Spread The Peanut Butter

The quote of the day comes from Barack Obama, responding to the latest accusation from the McCain campaign that he’s pally with “a former spokesperson for the Palestinian Liberation Organization”:

I don’t know what’s next. By the end of the week, he’ll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten. I shared my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I bet someone in McCain’s campaign heard of that quote and said, “Damn, wish we’d thought of that first.” Really, there are many reasonable arguments that can be made against Barack Obama’s ideas, but the McCain campaign has disgraced itself (and the Republican Party) by choosing to try and smear the man instead. I hope they pay the price for it soon—and if so, McCain would have lost more than just a presidency.


Meanwhile, Stanley Fish examines the McCain and Obama campaigns:

What’s going on here? I find an answer in a most unlikely place, John Milton’s “Paradise Regained,” a four-book poem in which a very busy and agitated Satan dances around a preternaturally still Jesus until, driven half-crazy by the response he’s not getting, the arch-rebel (i.e., maverick) loses it, crying in exasperation, “What dost thou in this world?”

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that McCain is the devil or that Obama is the Messiah (although some of his supporters think of him that way), just that the rhetorical strategies the two literary figures employ match up with the strategies employed by the two candidates. What Satan wants to do is draw Jesus out, provoke him to an unwisely exasperated response, get him to claim too much for his own powers. What Jesus does is reply with an equanimity conveyed by the adjectives and adverbs that preface his words: “unaltered,” “temperately,” “patiently,” “calmly,” “unmoved,” “sagely,” “in brief.”

In response, Satan gets ever more desperate; he conjures up rain and wind storms (in the midst of which Jesus sits “unappalled in calm”); he tempts him with the riches of poetry and philosophy (which Jesus is careful neither to reject nor deify); and finally, having run out of schemes and scares and “swollen with rage,” he resorts to physical violence (McCain has not gone so far, although some of his supporters clearly want to), picking Jesus up bodily and depositing him on the spire of the temple in the hope that he will either fall to his death or turn into Superman and undermine the entire point of his 40-day trial in the wilderness. He doesn’t do either. He does nothing, and Satan, “smitten with amazement” — even this hasn’t worked — “fell.”

This reminds me of McCain’s bluster about following Osama bin Laden “to the gates of hell.” First he’s got to beat Barack Obama to the gates of heaven, and he’s huffing and he’s puffing and he’s “swollen with rage”, but it’s all no good.