July 10, 2008


Sam Smith

It's a sure sign of how American politics has disintegrated that one Chicago politician can't cuss out another without holding a news conference to apologize. This is the town where one candidate once ran on the slogan, "Vote for Fred and Nobody Gets Hurt." Now you can't even make nobody feel bad.

Worse, the thing that got Jesse Jackson riled up was Obama talking down to black people, particular his sanctimonious salvos on the failures of black males. Within hours, Jackson's own son had thrown him under the bus - admittedly a favorite repository for Obama campaigners who get off message, but hardly in keeping with Obama's expectations for black males, which presumably includes some respect for your own father.

The excruciating pomposity of such moments - by the offender, the offendee and the media egging them on - illustrates not only the collapse of our politics but of our language as well.

Jackson was the second Democratic pol to use salty language about Obama in recent weeks. Bill Clinton was reported to have said that Obama would have to "kiss my ass" to get his support. But it didn't get as much play as Jackson nut cutting remark because the media cares for Clinton far more than for Jackson and Clinton was smart enough not to talk his way out of it by holding a news conference.

One of the problems with such incidents is that everyone is striving too hard to be respectable. In a less pretentious time, Jackson would have responded with something like, "I agree with him on more issues than I do my wife, and I'm not even married to him." Or Obama might have said, "Well, the next time we meet to discuss the many issues on which we do agree, I will try to maintain a safe distance." Case closed.

But too few speak United States in American politics anymore. I miss it and appreciate Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson's efforts to revive it.

In fact, my only concern was that Jackson might try to sever Obama's gonads even as the latter was savoring Clinton's lower posterior orifice. Now that would have been going too far.