Two American myths died over the weekend: Bigfoot, and the invincibility of President Bush’s political powers of persuasion.
Bigfoot was exposed as a put-on by the family of Ray L. Wallace, who himself passed away in late November at age 84. The family says Wallace was playing a trick on a bulldozer operator for the Wallace Construction company in 1958 in Humboldt County, California. Wallace had some giant humanoid feet carved out of alder wood and he and brother Wilbur stomped around the ‘dozer, leaving 16-inch footprints the Humboldt Times in Eureka dubbed “Bigfoot.” A credulous nation, then the world, adopted the American version of the Abominable Snowman, and the possibility of an uncharted creature stomping around America’s forests was off and running.
The November off-year elections created the other myth: that President Bush’s popularity could actually unseat a comely blonde Democratic Senator from Louisiana and put in her place a sterner Republican brunette hand-picked by the GOP to do the job in a run-off election. Defeating Mary Landrieu became an all-ups effort. Sent into the state were President Bush, his father and mother, Vice President Cheney, Rudolph Giuliani and Bob Dole as well as bags of money. Polls indicated the GOP candidate, Suzanne Terrell, had closed the gap and in fact had winning momentum. Wrong. As wrong as that analyst that insisted Everybody.com would reach 300.
Not only can outsiders not pronounce “Louisiana” to the satisfaction of natives (it presents some of the difficulties of “Louisville” to the untutored tongue), but also they overestimate the persuasive powers anybody from that foreign state of Texas can bring to bear in the Pelican State (not “Bayou State” as your own seventh grade teacher thought). A Texas dog don’t hunt in Louisiana, which shares but one thing in common with Texas — a border.
Outsiders might have thought bringing Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters in from California to canvas the state might be a Landrieu mistake. But wrong again. Where do you think the black population of Los Angeles came from, anyway? Clipper ships? No, a sizable portion hailed from Louisiana which produced periodic waves of out-migration to that more salubrious environment and there remains an affinity between La. and L.A.
There is more. Much of Louisiana’s economy lies offshore. Thus the prospect of seizing Iraq by its oily throat loses some appeal. Firing the administration’s top echelon of economic advisers on the very verge of the election may not have been a confidence builder, either. Though heavily Roman Catholic, the state’s southern reaches are a laid-back, Europeanized Catholicism where the subject of abortion may not resonate as some politicians would guess. How many states’ major cities would be comfortable in the appellation, “The Big Easy”? “Light Sweet Crude” may be a traded petrol commodity, but I swear I saw her dance one night in New Orleans.
The above are cited as needed excuses for those pundits whose catechism in Bush political omnipotence can use some edits this week.
To them another word of cheer. There are still those with utmost confidence in the existence of Bigfoot. An Idaho professor insists he has 40 or 50 casts of footprints that he believes were made by some real unknown primates. You just gotta believe.