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There are the known knows, the known unknowns, the unknown unknowns, and the shit you just make up

Last night’s debate was very dull, which seems to be good for my candidate. Before the thing started, I remarked to my Best Reader that it was a new feeling, going into a presidential debate knowing that the Story of What Happened was almost certain to be good for my side. I figured that if John McCain attempted something dramatic to shake things up, the Story would be that people found him cranky and erratic, and if he failed to attempt something dramatic, the Story would be that he should have done something dramatic to shake things up. It’s odd; I don’t think that it’s been so clear that the master narrative is on the side of the Democrat during my political lifetime. A whole new world. A temporary one, but that’s probably for the best, too.

Anyway, the thing that really stood out for me was John McCain’s hectoring insistence that he knows everything.

And we’ve got to give some trust and confidence back to America. I know how to do that, my friends. And it’s my proposal, it’s not Senator Obama’s proposal, it’s not President Bush’s proposal. But I know how to get America working again, restore our economy and take care of working Americans. Thank you.

Twice there.

You’re going to be examining our proposals tonight and in the future, and energy independence is a way to do that, is one of them. And drilling offshore and nuclear power are two vital elements of that. And I’ve been supporting those and I know how to fix this economy, and eliminate our dependence on foreign oil, and stop sending $700 billion a year overseas.

That’s three.

We’re going to have to sit down across the table, Republican and Democrat, as we did in 1983 between Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill. I know how to do that.


Look, I—I was on Navy ships that had nuclear power plants. Nuclear power is safe, and it’s clean, and it creates hundreds of thousands of jobs. And—and I know that we can reprocess the spent nuclear fuel.


By the way, my friends, I know you grow a little weary with this back-and-forth.

I’m not going to count that one, although I probably should; it isn’t a claim of special knowledge like the others, but it does convey the omniscience that was getting up my nose.

So you have to temper your decisions with the ability to beneficially affect the situation and realize you’re sending America’s most precious asset, American blood, into harm’s way. And, again, I know those situations. I’ve been in them all my life.


But the point is that I know how to handle these crises. And Senator Obama, by saying that he would attack Pakistan, look at the context of his words. I’ll get Osama bin Laden, my friends. I’ll get him. I know how to get him. I’ll get him no matter what and I know how to do it.

Three more. That’s nine, all before the pseudo-zen question of what he doesn’t know, which of course brings out all the stuff he does know, like, everything.

I know what it’s like in dark times. I know what it’s like to have to fight to keep one’s hope going through difficult times. I know what it’s like to rely on others for support and courage and love in tough times. I know what it’s like to have your comrades reach out to you and your neighbors and your fellow citizens and pick you up and put you back in the fight.

This might be rhetorically convincing if, in fact, Senator McCain actually knew some stuff. The idea that he knows how to fix the economy is preposterous. The idea that he knows how to ‘get’ Osaba bin Laden is not only preposterous but, coupled with his obvious refusal to share that knowledge with Our Only President, offensive. The idea that he knows anything at all about the technical aspects of nuclear power is beyond preposterous, and the idea that he knows it because he has been on nuclear powered submarines is like claiming you know something about international relations because you live near an international border. Or, I suppose, claiming you know how to win wars because you were once taken prisoner in one.

But the connection I made in my own imagination, actually, was with the middle-aged middle manager who strides to the copy machine, shouldering the secretary out of the way, saying “I know how to make copies!” In my office experience, that ends with a paper jam, and sometimes with a call to the service guy.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Amen. The Daily Show was terrific on this point last night; I thought of you.

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