This morning I awoke and sat here at my word processor and tried to remember what it was that was supposed to make this day special for so many New Hampshire Republicans.
Oh, yeah! Right. John McCain is favoring us with a visit. In my mind’s ear, I hear the voice of Danny Kadingo, a reluctant Marine in Vietnam, skipping around the mess hall as he heralded the pending arrival of some self-important member of the brass.
"The general is coming today, today! The general is coming, hooray! Hooray!"
Hey, is this a big deal or what? McCain is coming to New Hampshire. To Saint Anselm College on the outskirts of Manchester, the state’s largest city. It is such a big deal that none of us is allowed to drive over there or park our cars anywhere near the place. To get to the McCain rally, you’re supposed to drive over to a mall parking lot a few miles away and take shuttle bus over to the college. And for a 9 a.m. rally, you’re supposed to arrive at that mall parking lot at 6:30 a.m.
Imagine that! Two and half hours before the event you have to be there in the mall parking lot at the break of dawn. Wait for the bus. Wait to get over there. Get there and wait for McCain’s arrival. Wait to notice how old he looks. Wait to notice that wife Cindy does not look as young as she does on television. Wait to see which Boston or network newsperson or camera guy is going to block your view. Then, finally, listening to all the rhetoric, waiting for a single sensible thought and remembering the story Ronald Reagan used to tell about a kid opening a closet on Christmas morning and cheerfully digging through the pile of manure he found there in the expectation that, "There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!"
Listening to McCain, will anyone hear a thought or a summons to a thought? Will it be scary? You might recall the musical non-thought he attempted to sing when he said, "Bomb, bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran."
"There’s going to be more wars," McCain said matter-of-factly. There is? Great! Vote for McCain in the expectation of more wars. How many? Pick a number. Just be at a rally on Election Night, cheering for a McCain-Palin victory.
"Four more wars! Four more wars!"
But today’s rally is like the Thirty Years War. From the time the McCaniacs arrive at the mall parking lot to the time they get back to it will be like, what, six hours? What is this supposed to be, the Super Bowl? Will there be instant replay in case McCain fumbles a line on the way to the end zone? Will there be Frito Lays commercials? How about Bob Dole pitching Viagra? How about Bob Dole pitching Elizabeth Dole, the senator from North Carolina?
"Sure, how far do you want me to throw her?"
That’s okay, Bob. I think the voters of North Carolina will take care of that.
But back to New Hampshire. All those hours to listen to McCain say nothing we haven’t heard him say already — over and over again. He is not going to reinvent himself now, not with less than two weeks until Election Day. Even Nixon didn’t do that. And who can remember how many times there was a "New Nixon" to disbelieve between 1952 and 1968? Hubert Humphrey was rightly contemptuous of a man so hollow and so plastic he could reinvent himself repeatedly to advance his political ambitions. The procession of new Nixons brings to mind a song country singer Tanya Tucker recorded some years ago:
"Don’t Believe My Heart Can Stand Another You."
Anyway, all these hours spent waiting for Sen. Goodguy. It reminds me of what Sam Goldwyn supposedly said when first offered the chance to make a movie of Margaret Mitchell’s "Gone With the Wind."
"Who the hell wants to see a movie about the Civil War? And the goddamn losers, fer Crissake!"
This time McCain is coming with Secret Service, augmented by local police and campus security and, perhaps, the Arizona Desert Patrol. It was easier to see McCain in April of ’07. It was easier to see Obama just last month. It was probably easier to see Elvis. It’s still easier, perhaps, to hear Billy Graham. I would bet it was easier to see and hear Jesus. Ask Bob Dole. He was there. He remembers.
Now I will do a lot for my country and even for my checkered career. But my days of "Hurry up and wait" are over. I am not going to skip my morning coffee, leave my warm, semi-comfortable apartment before dawn to go and stand and wait at a parking lot to wait for a bus to take me to a campus to wait to see and hear John McCain. Been there, done that.
That’s the advantage of experience. I think I’ll wait for the "Saturday Night Live" version.
Manchester, NH, resident Jack Kenny [send him mail] is a freelance writer.