Every Tuesday, Gene publishes weekly updates to his chats.
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On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.
Greetings, update readers.
By now, the whole liberal world has obsessively analyzed President Obama’s dismal performance in Debate One. We have said “debate debacle” aloud many times, reducing it to a rather pleasant sound, but that hasn’t helped. We have theorized about what went wrong and why, speculated on how and whether he can resurrect his flagging campaign, imagined with varying degrees of horror the contours of a Romney-administration plutocracy (pure, heartless capitalism in which economic disparities are adjusted by letting the rich pay for the succulent babies of the poor), etc. Yes, most people like me remember what they were doing at the moment Obama began to stink up the room like an old dog with a sour stomach.
I do, too. My thoughts were a little different from any I have read elsewhere, though I’ve no doubt that there are others out there who went through the same internal dialogue.
It started as an “uh-oh” when Obama opened with a mortifyingly lame joke about his wedding anniversary. It coalesced into something more tangible when he answered the first bald-faced lie with a duck of the head and a sudden fascination with the tops of his shoes, like a little boy caught doing something shameful. It reached a level of certitude at his fifteenth or sixteenth “ummm,” which came in the fourth or fifth minute and which was followed by a spate of tentative, defensive semi-demi-quaver answers that would make me long for the comparative masterfulness of “ummm.”
I said to my family: “He knows something we don’t. And it’s very, very bad.”
It’s all I could think of, and I really thought it. Obama was showing all the clinical signs of depression. It was as though the entire layer of denial of death – the thing that keeps us sane, moving us forward day after day despite knowledge that our time on earth is an existential nightmare, lives of indeterminate purpose ending in likely decrepitude and certain death – it was as if all that denial had all slid from his brain, leaving him eyeball to eyeball with the ghastly, shuddering truth we confront at our own peril and that turns us mad. Obama had to know we were doomed; that nothing made sense anymore, particularly some pointless forensic charade in front of cameras, that it was time for huddling with our families, weeping, and taking what small solace we can from the gift of love.
But no. He was president. He could not panic the masses. He had a pretense to maintain. So that is what he did: He gave a flat, dutiful, lackluster performance. He was a man going through the motions, a man enduring the moment, not seizing it.
What was the huge secret? My first thought, of course, as yours would have been: Alien invasion. Perhaps one had already begun. But then I realized that was preposterous. Incumbent presidents love war. Obama would have seized such a moment and made it his, to appear in charge; besides, in some ways an alien invasion plays to a liberal politician’s pixie-dust dream of global harmony – all nations, capitalists and communists, Hutus and Tutsis, yoked by our common humanity, cooperating as one to defeat an outside aggressor!
So It had to be worse than that. An alien invasion at least offered Hope.
It had to be a mortal challenge beyond our ability to address. As asteroid the size of Rhode Island on a collision course with Earth? Impossible. We know where all the big, Earth-ending asteroids are; one couldn't take us by surprise. My mind scattered and came up with the plotline to the terrible 2008 Sci-Fi movie “2012." Had it been weirdly prescient? Is it in fact possible that scientists had learned that a bombardment of neutrinos from a massive solar flare were heating the Earth’s core?
Had Obama just been briefed on this? Did he know that a day of apocalyptic earthquakes and landslides was inevitable, covering the Earth’s surface with water and drowning all sentient life? That only simple undersea organisms would survive, eventually evolving into a second humanoid population, around the year 1,394,006 AD, though the primitives of the time would know it as Year 1?
It seemed to make sense! It would explain this.
Now, it turns out there doesn’t seem to be any such apocalyptic explanation. If we are to believe the insiders, this was simply a strategic misfire; the president wanted to seem presidential, aloof, in command, while, alas, he projected Porky Pig.
All of this explains why I am no longer deeply disturbed about the current state of affairs. Sure a new poll today suggests Romney is surging, and the baby-eating economy might be just around the corner. But think of the bullet we dodged.