11/16/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Two Candidates Walk into a Bar...

Who wrote John McCain's speech at the Al Smith dinner? Because whoever did should have been behind the senator's campaign from the beginning, for it contained all the intelligence, humor, class and appeal he has so glaringly abrogated in his progressively ugly pursuit of the presidency.

In listening to his presentation on C-SPAN (the only television outlet which performs an actual service to the country), one couldn't help wondering what the level of debate and discourse might have been had McCain employed this approach earlier. And while the laughter at the dinner certainly seemed genuine from both candidates and all others in attendance, the laughter nonetheless stops at the doors of the Waldorf Astoria. Outside, The People walk the streets with far less certainty and mirth than that demonstrated by the white-tied crowd sipping champagne inside.

While McCain exhibited an all but previously unseen sense of humor ("Bomb, bomb Iran" notwithstanding) Obama seemed the least at ease at this function than he has in the many months of public gauntlet running. Parrying and thrusting with experienced political and media machines with a skill and expertise rarely seen in a culture which seems to lately pride itself on low-brow vapidity, Obama has more than proven himself as an inspiring, capable, thoughtful leader. But instead of delivering a killer set, he did just okay with his material, though what came across more strongly than his ability to sell a joke was an authentic humanity which right wing idiot-logues and the Countess Von Palin herself had been attacking for weeks and that McCain himself has been unable to evoke almost from day one.

The John McCain we've seen stumping and stumbling, glaring and fear mongering, has apparently been listening to the wrong goddamn people, "experts" whose advice to the candidate clearly shows a fatal lack of understanding and trust in truth or imagination, who seem to believe less in America and more in rigging facsimiles of what it used to represent; of reducing informality, straight-talk and heroism to cheapened gewgaws to be hawked and sold in the glitzy, frenzied bazaar that has become pop culture.

What a pity McCain's handlers have such little faith in the American public, editing so sloppily all the dynamism and intelligence out of the campaign process to produce their dumbed-down and dangerous versions of reality? Whoever wrote his speech at the Al Smith dinner last night should be praised. Whoever's been ruining his reputation, his campaign, his credibility, his message and the hopes of his mislead but nonetheless loyal following, should be dumped. They're a joke.