instead, I got an e-mail from a speechwriter friend who had just returned from a wild week spent scribbling speeches at the Democratic National Convention, but who wrote, "To me Denver now pales compared to Palin last night."

A Republican businessman friend from Tennessee told me with astonishment that his normally apolitical soccer mom wife had called him at work. She said Sarah Palin was all she and her friends were talking about.

Two Canadian friends e-mailed gingerly, one saying, "Sure is crazy to watch this campaign from up here."

A local Democratic pol friend wrote simply, "Sarah Palin is frightening."

Thursday night I watched McCain's dull speech, and was a little encouraged; I'm sure there'll be other bright spots between now and November, like the debates, which I expect Obama and Biden to win.

But then, the Cubs had a brief lead in game seven in '03, remember?

I've smelled losing, and I can't unsmell it.

I'll follow the election's developments day to day--I'll probably even do some Obama canvassing in Indiana, for whatever that'll be worth--just like I still watch the Cubs.

But from now on it'll be with a self-protective quality, designed to make sure I don't have my hope turned to doom, all at once.

I'm getting too old for that shit.