THE BLOG
10/12/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Off to See the Wizard

Cross-posted at the NDN Blog.

In a recent post, I talked about how much more comfortable the post-Reagan Republican Party is with the artifice and theater of politics - narratives, TV ads, message events, scripted speeches. They are much more conscious, and accepting, of the notion that politics is many things, but it is also a show - it needs to play well on TV.

The McCain campaign has been remarkable to watch. It has been one of the worst performers of any campaign for President in modern times. It is operating in one of the most difficult environments Republicans have seen in 40 years. McCain's personal narrative has been severely damaged by his sacrificing of virtually all of his major beliefs and principles in his final quest to win the Republican nomination. But yet here they sit, even, or perhaps ahead, of one of the most compelling political figures American has ever produced. How have they done it?

They've done it by essentially running a television and free media campaign completely untethered from reality, from the responsibility of governing, from the truth. From Paris Hilton to the Bridge to Nowhere to the claim that McCain supports renewable energy to the blanket over the belly bump to Sex Ed for Kindergartners to "Victory in Iraq" to the Lipstick fiasco, the lion in winter, John McCain, has become a silly tool for a bunch of over-caffeinated conservative operatives who clearly see American politics as a video game for grownups. His acceptance speech last week did not even try to lay out a real plan for where he wanted to take the country. They are not even trying to make serious arguments about issues, governing, our future. Each day in their speeches, their almost daily ads and videos, and their events, they attempt to keep writing this next chapter of their imagined world they've fallen in love with - avoiding at all costs letting the real world get in the way of this beautiful campaign. Just in the last few weeks, they've had to pull two ads. And almost none of these videos they've produced have talked about what they plan on doing next year.This week, buoyed by their strong Convention, these conservative Wizards of Oz amped up their game. Videos came faster and more furiously, the subjects wilder and more over the top, until they created one that illegally used the words and image of iconic mother Katie Couric. And bang! Someone, at least for a few hours, pulled the plug on their video game and sent these kids up to their room.

Where this all goes, I don't know. But the children of Rove now running the McCain campaign grew up in an administration and politics so uninterested in the common good and the national interest that it still astounds. The media has begun to grasp how wild and unprecedented in its lack of seriousness this campaign really is - but it took them all too long to figure out the horrendous lies at the heart of the Bush era. So we cannot count on them.

So, who does need to figure out how to put this all in proper context? To explain the tragedy of this all-too-serious charade to the American people?

Perhaps this is a job for the next President of the United States. Barack has spoken passionately about his desire to bring this failed conservative era to an end. To do so, he will have to take on one of its worst manifestations - its all too sophisticated and cynical politics.