Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Poet's Questions for Obama and McCain


I think I speak for all poets when I say no one can speak for poets, who are harder to herd than cats and, in politics, are mere noise in the data, at best, and crackpots at worst.

Situated somewhere between noise in the data and cracked-pottedness, I therefore launch my questions for the only two people who seem to be semi-serious candidates for the presidency, which in my opinion has become awfully close to a dictatorship; "has become" may be naive, however, for if the Constitution started with an electoral college and by putting the head of the executive branch in charge of the whole military, then it looks like "we" always had a hankering for a Strong Executive, or Dictator Lite. In any event, the questions:

1. The obligatory--but, I would add, a deceptively useful--one: who are your favorite poets, and what are your favorite poems, and why, gentlemen? Think of how revealing the answers to this question would be. I predict McCain would refuse to answer, perhaps get angry. I predict Obama would stall, go over the options, and then go with something wry or populist, such as "Bob Dylan".

2. Specifically, what will you do to reverse the growth of secrecy and privilege in the Executive Branch. Examples include "signing statements" (meaning "I won't obey the law you just passed, but thanks for playing"); claims of privilege that block Congress's ability to look at documents and interview employees; the unprecedented growth in "classifying" documents (new ones and old ones, paper and email) as secret because of "national security"; the excessive politicalization of the Justice Department; and so on. I predict McCain would simply revel in all the expanded powers of the Exec. Branch--which have developed over decades, even if Bush II accelerated things. I predict that Obama . . . would do the same. But this is unfair of me. Let the lads speak for themselves.

3. What, exactly, and please give us the math, will you do about the three "items" that drive the budget, which seems to have grown beyond Pluto [to which the arrows point in photos accompanying this post], which isn't even a planet anymore: defense spending; Medicare; Social Security. As far as I know, the rest of the budget is, comparatively, mere fluff. Bob "Roseanne" Barr talks about cutting the Education Department, for example, which would be like cutting one whisker from a mountain man's beard, although such analogies are probably not used much in economics circles, including pie-chart circles.

4. Why shouldn't every citizen have a health plan as good as yours? This is not a rhetorical question.

5. What will you do, if anything, about spying sans warrants on American citizens? I predict McCain and Obama would both mumble something platitudinous--and then leave the system as Bush created it. Both seem in favor of the current FISA bill, for example.

6. Okay, what will you do about torture? How about an Executive Order, written on your first day in D.C., outlawing it? I predict that whether it's Obama or McCain in office, the torturing and "rendering," also known as kidnapping as a prelude to torture, will continue.

7. Who's your favorite philosopher and why? I predict both lads would go for the joke here, if they answered at all. Neither would mention the name of a vaguely legitimate philosopher. But as with the poetry question, think of how revealing the answer would be!

8. What is the lie you told in your life (so far) that you regret the most?

9. Specifically, what will you do to roll back all the anti-trust excesses, including those in the oil industry and the media? I predict neither has any interest in dismantling media conglomerates.

10. What is the biggest line of bullshit you've uttered so far in your quest to become president? Nothing personal here, lads. Everybody knows all candidates have to speak bullshit to get elected, or just to pass the time, or to give the frenzied crowds what they want. Which line of bullshit do you yourself have trouble saying?

11. Speaking of Pluto, as we did in #3, will you promise to reinstate it as a planet? I realize the territory known as "Pluto" isn't strictly under American control, but that has rarely seemed to be an obstacle in American foreign policy, and we're just talking about restoring planetary status, not occupying the place.
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