Sunday, September 14, 2008



"We have been approaching this presidential race the wrong way. It’s not political science. It’s science fiction. Something is amiss in the space-time continuum"

Tony Cenicola
Gail Collins
David Brooks
New York Times

September 12, 2008

The candidates running now are not the same ones we started out with. It’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” all over again. We’re watching the clash of the pod people.

The first hint that things were not what they seemed came when Barack Obama turned into Hillary Clinton. We believe this was engineered by Hillary fans who had seen that early “Star Trek” episode about the woman who wanted to be a starship commander so bad that she figured out a way to switch brains with Captain Kirk. They did not anticipate, however, that the new “Barack” would start giving boring policy speeches and muttering about inexperienced people coming out of nowhere, fooling the voters with oblique promises of change.

Gov. Sarah Palin had only been on the Republican ticket about a week before she became a totally different person. Did you see her being interviewed by Charlie Gibson about foreign policy, trying to slither away from saying anything controversial and rewriting her own history whenever it suited her? She has obviously been replaced by a Sarah shell, stuffed with bits and pieces of John Kerry and Mitt Romney.

The replacement, in fact, announced itself on national TV. Why else, when Palin was describing being asked to run for vice president, did she keep insisting: “I didn’t blink.”

When Gibson suggested that she didn’t believe global warming was caused by human behavior, the replicate rebelled. “Show me where I have ever said that there’s absolute proof that nothing that man has ever conducted or engaged in has had any effect or no effect on climate change. I have not said that,” she insisted.

And, in fact, she had never said any such thing. It was the earlier, earthling Sarah Palin who said that she was not “an Al Gore doom-and-gloom environmentalist blaming the changes in our climate on human activity.” The new one just wants the world to know that the fact that she didn’t have a passport until last year is a positive sign that she is not part of the Washington elite.

The old Sept. 3 version of Sarah Palin had foreign-policy experience because she controlled the Alaska National Guard. The new one has foreign-policy experience because she knows a lot about natural gas pipes. (“Energy is the foundation of national security.”)

The current Sarah Palin does an excellent job of imitating the original when it comes to social issues and the soft stuff. And if she’s been editing her biography, there have been plenty of helpers. “She sold the airplane; she fired the chef,” John McCain said on Friday, explaining why his running mate would be an agent of change in Washington.

If you fire the governor’s chef and then charge the state a per diem for every night you sleep in your own house, does that make you an agent of change or Charles Rangel’s accountant? And the airplane, of course, was sold so ineptly that Palin should have been encouraged to consider a new career in the home finance industry.

Still, you cannot blame McCain for misrepresentation. He has mutated into so many different versions over the past few months, his memory banks are probably totally shot.

The real senator from Arizona was apparently replaced by a cranky android sometime last spring. The switch came to light when the android McCain conducted an interview with Time in which he seemed to be channeling Grandpa Simpson. He refused to say what he meant by the word “honor,” snarling: “I defined it in five books. Read my books.” When asked whether he missed the old John-and-the-reporters-gabbing-on-the-bus way of doing things, he snapped: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Now, the Republicans have acquired a warmer, gender-gap-closing Johnbot, which seems to have gotten its programming from those TV series in which sensitive men spend all their time applauding their girlfriends’ achievements and talking about feelings. This week, when he was not busy appearing in ads denouncing Obama as a person who is mean to Sarah Palin, “McCain” has been hanging out with Rachael Ray and chatting with “The View” hosts.

But we’ve still got the original Joe Biden, I think. Show me the artificial life form that would introduce a state senator confined to a wheelchair by urging him to “stand up.” We worried that once Obama’s running mate got out on the campaign trail and started babbling, he’d have to be replaced by a terser model. But this week, when Biden announced that Hillary Clinton was not only qualified to be vice president, she also “might have been a better pick than me,” we knew for sure we were still working with the original.