Monday, March 17, 2008

Themes like Old Times

This morning's newspapers, local, regional and national are filled with wire service speculation on why the presumptive Republican party nominee for President, Senator John McCain, was in Iraq this past weekend. Perhaps he was having sinus problems? Oh no, that's right. He comes from a desert state.

Perhaps he was there to see as best as he could what there is to see of what may be a major point of contention come this fall's election. I would assume we'll see whomever the Democrats finally agree upon doing the same thing. What's really interesting to me is how many others hitch their stars to a wagon that may not even be traveling in their direction. Press accounts speak of the number of Iraq government officials who met, were eager to meet or whom scheduling did not permit to meet, with McCain since all of them realize you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. It did seem a bit blustery in Baghdad from the footage I was watching.

I found the 'theme' for this year's election over the weekend. Presidential campaigns have used slogans and themes practically from the beginnings of the Republic. We've had chants of 'Van, Van is a used-up man' (that Ben Harrison had quite the ear for rhymes) through (one of my personal favorites) 'Fifty-Four Forty or Fight' (if you're living in British Columbia, sorry for the shiver. And by the way, why is that region called British Columbia anyway? Do you have the Medellin cartel there, but with flannel shirts and watch caps?).

The Reagan campaign in 1984, in a remarkable display of tin-ear, somewhat symbolic of the approach to almost all issues, ranging from AIDS through nuclear disarmament, attempted to use Springteen's Born in the USA as an anthemic rallying cry. The only guy who bought that sales pitch, as I recall, was George Will and that may have only been because that was the day his bow tie was on a little too tight. It would have made as much sense as Bob Dole using West Side Story's America. Maybe more, come to think of it.

Campaign themes became important when the Governor of Arkansas, William Clinton, was in the process in 1992 of unseating a victorious warlord who hadn't quite grasped the US economy had lost its driving wheel. Borrowing that most amazing hybrid of all bands, the California-British Fleetwood Mac's Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow), Mr. Clinton didn't stop thinking about tomorrow for eight years (though, we were to learn there were other things he thought about with greater frequency and the International Fabricare Institute Association of Dry Cleaners considers him a saint).

I'm always impressed with how often auslanders can capture a notion better than natives. For many in the Seventies, The Band were the quintessential American Band, and Steve Simels, in Stereo Review, tongue only partially in cheek suggested they were the the only band who could have played at Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The Band were from Canada, but we were to not be denied.

I bought Ian Hunter's Shrunken Heads Saturday and it alternates with James McMurtry's compilation, Best of the Sugarhill Years, in my car CD player at max vol. I can really crank it for a geezer. All candidates, and citizens, should rally round his track, Soul of America, which does so many things so exquisitely well you forget how cranky and crazy Hunter can be and often is.
It can be a cautionary tale perhaps, but there's optimism and redemption to those who dare.

"And them good old boys in their three piece suits
Feathering their nests while they're rallying the troops
They cut off the flowers, don't worry 'bout the roots
Eroding the soul of America."

Yeah them wild boys 'n' red, white and blue
Them wild boys gotta get the message through.
Come hell or high water, we're all rooting for you.
And let's rock the soul of America."

JP offers two bucks a share-quite a drop from Fifty-Four Forty (or Fight). Talk about a fire sale.
-bill kenny

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