Friday, October 31, 2008

McCain? Obama? Bueller? Bueller?

Ben Stein first became mainstream due to his cameo in...anyone?...anyone?...Ferris Bueller's Day off. Before his career in show business, however, he was a successful economist, attorney, and early on wrote speeches writer for Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He's bright, well-educated, influential, funny and memorable. And he's rich.

Whenever I see him, though, I can only think of his old game show, Win Ben Stein's Money. It was a light-hearted quiz show aired on Comedy Central from 1997 until 2002. Stein turned his monotone delivery and robotic brain into a surprisingly adept comedic delivery.

I guess a business suit and a comedy routine impresses the hell out of me, because I've always liked this guy. Perhaps that's a bit of a commentary on the influence of popular culture on a person...more likely though it's a comment on my maturity. But the point is that now he shows up on all the cable news networks and makes a case for conservative values. I haven't agreed with most of the things I've heard him say, but I still like the guy and respect his opinion.

But last night he was on Larry King Live, and he finally lost me. Here's the transcript:

STEIN: There are a lot of flaws in Senator McCain's life. There have been a lot of flaws in his campaign, but this is a guy who gave his youth, his strength, his health for us when I was living it up on the campus of Yale and smoking dope. He was getting tortured and beat up and having his arms broken for the people of the United States of America. I will never turn my back on him.

KING: That's not a reason to vote for him.

STEIN: Yes, it is a reason to vote for him.

KING: It is?

STEIN: It is, because I think he's a person of magnificent character.

KING: So if I found someone more injured --

STEIN: No, if you found another presidential candidate who was even more of a war hero then I would be very, very impressed. He's been a maverick all his life. He's the most heated man in the Senate because he crosses party lines and he's not a reliable party hack. I will never turn my back on him.

So let me get this straight...having been tortured while in the service of ones country automatically qualifies the individual for president. And if I should dare to “turn my back on him” then presumably I am unpatriotic. By that logic it would seem the prisoners of Abu Ghraib would be qualified to become John's chief advisors.

I don't know what makes a war hero. Certainly respect goes out to anyone who suffers the kind of abuse McCain did. But how does that make him more qualified for office? Must we give such a man whatever he dreams because failing to do so would be somehow inhumane? The moral of this story is completely ridiculous, and it is the first half the entire McCain campaign. The entire campaign is as follows: WAR HERO. MAVERICK. WAR HERO. UH...MAVERICK!

And that's all you get. War hero? Irrelevant. And maverick? Let's see...

A Maverick is “One who creates or uses unconventional and/or controversial ideas or practices.”1 That's pretty broad. And it's neither a good nor a bad thing. Eating soup with a fork would make you a maverick. For that matter, telling the truth in a political campaign would also make you a maverick. But none of that matters in this example because McCain isn't one. Granted, he's had plenty of unconventional ideas, but doesn't USE any of them. He made being unpopular an art, with both parties. But to become a Republican president you have to get the support of the GOP. So whatever unconventional tendencies he may have had were gone by the time he started his campaign in 2006. (Watch this video for some fun examples.)

So I'm sorry Ben Stein, but this is not about electing someone who uses controversial practices. No one of that type is even on the ticket. So why don't we choose someone who is willing to use proven, functional methods in stead? Furthermore, it is not about honoring John McCain, for crying out loud. That's what his however many medals of honor were for. (Obama would do better by the veterans, too, mind you.)

Immediately following Stein's statement, Arianna Huffington said:

HUFFINGTON: You know, this is actually a very interesting point because Ben is talking about voting on a candidate's story. And last night during the half hour infomercial, Obama is asking for the American people's vote based on reviving the American dream and this is really the distinction and that's what I think is going to determine what happens on Tuesday.

So this election is about honoring ourselves. It's about restoring our global reputation. It's about releasing the middle class from the financial strangle-hold created by the Bush tax cuts and the war in Iraq. I guess you could even say it's about winning Ben Stein's money. Let's all play along.

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So what do you think?