Burt Prelutsky

One of the worst things about finding ourselves in the midst of a presidential race is that it distracts us from baseball. Perhaps if I lived in Boston or New York, I could find people who’d care to discuss the relative merits of Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon, but, unfortunately, I live in L.A., where large numbers of so-called fans regularly leave Dodger Stadium during the seventh or eighth inning in order to beat the traffic.

But it’s not just baseball that tends to get short shrift every four years. For instance, somebody told me that the U.S. recently forgave a loan we had made to Mexico. I’ve been unable to confirm the rumor, but I know we’ve done it in the past, so I have no good reason to doubt it. It does seem to me we’re awfully darn generous to a country that sells us oil at retail prices, but supplies us with their chronically unemployed at a wholesale rate.

Just in case you happened to miss it, China was found to have been supplying one of our pharmaceutical companies with an ingredient used in Heparin that caused hundreds of people to suffer adverse reactions, killing a number of them. It’s almost enough to make one long for the good old days when China seemed satisfied to just ship us toys that were potentially lethal.

What I’d like to know is when was it exactly that we adopted China and Mexico, or, for that matter, decided it was a good idea to blow billions of dollars combating AIDS in Africa, billions that could have better been spent trying to find cures for cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Much attention was given to Jenna Bush’s apparent decision to turn her back on John McCain in favor of the current left-wing heartthrob, Barack Obama. Some pundits wondered whether that might impact other young voters. My own reaction was that it might indeed influence the likes of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, assuming they had any idea there was an election taking place.

Still, the question of endorsements has long intrigued me. The media always makes a big deal out of them, but, then, as you may have noticed, the media makes a big deal out of everything. But, really, does anyone, aside from perhaps Mrs. Robert Reich, care which Democrat the token Munchkin from Bill Clinton’s cabinet is backing? And if Gov. Bill Richardson, for instance, had the power to influence voters, how was it he could persuade so few to vote for him when he, himself, was actually in the race?

People who are supporting Barack Obama insist on pooh-poohing those folks who have made an issue of the fact that Obama didn’t show proper respect to the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance or the flag. They insisted that those were all inconsequential matters and that there were far more important issues that were being ignored. Well, in defense of those who were offended by Obama’s rather cavalier attitude towards our nation’s symbols, I would say it’s he who has made a point of avoiding issues. Instead of sharing his miraculous solutions to Islamic terrorism, a weak economy and illegal immigration, like a windup toy or a very backward parrot, he just keeps repeating, “Hope” and “Change.”

The fact of the matter is that dealing with major issues is only part of the president’s job. He is also, himself, like the flag and the Pledge and the Anthem, a symbol of our nation. Which is the reason that so many people were so deeply offended by Clinton’s tawdry behavior in the Oval Office.

Issues are certainly important, but issues change. When George W. Bush was first elected, 9/11 was still months off and, therefore, dealing with Islamic terrorism on our home turf didn’t appear to be at the top of anyone’s agenda. It wasn’t that long ago that the housing market was in great shape, and nobody gave a second thought to sub-prime loans. And how many people would have guessed last winter that gasoline would soon be nearly as expensive as their precious bottled water?

Nobody knows what issues will dominate our attention during the next four months, let alone the next four years. In short, a nation’s issues change far more frequently than does a man’s character. That’s why it makes far more sense to consider the man than the party platform when casting a ballot.

Thus, when you couple Obama’s apparent disdain for America’s symbols with the fact that he sat in Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church for 20 years, is married to a woman who despises this country, and has a friendly relationship with a former member of the bomb-tossing Weathermen, it’s hard not to assume the worst about the Democratic frontrunner. That’s why it’s so perplexing to see so many Americans supporting this guy.

Recently, though, I saw Tiger Woods in a TV commercial. Mr. Woods, who, like Mr. Obama, is of mixed parentage, is tall, thin, has a pleasant smile and speaks well. As if hit by a thunderbolt, it occurred to me that possibly millions of Obama’s fans confuse the world’s worst candidate with the world’s best golfer. I realize that, if taken the wrong way, his disciples could think that I’m out to insult their intelligence. But nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, I believe that confusing the candidate with the golfer is the best, in fact the only, reason I can possibly imagine for supporting Barack Obama this coming November.




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