The bulk of this post was written on Thursday evening (its conclusion was postponed due to a political debate I got into with my German colleague, in which I was cast in the role of George Bush's defender just call me mister D.A.), although this bit and probably a couple of other bits were written on Sunday night.
I should probably point out that I only saw the last 10 minutes of the Cheney/Edwards debate, but have no fear I won't let a lack of first-hand information stop me from commenting on it. The 10 minutes I saw were terribly dull, John Edwards waffled on about his father learning to read and Dick Cheney tried to convince us all that we could die any second from a terrorist attack. (Incidentally the fear-mongering that's going on really does work. A few weeks back my Republican artist neighbour told me that we are currently engaged in the Third World War. Which I thought was a little bit excessive... but what do I know?) Apparently I missed all the fun stuff about Cheney's gay daughter.
One of the things that caused all manner of media fuss in the aftermath of the debate was Cheney's assertion that he'd never met Edwards before that night. Unsurprisingly this turned out to be not entirely true, surely every politician in Washington has run into everyone other one at some point in time, and they'd met a few times before, including at a prayer breakfast (footage of which was liberally splashed across front pages and television screens). Personally I don't care if Cheney lied, or whether it was deliberate. He's a politician. Politicians lie. But I do have a couple of questions. Firstly, what the hell is a prayer breakfast? And secondly, and more importantly, why is nobody but me scared that both of the vice presidential candidates were at a bloody prayer breakfast? I realize they both weren't V.P. candidates at the time, but still a prayer breakfast. Sometimes I feel like the only non-religious crazy (as in the only person who is not a religious crazy, and not the only crazy who is not religious) left in America.
On the subject of religious crazies, I had a chat with Big Greg the other night. It was, um... interesting. (I should point out that he's a lovely guy, maybe not the sharpest tack in the box, but seems like the wouldn't hurt a fly kind of bloke.) A few (paraphrased) highlights of the conversation were:
"the only good thing a Democrat could do, would be shoot himself"; "Democrats are the baby murderers"; "a woman should be at home pleasing her man (in reference to Hillary Clinton)"; "9/11 was all Bill Clinton's fault"; "... (with regards to Muslims) if they were all Christian we wouldn't have these problems with them"; It was all very interesting/scary (delete as applicable).
Since I started writing this on Thursday, we have also had the second presidential debate, which I watched in a packed Victorian's Midnight Cafe on Friday night. Truth be told, I don't remember much about the debate, this might have something (which I saw today can be spelled summat, in certain English dialects including my own, possibly) to do with the fact I consumed a not insignificant quantity of alcoholic beverages. The only thing I truly remember about the debate was that somebody asked a question about abortion. Now I don't remember what the question was, but I just never cease to be amazed that abortion is an issue in America. Such an important an issue that it is considered one of the twenty, or so, questions that the two men vying to be president are asked to answer.
The most memorable thing about Friday night was chatting to a vehement Bush supporter. She was a friend of a friend, and was, shall we say, a lady whose years were somewhat more advanced than my own. One of the reasons that she preferred Bush was, of course, abortion. She mentioned something about there being an extra 60 million people who could have been contributing to my social security (I didn't want to mention that I would almost certainly never be claiming social, due to my non-American, probably going to fuck off home to Blighty, nature) if it wasn't for abortion. Then she said asked how many of those people could have been geniuses, naturally I countered by enquiring how many of them would have been serial killers (a pointless discussion on both sides, I think you'll agree).
At an earlier stage in the evening, the lady recounted a couple of stories which, she felt, went to the heart of Bush's character and why he was a good man to be President. The first was about some blokey, exactly who the man in question was has been lost in the mists of my mind, who visited our beloved Mr. Bush in the Oval Office. This visit occurred shortly after the man in question's wife had died. Apparently Mr Bush asked what was wrong and then prayed with the man, and let the man cry on his shoulder, dishevelling his suit (this in particular she was terribly impressed with). The second story involved a woman from Columbus (I wanted to write a Columbus woman, but didn't for some reason... well, obviously, after that I did) who's dying of cancer, or some other nasty terminal disease. Apparently, this woman was too sickly to go and see President Bush, when he visited Columbus, so her husband went in her stead. After Bush had given his speech to the collected assembly, wherever and whoever they may have been, the husband approached Mr Bush and asked for his signature, such that he could take it home to his dying wife. Later that evening when the husband returned home, he told his wife that he had the signature of the President of the United States of America for her, and she promptly burst in to tears. When she had recovered her composure she told her husband that the President of the United States of America had just phoned her. During her conversation with Bush, he offered her his condolences, regarding her illness, and said she would be in his prayers.
Even I, something of Kerry supporter, have to admit these are nice stories (although a little heavy on the prayer side), particularly the second one. But taking the time to speak to a dying lady is, to my mind at least, neither a prerequisite nor a particularly useful quality for a president. Sure, I'd like a world leader to be compassionate to individuals, but I'd prefer a leader who looked at the global picture and made the best decisions... for everyone. The former we have presently, I'd like to think, if John Kerry is elected, we'll have the latter. I may be wrong. (Before any crazy Kerry supporters complain that Mr Kerry is also the former, I'm not claiming the Bush is more compassionate than Kerry, I'm just relaying stories that have been told to me. Bush supporters tend to look for a more personal sort of justification, in their dealings with me at least.)