Free, free, free at last.
I have friends in Iowa, this magazine has lovely subscribers in that state, we have nothing but respect for its environs and denizens and ambience; we even harbor a grudging admiration for its successful ethanol scam skimming Treasury funds lo these decades; but none of us in the other 49 want to hear another word out of Iowa for the next four years. Enough already with the leather-skinned guys in the flannel shirts sitting in diners waiting for, in servile succession, the campaign guys to tout the candidate, the candidates to tout the state, and the reporters to solicit the impressions — thereby to tout the race. We have had enough homespun folksy wisdom from the horny-handed farmers to last several lifetimes. After keeping an eye like a hawk on the state for several months, I fully intend to ignore it with all my strength for several years.
This year, more than in past cycles, some of the ponderous voices in media, i.e. editorial page writers, have had enough, and loudly so. The prelude to the caucus was raucous in gripes against the disproportionate clout accorded to a few people in one random state. Iowa is becoming a four-letter word.
That being said, I would like to offer an eccentric view to the effect that a paradoxical situation occurred in this particular year’s event which undercut its meaningfulness. This anomaly will benefit no one more than the First Lady, Senator and best-selling authoress, H. Rodham Clinton. This candidate would have been the victim of an utter demolition in Iowa after finishing third in the balloting. Starting as a favorite and sinking so igneously and ignominiously generally bodes ill for Presidential aspirants. Finishing tertiary in the primary often leaves one in a quandary.
And yet this confounded woman, if we may echo Nero Wolfe in our chagrin, has caught yet another in a lifelong series of lucky breaks. Why? Because the Republican winner was Huckabee.
Now I am sure Mike is a lovely fellow, and in his enthusiasm he may be forgiven his Jay Leno guitar strumming. Who among us has not executed some equally goofy maneuver to attract the female vote? Still, I know one thing about him for sure, the same thing every level-headed political realist knows. His chances of winning the Republican nomination are equivalent to the likelihood that a snowball will survive the shipping over to Hades. He is having his Paul Tsongas moment, a speed bump on the not-so-long and not-so-winding road to oblivion. He has assured himself of his own private footnote in the history books and he might as well quit now while he is ahead.
Had Obama defeated Clinton on a night in which a prominent Republican contender took a first confident stride toward triumph, it would have echoed loudly across the fruited plain, the amber waves of grain, the loamy prairie soil…and the reeking vats of ethanol. Instead, all that happened, one hundred million campaign dollars later, is that Iowans will now be gently mocked in monologues and monographs everywhere for bringing a quirky sensibility to the serious business of choosing a leader. This is as big a write-off as if a write-in won.
Once again, it begins to look that she who laughs last — not to mention shrillest and most discordantly — will laugh best. Obama could theoretically not only fail to gain ground by virtue of this victory, he could lose ground. His name will be bound to Huckabee’s as the odd couple who caught the idiosyncratic idiom of those idiots in that state, what’s-its-name, you know, the one with the caucuses.
Of course, this is a consummation devoutly not to be wished. Our flesh has already been heir to a thousand natural shocks from that It-Takes-A-Hamlet woman, and we had begun perchance to dream. Maybe there could be a tomorrow without her in the public eye and, more blissfully still, without her in the public ear. Maybe we could have a real election between earnest people who genuinely seek the public good and who speak passionately to our better angels. Maybe she could be upset in the primary so we will not have to be upset later.
Not in Iowa, though. That went from debate to debacle. Yet there is always tomorrow. Perhaps some other state, another prickly individualist but one with its feet on the ground, can do her in. Shot by the voting booth in the political theater, so to speak. Take me away, then, to a woodsy Northeastern hideaway with at least a dozen letters in its name. My freedom was short-lived.