Years ago, I walked into a friend’s living room on a Saturday afternoon, the familiar sound of a game on the TV. My friend was in his full Richmond kit, and hysteris, as the game was at fever pitch.

“Get it, get it, ohhhhhhh you d-ckhead”.

It took me a while to recall that there was no Richmond game that afternoon. I looked again. Some of those players had some pretty retro haircuts, the flying carpet and sideburns look that was popular in… in…

It was only then I realised that the light was pulsing on the VCR. Simon, almost in need of an ambulance, was watching a tape of a 1980 semi-final, one leading up to the Tigers’ last premiership. He knew how this game ended. He knew how the season ended. But he had somehow ommed himself into a zen superposition of states — knowing, at a general level, that it was all going to be alright, yet feeling every moment of the suspense.

Never understood that, until this gig. Now? Now I am quietly recording FOX News Channel broadcasts at every opportunity, because watching them now is sheer hell, and watching them if John McCain should somehow shuffle into the White House would be deranged, but should he lose, ah what sweet, sweet bliss these desperate delusional spin jobs are going to be.

Long and short of it is that McCain’s taunt that Obama should visit Iraq has turned around on him about as magnificently as it could. With al-Maliki’s remark that his vision of the future pretty much lines up with Obama’s as a prelude, and Obama’s shift of the argument to Afghanistan having taking control of the debate, as a set up, the deal came down with Obama walking around with Afghan president Karzai, dressed, as he always does, like a vaguely groovy software developer, the whole no-tie thing. It looked so, well, presidential, purely natural. Could it get any better?

Yes it could. Appearing the next day before a gym full of cheering troops in the Green Zone, someone handed Obama a basketball and pointed to the hoop at the far end. Obama tensed up, focused, dribbled it five times and then put the damn thing in, from the three point line.

You couldn’t script it, and, if that wasn’t Obama’s first shot, then it’s pretty genius video editing. God, as Mike Huckabee might say, grabbed that spheroid and carried it all the way to the backboard.

Deep in his old man bunker, with his favourite ratty chair, and the 1972 hi-fi he plays his ABBA records on, McCain let out a bellow of rage, and insulted his wife again. The bastard was stealing his issue! No-one’s asking about the surge! No-one seems to care about the past! The voters are just caring about the future, the ungrateful pricks! Could it get any worse?

Yes, it c- … you’re way ahead of me. McCain chose this moment to talk, in an interview, about the problems on the Iraq/Pakistan border. Since there is an obscure nation called Iran in the way this is either, a) further evidence of a shaky knowledge of things or b) a statement of intent on Iran’s future. Either way, it couldn’t be worse or come at a worse time. He’s starting to rack up too many of them now — they start to suggest either ignorance or a series of senior moments, neither of which are good.

It’s not even clear what he means. After all the Iran/Pakistan border isn’t problematic, and the other two possibilities — Iraq/Iran, Afghanistan/Pakistan* — don’t sound anything like that. It’s really baffling.

McCain had one win — if it makes the networks — when the New York Times asked for a rewrite of an op-ed piece they’d commissioned from him, principally because it was written wholly as a rebuttal of an earlier Obama article and didn’t stand alone. A proper editing decision, but spun by the McCain camp as the liberal media locking him out.

Yet even there team McCain snatched defeat from the jaws, with an ad that asked “who is to blame for our failure to drill offshore?” accompanied by a picture of Obama and audio of a chanting crowd. Even McCain’s flak on MSNBC couldn’t spin that one: “I’m all for taking one for the team, but that’s a really dumb ad.”

Reeks of desperation was the general verdict. Oh it was a big day. But will any of this impact? We’ll know with the next brace of polls in a week or two. The mood of American voters is so inwardly focused at the moment, that it is hard to see how the rest of the world impacts on swinging voters at all.

Still, if everything goes well and our man slides home, this will be the three martini moment in the playback, the day it really went down. I’m looking forward to watching it again, in the Obama era, every delicious moment available for savouring, like a long lost mark on the Punt Road hill in another time, another time.

*mathematically, you could write them as Ira(q-n), (Afghan-Paki)stan.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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