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Sheepish In Carlyfornia

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The greatest spiritual and philosophical figures -- from the Buddha to Socrates to Augustine to Einstein -- taught that language fails us when we authentically apprehend the wonder of the Universe. Those rare moments when we behold the grandeur of life in stunned silence can come from various sources, from deep meditation to listening to Glenn Gould play Bach to viewing Republican Senatorial hopeful Carly Fiorina's new "Demon Sheep" campaign ad.

Fiorina, the former Hewlett Packard CEO forced out by HP's board five years ago -- her "exit package" was north of $20 million -- was more recently John McCain's economic spokesperson in the 2008 Presidential race (until she was sidelined after accurately observing that neither McCain nor his running mate Sarah Palin was qualified to run a major American corporation).

Now her quest to occupy Barbara Boxer's Senate seat is in full swing, and since the new ad -- which accuses Republican primary rival Tom Campbell of fiscal hypocrisy via the bizarre, unpronounceable acronym FCINO (fiscal conservative in name only) -- went viral earlier this week, many have attempted to articulate what distinguishes it from other messages that may be merely ineffective, slanderous or idiotic. But here's where noble silence comes in -- you simply need to let the magic speak for itself.

You may think that the Demon Sheep ad will hurt Fiorina's chances because -- in combination with last September's unintentionally hilarious Carlyfornia Dreamin' website launch (which sounded way to much like Showtime's racy series Californication as enunciated by our soon-to-be-ex-gov) -- it reveals a disqualifying combination of loopiness and smarminess, even in the legendarily crazy world of California senatorial politics.

But as veteran political consultant and activist Bill Zimmerman -- who ran Tom Hayden's 1976 Senate campaign and has watched all races since -- observes, "I have never seen anything in any of those races that is as deceitful as the Fiorina sheep ad. Lying and distortion are normal tactics in political advertising, but Fiorina's ad so debases the process as to bring it to a new low. It's not the lies themselves that are most disturbing; it's the assumption that the audience is so stupid as to fall for the primitive distortion and innuendo the ad is based on. H.L. Mencken's rule about never going broke underestimating the intelligence of the American voter may finally have found its exception." An even more veteran campaign strategist -- Gary Horowitz, whose political involvement goes back to the 1966 Pat Brown/Ronald Reagan gubernatorial campaign -- put it more succinctly: "Craziest f**** thing I have ever seen."

Before we write off Fiorina, we must consider what William James referred to as "the varieties of religious experience." One commenter to the Washington Post was only too happy to articulate this view: "Fiorina is crazy -- like a fox. This 3+ minute ad was never destined to be a commercial. It was created purely as a media virus. And it's been all over the place -- and the woman didn't spend one thin dime buying time."