Television networks in the US have abandoned any notion that people watch TV on any basis other than TIVO, otherwise they wouldn’t put all the juicy stuff on the Sunday morning news shows — Meet The Press pre-eminent among them — because all the policy wonks would be sleeping through them. Instead they’re watched mid afternoon through a chardonnay hangover courtesy of the magic machine — except for the very hardcore, of course, who are up at 7am in suits and pearls, notebooks at the ready for talking points, the true pros.

They had a doozy today, a framer for the penultimate week of the campaign, when General Colin Powell announced that he was throwing his support to Barack Obama , and that he would be voting for him in the next election. John McCain, an old friend of his, was he said, a good person and a maverick — arrghhhh that word — but there was need for a generational change and Obama was a smart, well-informed, leaderly type of person, and was to be preferred. And the clincher? Worse came to worst, Sarah Palin was simply not ready to be President.

Man, that’s a bodyslam. Colin Powell’s a murderous little turd — “we are going to cut off this army and then we are going to kill it” — who, if there were any justice in the world, would have been in a glass box with Schwartzkopf at the Hague tried for the “turkey shoot”. That was the massacre of tens of thousands of Iraqi conscript soldiers in retreat on the Basra Road in the aftermath of the Gulf War. How many died there who would have otherwise gone back to families, to jobs, to everyday life? Between twenty thousand and forty thousand is the estimate melted by bombs and napalm into their tanks and jeeps, a crime against humanity on a par with Babi Yar, Katyn, Nanjing, My Lai, the Sandakan Death March, and and and … Fallujah, to hit all the bases.

Powell was a Vietnam commander, and then worked his way up, seen as a shining symbol of African-American advancement, a strange sort of way of achieving the ideal. Give me Muhammad Ali’s “No Vietcong ever called me nigger” anyday, the free utterance of a man soaring free of all that had confined and defined him, to a plane of genuine liberation, but there you go…

Powell’s endorsement of Obama will help him in the foreign policy stakes, and add to the calumny on Palin, the choice of whom now appears to have lost the election for McCain decisively. McCain replied by saying that he had the support of four secretaries of state … Kissinger, Haig, Eagleburger and I forget the fourth. No-one remembers Eagleburger, a Reagan/Bush 41 era functionary chiefly occupied with running death squads in Latin America, but Haig and Kissinger … my god what a twisted rogues’ gallery that is. Insofar as those people are remembered, they’re as creeps and weirdos, especially Kissinger, forever associated with pre-Reagan detente, his strange European accent und all. Ask Sam/Joe the unplumber what he thinks of smart jews and you might not like the answer.

No Powell is still the goods, even if the Iraq crap (“these are photos of trucks therefore Iraq has WMDs”) which he’s still trying to get over, sullied him for good. And his endorsement will tamp down something.

And further confine Palin’s support to the sort of twenty-thirty something male tools who paint their bodies for football games, and not much else for anyone’s liking. It’s gradually dawning on people that Palin’s base is coextensive with the Maxim subscription list, and that is not the basis for victory. Goddamit the woman can’t even do Saturday Night Live properly. Booked to go on the show, everyone expected it would be some sort of encounter like the Hillary Clinton — Amy Poehler classic, the two Hillarys firing off each other.

Inevitably, it wasn’t. It was the sort of half-up show up, dithering bullsh-t the Republicans specialise in these days. Palin was in a cold opener sketch in which she and show producer Lorne Michaels discussed her appearance before Alec Baldwin turned up and presumes she was Tina Fey … anyhoo we never got what we all wanted which was a Tiny Fey-Palin double act. They simply passed each other awkwardly on set, and she later appeared in the news gag section, saying she wouldn’t do a certain act — a rap — so Amy Poehler did it, while she bopped along.

It was lame-o, and the desperate unfunny way it which it was all handled suggested to this old sketch comedy producer that it was all about last minute chaos, refusals to do certain things etc etc, and desperate fix ups to put something, anything, together. Kinda like the whole campaign really.

Will it play for or against? Who knows? Everyone TIVOs these days, or watches it online. But man a gutsy performance would have been good for a percent or two, and she couldn’t even step up to that. But for tomorrow, the policy wonks battling the chardonnay hangovers will have their talking points on how it was a triumph, and how it wasn’t, and we are now into attrition, sheer attrition, who can simply keep speaking the longest…

Peter Fray

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