Eli's Observations

Pursuing The Great White —

This is the last call of the day for pollster Phil MacGallup and he has nothing to show for it. McGallup’s assignment is to find and interview the elusive undecided voter.

As he locks his car, he notices a woman staring at him who then pulls a sign from her lawn, hurries inside, and closes the door.

Undaunted, Phil knocks firmly on the door and waits. As he starts to turn away, the door opens abruptly, revealing Willow D. Wisp.

“Yes?”

MacGallup quickly identifies himself as working for P.P.P., Pointless Political Polling. Willow looks at his ID hopefully.

“So you’re not with either party?” asked Willow.

“That’s right, ma’am,” said MacGallup. “Did I just see you taking a sign down from your lawn?”

“Oh no, that’s nothing. So you’re not with any of the TV networks? Or cable? What about Super Pacs? Some of them have been pushing me pretty hard –”

Mac: “P.P.P. doesn’t push people, ma’am. I just want to know if you’ve made a decision between Obama and Romney.”

Wisp: “Not yet. I’ve just begun to focus. I hate all those ads. It makes a body not wanna vote at all!”

Mac: “So can I put you down as leaning towards not voting?”

Wisp: “… I will probably vote — if I get some straight answers from the candidates.”

Mac: “But for now, can I mark you down as undecided?”

Wisp: “Uh — actually, I have been leaning towards a third party candidate –”

Mac: “But — ”

Wisp: “Clint Westwood?”

Mac: “I think you mean Eastwood.” (Mac closes his clipboard) “I don’t think he’s on the ballot, but I’m looking for undecideds. Thanks –”

As MacG turns away, she follows him for a few steps.

Wisp: “What if I narrowed it down to two candidates?”

Mac: (Hopefully): “And you can’t decide between the two?”

Wisp: “No, I really do think I’m leaning towards one of them. Does P.P.P. do leaning towards?”

Mac: “No ma’am. We need conclusive indecisiveness.”

Wisp: “How about if I was waffling?”

Mac: “That might work. So are you waffling then?”

Wisp: “I’m not ready to say that yet. Waffling seems like a big step. I need more information. Maybe some visits from each candidate.”

Mac: (Wearily) “Thanks again for your time –”

Wisp: (Following him) “I’d at least like some surrogates to talk with me –”

Mac starts to walk away.

Wisp: “At least a phone call. And no robo-calls! I need some specific answers –”

MacGallup is next to his car now. Wisp steps down onto the lawn.

Wisp: “These are important questions, Mr. MacGallup. If I don’t vote for Mr. Westwood –”

Mac: (Turns back) “Do you happen to know any undecideds in the neighborhood?”

Wisp: “Well I have seen several lawns with no signs up. There’s my phone! That must be Fox News. They like me because I have a landline. I wonder if they do leaning towards.”

MacGallup steps into his car, waving goodbye.

Mac: “I’ll call you back on November 5th to check on you. Where did you say that lady with no sign was?”

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10 Ways To Win The White House: Confidential Memo From Karl Stovepipe

As the presidential race winds down, fanatic Tea Party types are zeroing in on congressional races. This memo, found by our intrepid investigator Sheldon Seamus, was probably written by an old time GOP strategist. It was found in the trash after a recent T.P. rally.

1.) Start a huge war in the Middle East, based on lies. This will erode public confidence in government as soon as the lies are revealed. This is good, because government is bad.

2.) During the war, use lots of expensive equipment and materiél, but don’t pay for any of it. Blow up the materiél as soon as possible. (Use that word materiél a lot. It makes you sound smart.)

3.) Claim the war is going very well and will pay for itself through oil revenues from the invaded (oops, liberated) country.

4.) Start telling the public you’re very concerned about the growing budget deficit. Keep spending money. Send more troops to other countries. Don’t pay for them, either.

5.) Suggest big cuts in federal entitlements. Don’t get specific. Just say we need more troops to reach victory. Use words like “generals on the ground” and “surge.” This makes you sound military. Don’t pay for the surge.

6.) Lower taxes on very rich people again. Give them more loopholes. If any poor people write in whining about it, explain that the money will trickle down to them. Someday. Express grave concern about the federal deficit. Blame it on wild spending by your opponents.

7.) When the sunshine soliders protest about thousands of Americans killed and maimed in these wars, accuse them of not supporting our troops and send them one of those red, white and blue ribbon things for the back of their car. If they raise the question of the financial cost of expanding these wars, point out that most of these critics don’t even wear flag pins in their lapels. Need I say more?

8.) Elect people to congress who are enraged but don’t know why and are as ignorant as the rear end of a hog. Teach them to say “no!” repeatedly. To everything. Promise them you’ll keep “God” on our currency, including coins. Maybe we’ll even throw in a couple of Dios to appeal to the Latinos. But don’t promise that yet. Comprende? Imply that there will be a new coat of arms on the $100 bill employing the AK-47, but don’t commit yourself to that.

9.) Announce that the eight-year-long federal deficit has suddenly become an imminent threat to America’s survival. (Use that word imminent a lot! It’s a gravitas kind of thing.) Propose another tax cut for the job creators.

10.) Find an empty “suit” (good hair essential) to run for president. Teach him to say “tax cuts” and “pro-life.” If he loses, blame the moderates. But we’ll need some RINOS. If we can’t find any moderate republicans, maybe we could hire some. I hear a lot of people are unemployed. Ha ha.

My Israel Problem

When I started this article, I was calling it “My Israel Problem.” Benjamin Netanyahu had recently made one of his periodic attempts to blackmail our government. He implied that Israel might make a pre-emptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities unless we join in drawing a ‘red line’ over which the Iranians dare not step.

Netanyahu had the gall to try hijacking our foreign policy during a neck-and-neck presidential contest, probably assuming he could rely on his usual accomplices in congress. I began to think the United States had a real Israel problem on its hands, seemingly because of Israeli intransigence. I decided to discuss it with an older and wiser friend, Mordecai Stern.

“The way a lot of Americans see it, Israel should just cool it. We’ve got your back! Your enemies would have to be crazy to come after you with us standing behind you.”

I saw Mordecai begin to give one of his sad smiles, so I hastened to add the words ‘standing right behind you all the way!!’

“Well, cowboy, I don’t doubt your sincerity, but I seem to recall we were standing right behind South Vietnam in just the same way until –” Mordecai whirled his fingers and made a helicopter sound. “–until that last marine chopper left the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon — adios, South Vietnam. Hello Hanoi.”

“I know! It was very bad.” Eli nodded. “We never should have gone into Vietnam in the first place! Right?”

Mordecai said he wasn’t sure about that. If America had turned its back what might the Soviets have done? And the Chinese? Would there even be a South Korea?

“You’re making me crazy, Mordecai. You can’t have it both ways. Or are you buying into that George W. bull about us being the ‘indispensable nation?’ Because that line has put us at the poor house door!”

Mordecai seldom laughed, but he came close, saying some things were just too complex for our little brains to figure out. Sometimes, having it both ways is the best we can do.

“Maybe tomorrow,” Mordecai suggested, “maybe we’ll make some progress in the Middle East. That’s what I like about Obama. He thinks a while before he talks.”

“The Republicans call that leading from the rear, Mordecai — ”

“That’s better than talking from your rear. Remember Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Deception? Or Condi Rice’s mushroom souffle cloud?”

“No red line then?” Eli asked. “But what about the Iranians?”

They’ll need watching, Mordecai agreed. And the Pakistanis and the Saudis and the Chinese. And every two-bit dictator and religious nut on the planet. But who did the most harm to us, Mordecai wondered, Bin Laden or Dick Cheney?

” … okay,” Eli agreed, “so who’s more dangerous to us now? Netanyahu or Romney?”

” … well, cowboy, I’d say Romney. Netanhayu’s just another clever demagogue. But our boy Mittsy is worse. He combines chutzpah and ignorance about the world around us. That’s a dangerous combination.”

“So we don’t have an Israeli problem right now. We have a Romney problem –”

Mordecai’s expression brightened abruptly.

“No. Not if we don’t elect him!”

A Tale Of Two Cities

The Republican Convention in Tampa was about as exciting as frozen orange juice. No lumps. No surprises. But the convention did reflect a kind of America straight out of the early 1950s: it was very white, suspicious of ‘otherness,’ of women who didn’t know their place, of ‘homo-sex-uals,’ and of all non-Christians. Did I mention it was very white?

Once they presented two governors “of color” (Indian descent) and the inscrutable Condoleeza Rice marched off-stage, they had pretty well exhausted their ‘important Republicans of color’ (Man-Tan Boehner doesn’t count.)

As for GOP women, Mrs. Romney gave a very nice speech followed by a string of nice women who told us they’d been helped by Mr. Romney, praising the nice non-Bain Mitt Romney for his kindnesses. It almost seemed like Romney was running for Deputy Mayor of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Surrogates for Romney, especially ‘Mr. Sincere,’ aka Paul Ryan, were grim-visaged as usual, in their warnings of the looming doom of deficits (most of which they created with un-funded wars.) Uh Oh! That word ‘war’ was never spoken in Tampa. But Romney did threaten China with a Major Frown of Disapproval if they didn’t shape up. Take that, People’s Republic!

Except for the sparkling wit of Clint Eastwood and his chair, the GOP convention was mostly a humor-free zone, and what humor there was looked like an out-take from the movie Grumpy Old Men.

Unlike those Godless Dems, Republicans practically wore out the word ‘God.’ As for separation of church and state, some critics advised the GOP to simply drop the P, slip in a D, and come out of God’s closet.

Oh yes — before the convention was over, Mitt Romney made a nice, nice speech promising to fix everything that was wrong — by using tax cuts — for the rich.

In Charlotte, we watched a very different America march onto the stage in the Democratic Convention. We saw many men and women of many colors and ethnicities. The cheering in the hall was almost constant and exuberant. No buttoned-up, flag pin types here, lots of red, white and blue costumes and crazy hats were everywhere. No tight-lipped ideologues here. Even when Romney’s name was spoken, it never provoked anything like the hatred you heard simmering in Tampa whenever the GOP audience heard the President’s name.

Even when Democrats attacked Romney’s policies, or lack of them, there was none of the vulgar, nasty name-calling in the Limbaugh-Ann Coulter vein.

Yes, women are leaning democratic. You saw it on the stage as our beautiful First Lady was so eloquent that she started a Michelle boomlet for the 2016 election. The Lady says no thanks.

Watching all this from overseas, as her husband demolished the Republicans, was the formidable Hillary Clinton. That lady might say yes in 2016. Who knows.

Elizabeth Warren was smart and feisty. After listening to Dr. Jill Biden speak from the heart about education, you could see why Joe kept on proposing (five times) until she said yes.

There were plenty of democratic men in evidence, too. They made the Republican prospects look like last month’s goulash. There was Joe Biden himself, John Kerry being funny, the two young brothers Castro form Texas, Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, N.J., Governors Strickland and Patrick Duval, and several promising prospects who seemed to have the same last name: Kennedy.

Does this mean the Democrats will win the 2012 election in spite of a sluggish economic recovery? Will Americans vote for statistics or for character and principle? I don’t know. But I have seen the future and it didn’t look Republican. So pull up a rocking chair, Clint, and watch the world pass you by.

Smoke And Mirrors

We thought the trivialization of the electoral process had gone as far as it could until the GOP opened its shoddy bag of tricks in Tampa. We quickly learned that this election won’t be about the economy, no matter how many times ‘Mr. Sincerity’ (Paul Ryan) promises to tell us some hard truths. To quote a movie character played by Jack Nicholson: “You can’t handle the truth!”

Truth #1: ‘Job Creators’ don’t exist. Markets can create jobs but they generally destroy more jobs — in the United States, at least — than they create. Global markets paying workers a few dollars a week can quickly wipe out any U.S. job gains.

Education, if highly focused and heavily subsidized, could create jobs in the hi-tech, creative industries but they’d be competing with the constant robotization of the workplace. Beyond that, we are already way behind many of our global competitors in education. Way behind.

We have an investing class sitting on lots of money and asking for tax breaks but it won’t take any risks and doesn’t care about innovating. The only thing they invest in is buying congresspeople.

Then we have a group of voters who think they already pay too many taxes. They don’t. We have retirees who believe they’re just getting back what they put into Social Security. They aren’t. Most of them drained that well long ago.

These are the voters who have been lied to so skillfully by the advertising/industrial complex and many of them believe that they can “have it all.” They can’t. This is the kind of dishonest, stupid economics which leads to stupid voting. Which leads us back to this year’s political conventions. Welcome to a ‘Truth-Free Zone.’

The once-familiar chants of ‘USA! USA! We’re Number One! We’re Number One!’ may be muted this year. Most people don’t like to chant ‘We’re Number Twenty-Three.’ But the self-congratulatory speeches about American particularism are repeated endlessly by our only successful jobs program: journalism.

After hours of waiting endlessly for the song and dance act to be over it will suddenly be time for the roll call to begin. This will be the chance for some brave delegate to call for a new stand by the GOP on something important. It won’t happen.

A woman no one had ever seen or heard of will begin calling the names of our 50 anachronisms, er — states.

“Madam Secretary, Alabama, the Diddly-Squat State — home of canned cling peaches and nude gopher-hunting is proud to cast its votes — ”

“–Indiana, home of the synchronized shuffleboard conference and the ‘Hoosier Daddy?’ Championship Team — cast all of its votes –”

State after state will rise to bravely strike a blow for democratic process and principle, better known as drivel.

The next time we continue our great national discussion will be in Charlotte, N.C., unless this week’s television ratings are really bad, in which case, we can expect re-runs such as ‘Great 20th Century Elections’ hosted by Tony (“The Fixer”) Scalia. Stay tuned.

Whose Century Is It, Anyway?

I grew up hearing the phrase ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’ used to jokingly dismiss a theory that was only taken seriously in centuries past. We knew later that there were no angels, no tooth fairies, and that the earth was very much older than religious literature had claimed.

Then, we were well into the 21st Century, only for some Americans, the clock seems to have been running backwards. In 2012 (an election year) we still have school boards trying to prevent the teaching of evolution and politicians seeking to build public sculpture of the Ten Commandments wherever there’s an available courthouse, schoolhouse, or outhouse.

Back in the 2008 election, you’ll recall that there were two major issues: why didn’t Barack Obama wear a flag pin in his lapel, and why couldn’t we see his birth certificate? Both of those should have been jokes long ago.

But the Bible Belt is still with us. Bumper stickers against same-sex marriage are all over the South like Kudzu.

“God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve!” I keep asking, “then who created Steve? Karl Rove?”

H.L. Mencken (who coined the phrase booboisee) and who had a low opinion of American democracy would have sat at his table at the Algonquin, laughing at this year’s spectacles. I was sort of laughing, too, until two stories brought me up short. The first was the latest mindless attack on women by the Teapotheads.

Personified by Rep. Todd Akin (MO). That’s right, Representative. This buffoon, who recently went public with his theories on rape (and therefore conception) is a member of the House and active in the House Science Committee.

Akin’s scientific discovery claims that if a rape victim really really did not like being raped, her “system” would clamp down somehow, blocking the sperm. Of course, Akin’s little Catch-22 is that if the woman did get pregnant, then she must have enjoyed it and therefore wasn’t a victim at all. She was just another blessed mother-to-be.

The other story that connected for me was the death of the Englishman Tony Nicklinson. Locked into a speechless, immobilized body for nearly six years, Nicklinson had petitioned Britain’s Highest Court permission to end his life. The man had been shown on television sobbing because the Court had said it lacked the authority to give him permission to take his life.

Well, of course, but why did they have the authority to say he couldn’t in the first place? Whose life is it, anyway?

Which brings us back to Rep. Akin, who says that my daughters can’t be allowed to have an abortion. Why not? Because God says so. Sorry, but I didn’t get His memo. In the meantime, Mr. Akin, keep your hands off our families, their bodies, and our liberties.

GOP Games

If only the world we saw in the Olympics could be found outside the stadium, for instance, in our U.S. political system.

Of course we do have some champions, as witnessed at the recent Sore Losers’ Awards ceremony held at Donald Rumsfeld Arena. After an invocational prayer by the right-wing-Reverend Rick Santorum, this year’s winners marched into the hall to the tune of “Dixie” played by the NRA Tuba Ensemble.

A silver medal went to Senator Mush McGobble for the most “no’s” in a single congressional session. Go Mush, go! A big brass stethoscope goes to the GOP Obstruction Team for all of the opportunities to solve our health problems squandered by them.

A brass thermometer was awarded to all the congressmen who’d stifled any effort to deal with global warming, calling it “junk science” and a hoax. Honorable mention goes to George W. Bush who long ago said that deficits were just “fuzzy math.”

A lead gavel went to Antonin (Tony the Phony) Scalia for election-tampering. And a special silver Super Pac Man for giving billionaires a fair chance to buy political ads on television anonymously. A two-headed silver snake was awarded to the Koch (some people say “Kook”) Brothers for their patriotic efforts to find a way to buy a congressional majority for cash.

A women’s team award for mudslinging goes to Michele Bachmann, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin and Liz Cheney with special honors to Bachmann for her Dancing Demagogue performances and her secret list of communists in Congress.

A special platinum pacemaker to “Dead Eye” Dick Cheney, who’s trying for the Trifecta in unnecessary wars hoping to score his third medal in Syria.

Last but least, the Plastic Man Mitt Romney won his award coming and going as he tried for the world record for the most positions on the most issues in any news cycle.

The winners marched out in unison to the strains of “Backward, Christian Soldiers”, led by Generalissimo John (“Boots On The Ground”) McCain.

Mitticisms

When Mitt Romney recently said he might tie Ann to the roof of the car for the Inaugural Day Parade, he was just joking! Romney also denied ever carrying their cat on trips in the glove compartment.

Mitt’s comments to Senator Harry Reid on tax returns (‘I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours’) was dismissed by Ann Romney as ‘harmless, macho joshing. People have no idea how funny Mitt is,’ she added.

The Romney staff denied that their campaign had turned down a million dollar contribution from the Scientology group because of demands that Tom Cruise be made Secretary of State. The spokesman said further that Mitt wasn’t keen on that hyper stuff including couch-jumping. He is, however, a devotee of badminton.

Romney reiterated that he does not dye his hair, just his sideburns with grey to give him gravitas.

Mitt has announced that he really does like Washington, D.C. His threat to move The Capitol to the Seychelle Islands was just another example of his rib-tickling joshing! The kind you hear in the locker rooms of the better country clubs.

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READERS WRITE: We’ve shortened this week’s posting to make room for comments by our readers. We were skeptical about this idea at first, but reading through well over 100 comments confirmed our belief that what our readership still lacks in numbers, they make up in quality.

The random selections that follow are from the first third of Eli’s Observations’ first season.

When the Republicans in Congress began ranting about the federal deficit, we decided to use their favorite terminology: ‘gate.’ What’s happened to Bill Clinton’s surplus? ‘Surplusgate’ was a hit with our readers. Here’s one:

“Surplusgate! An inspired concept! May it catch on as it opens up so many questions we have not looked at. I hope Bill Moyers is on your subscriber list.” –GATSBY, New York City

Reminding our readers that GOP candidates in Iowa were contending for a very small slice of the far right pie we used the term ‘Sliverheads.’

“Congratulations! You’ve added to our political lexicon: Sliverhead! Loved it!” -Patrice G, Maryland

” — [It] helps to create the usual them and us mentality the media so deftly uses against us when they write about those ‘slivers.’ Thanks for coining the use of ‘Sliverhead,’ Eli. Makes one think of the bigger picture.” -N. Smith, Washington, D.C.

Not all our readers had political issues —

“My pet peeve is about the loss of ‘you’re welcome.’ When did ‘no problem’ become acceptable? When I put this to customer service people, they all seem amazed and I think maybe, for a minute, I’ve made a convert but I suppose I’m just deluding myself.” -Liz B., California

Concerning Obama’s Health Care Plan …

“This essay in particular resonates with me — especially in the light of what the Teapotheads (great term!) are calling Obamacare. Especially in the light of  the Supreme Court decision on Obama’s plans.

It shouldn’t be enough to use over-simplified slogans but for many apparently that’s all it takes. Ciao, Gina.” -G. London, Italy

” — you should change the name of your blog to the 99% Club or something like that to attract the hordes of readers it richly deserves.” -Richard F., Japan

On the other hand —

“Are you suggesting that the current crop of GOP supporters are dunderheads or that they’ve always been? What would you say to the millions of Reagan Democrats or Obama Republicans?” -D.H., NYC

Millions? Really?? Well, maybe that’s a subject for a future blog.

Anyway, next week, we’ll probably return to our regular format and then try this again in a few weeks unless you really love or really hate Readers Write.

Political Doldrums

Summer has always been a bad time for the Washington press corps and assorted flacks who follow politics. In the past, if presidents had summer retreats in cooler spots (and most did) the press did not get to follow them there, even in an election year. As for members of Congress, nobody cared where they went.

Before FDR, presidents had traveled across the country to campaign in the heat of summer only if they were desperate. President Roosevelt first used the new technology of radio to campaign from The White House to wherever he was cooling off. Newspaper reporters complained that they were left sweltering in their seersucker suits in the nation’s capital, much of it situated on a swamp.

Flash forward 75 years. Washington reporters now have an air conditioned White House press area and wear open-collar shirts to work but they’re still complaining.

It’s 12:40pm on a hot, muggy Washington day. Journalists Mottsy, Pottsy, and Klutzy have just left The White House press area grumbling about a press release concerning obesity and the First Lady’s gazpacho recipe.

The GOP has already tweeted that gardens like this compete unfairly with supermarkets and agribusiness and undermine free enterprise!

“How’s this for a lead?” Mottsy muttered. “Americans say ‘no’ to zucchini and other foreign veggies!”

“Naw,” said Pottsy, “lead with Michelle. ‘First Lady Losing Rutabaga War.'”

“How about ‘White House Concerned About Leeks?’ Get it?”

“My editor wants me to lead with Congress going into recess without accomplishing anything!”

“How can you tell? The Tea Party people are like a wax museum — no action, no news!”

A man walks by the three reporters and waves dejectedly.

“Poor Flotsamhorn” — Pottsy shakes his head. “The Clarion just offered him a buy-out — ”

“He better take it!” Mottsy smirks, “MSNBC can’t handle any more consultants — ”

“You were darn lucky catching on at MSNBC — but how do you stand Chris Matthews? He asks you a seven-minute question and then interrupts your answer!”

“I know! Last week — ” Mottsy lowers his voice. “Somebody put a sign on Matthews’ door ‘Wind Power! The Future Of Journalism!’ Let’s grab some lunch at the Late Edition –”

“It’s so crowded there, nobody — ”

“Yeah, yeah — nobody goes there. Yogi Berra! Did he really say that?”

“Who the hell cares?”

Near “K” Street, the “Real Americans for Progress and Patriotism” is a Super Pac funded by the head of Pizza Mania. Three campaign consultants Brad, Cole, and Buffy sit in front of two very large posters of Mitt Romney.

One is captioned ‘the USA and Mitt — a perfect fit!’ The other is a picture of Romney in a Schwarzenegger costume and is captioned, ‘The job-creator!!’ Cole is on the phone, listening.

“I still would like just a touch more of grey at his temples,” says Buffy. “You know, life experience?”

I think,” Brad said emphatically, “we should go back to attack ads! Maybe send a crew to Chicago to dig up some dirt –”

“Guys — ” Cole hangs up. “Forget these ads. Keep them in reserve. No issue ads and no attacks on Obama.”

“No attacks??” Mottsy is baffled. “Aren’t we going to answer those tax return ads?”

Cole shakes his head decisively.

“For now, we will just follow the family around — human interest. The voters will get sick of the income tax thing. People get bored!” Cole is pondering. “Where does Ann keep that damned fancy dancing horse?”

“Gee, Cole, didn’t those Tea Party people tell us that those prancing horses were a pro-gay message?”

“Okay, forget the horses. Don’t they have a parakeet?”

“No birds. One goldfish.”

“Yeah, maybe the fish will give us a sound bite –”

Cole throws up his hands.

“Okay, okay. We go back to our secret weapon.”

“Terrorists?”

“Nope. Boredom.”

It Isn’t JUST Semantics

In the late 1940s, only a few Americans were talking about a slim book called “Language in Action,” written by a little-known Japanese-American professor named S.I. Hayakawa. Behind the book’s innocuous title was a revolutionary idea: language describing any action could actually shape that action and its effects. Now, we casually refer to this effect as semantics. If you add pictures, you have advertising. Or, rather, it has you.

Businesses had already realized that semantics could sell products on radio, products that were not necessarily good or good for you. Lifebuoy soap could conquer B.O. (body odor.) From there, it was just a step to television ads and a visual vocabulary coming together. “You get a lot to like from a Marlboro.” One more jump and we were in politics, seeing through a new semantic prism.

Candidates no longer proclaim stiffly from a podium or the largest tree stump available. (Hence, the phrase stump speech.) Any candidate worth a few bucks was presented to us surrounded by a photogenic family or perhaps perched on a tractor or a pick-up truck. What did that have to do with the issues? Nothing. “Debates” had become TV auditions. Had Nixon lost to JFK in 1960 because he perspired and had a “five o’clock shadow?” And today, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo has been criticized gingerly as perhaps being too ugly to be presidential material. What would they have thought of Abe Lincoln?

Patent Medicine salesmen had long ago learned that really wild exaggerations worked better than any other kind. Doans little liver pills had nothing to do with one’s liver and probably was just another in a long line of placebos that catch on.

An example of a modern-day placebo is “weapons of mass destruction” that made us feel better about 9/11 by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on Cheney’s bitter little pill of the Iraq invasion. We are only now realizing that this massive con-job convinced this country that they could be the world’s sheriff without even paying the bills.

In this election year, we’re being asked to buy a “job-creator” president, while his own political party tells us that government can’t create jobs. Even after Wall Street bankers brought us a massive financial failure, the snake oil salesmen tell us we need to elect a businessman!

Draft-allergic Cheney and John “Boots on the Ground” McCain urge us to trust them on foreign policy because President Obama is too weak! Their credentials include a useless war and a huge deficit. McCain also wanted us to buy a cute, sassy vice president who it turns out can’t read a newspaper without moving her lips.

Fortunately, none of the three above became president but they always have a new brand of snake oil on sale. This one is called “Romney’s Magic Economic Elixir.” Don’t buy it, folks. It won’t cure anything!