Words fail Leaguer Blaise Pascal quite decorously in his post on Clint Eastwood as a King Lear figure. To steal one of Blaise’s key quotes:
I am a very foolish fond old man,
Fourscore and upward, not an hour more or less;
And, to deal plainly,
I fear I am not in my perfect mind.
The best tweet of a night of billions of ‘em came from Jamelle Bouie: “This is a perfect representation of the campaign: an old white man arguing with an imaginary Barack Obama.” It’s a sad-funny rather than tragic observation, at least so far, but it’s not sad-funny just for Clint and the Rs. The seemingly random mistake, putting the octogenarian up there to speak off his decidedly frayed cuff, becomes typical not just for the Romney campaign but for the epoch as the campaign embodies it. The unifed R message, the message of R and R but of all the Rs for years now, well-represented in their last presidential candidate and the Tea Party, is the ludicrous and insane notion that we can and should want to pretend that our Clint-nation can start all over again as a bunch of young singing cowboys catching a break – or even as older ones at the peak of their careers. That one was last seen riding into the sunset, now available only as a hologram. The Marlboro Man died of cancer, and it’s only our failing faculties that prevent us from keeping the fact in mind. The difficulty for the Obama campaign or any campaign is that being aware that there is no easy answer, and that acting as though there might be one might makes things much worse, is not the same as actually possessing the answer or even a good answer. Better to celebrate what we have left, as though relative decline is not true decline, or just the decline of obsolete ideas – not quite admitting that something once beloved and believed in is, slowly as can be withstood, being put to rest. My guess is still that fatalism and the pleasures of retirement will win out over panicky desperation and magical thinking, but the thought of irreversibility, permanence, and extinction is the very thing that induces panicky desperation and magical thinking.