Ben Stein's Diary

Leaving Sandpoint

So long, small town America.

By 7.30.10

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Tuesday
Here I am at the Seattle airport. After ten days in Sandpoint, Idaho, it is a mighty big shock. Sandpoint is so up, so cheerful, so friendly, so calm, it's like being in a very happy high school. The people at SEA-TAC all look extremely guarded and defensive. They look like they would punch you if you said, "Hello" to them. They look as if they were late for their Valium. In Sandpoint every single person greets me by name. No one ever seems angry.

But it's more than that. Men and women just look terrified at this airport. Is it the recession? The Iranians? The endless wars? I naturally called my brilliant pal, Barron Thomas, to ask his opinion.

"In times of trouble, people look for a daddy to lead them. They want a strong father figure and that's not Barack Obama. He is many things but not that. So people are scared and there's no father to take care of them. "

Brilliant, as expected. In 1975 I was at a conference at the Aspen Institute. A high ranking shrink from the Harvard Medical School said that people had turned on Nixon because he was a weak but dominant father figure, as opposed to Ike, who was strong and accommodating. Great insight. What is Obama? Maybe a would be-pal. What is he, psychologically? Requires more thought.

Wednesday
Larry King Live today. I was on with two women and a man talking about the Arizona Federal District Court decision enjoining some parts of that state's controversial law about illegal immigration. I was staggered at the sharp edge of the conversation. I was just jolted. At the break, I tried to think why it was such a shock. After all, I have been on hundreds of talk shows -- but not after spending most of the summer in small town Idaho.

I realized that it was because people in Sandpoint do not pick fights. Conversations are about boats and weather and fishing. No one wants to argue and no one does. That is small town America. I think it's the way America still is in many places. But it's not that way on TV except maybe on CBS Sunday Morning, which is an extremely polite show, sort of like a conversation on the perfect, beautiful lake next to Sandpoint. I am probably more suited to life in Hollywood. But Sandpoint is a nice way to go, too.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.