Magazine article The Spectator

Sane Difference

Magazine article The Spectator

Sane Difference

Article excerpt

New Hampshire

TWO weeks ago I predicted in the Daily Telegraph that Dubya would win the presidential election with 378 of the 538 electoral college votes. Ten minutes later, the men in white coats arrived and bundled me off to the sanatorium. Fortunately, the muscle-control techniques I taught myself as a prisoner of the Viet Cong enabled me to wiggle free of my straitjacket, after which it was simply a matter of shinning down the drainpipe and shaking off the dogs by hiding until nightfall in a culvert upstream of the grounds.

Like many escaped lunatics, I find it's everyone else who's acting strange. Here are some of the more obvious crazies of the current campaign:

1) Pollsters

The other day Newsweek came up with a poll showing Gore ahead of Bush by 14 points. This is the same publication whose final poll in 1996, by the same polling organisation, showed Clinton ahead of Dole by 23 points. In the event, Clinton beat Dole by 8 per cent of the vote. Asked to explain a 15-point error, Newsweek said, ah, yes, in fact, it had taken another poll which showed something more like the eventual result, but for some reason it had decided not to publish it. I think it's safe to say that, if Newsweek polled me, Dubya, Mrs Dubya, Bush Senior, Barbara Bush, Jeb Bush, the Bush nephew who looks like Ricky Martin, Dick Cheney and his cat, the result would show a 14-point lead for Gore. What's odd is why anyone else would take Newsweek seriously, given its abysmal track record. Even now, most journalists insist that Gore has sewn up the election on no evidence other than his insurmountable lead in the daily tracking polls - i.e., Rasmussen and Battleground, which show Bush with a one-point lead; Zogby, which shows Bush with a two-point lead; CNN/USA Today/Gallup, which show Bush with a three-point lead.

2) The media

Much has been written about whether the US media display a liberal bias. More lately, Governor Bush has helpfully expanded the debate by raising the question of whether they are also `major-league assholes'. But, leaving aside their liberal and rectal tendencies, are they just plain nuts? In recent weeks, supposedly, the Bush campaign has stalled because of a series of 'gaffes'. For example, a campaign ad on healthcare flashed the last four letters of the word 'bureaucRATS' across the screen for one-thirtieth of a second and prompted a front-page story in the New York Times about whether Bush was trying subliminally to influence the outcome of the election. Al Gore doesn't need subliminally to-influence the outcome of the election because he can do it, er, liminally. In this instance, he told the Times guy about the Bush ad and they did a big story on it followed by a splendily assholic editorial warning about the serious questions it raises. Recently, for example, while on his whistle-stop cruise down the Mississippi, Al was photographed in front of a big sign on his boat bearing the word 'families', that being one of the themes of his campaign. Unfortunately, the vice-president positioned himself badly and obscured the first part of the word so that the ensuing pictures showed Al next to the word 'lies'. This could convey the subliminal message to voters that Al Gore lies. Fortunately, Al's aides had a quiet word with the photographers and they sportingly agreed not to run the snaps.

Sadly, Dubya handled his rats more clumsily than Al handled his lies. The governor denied he was up to anything subliminal - or, as he put it, 'subliminable'. This prompted another round of bad press about the new gaffe he'd made while apologising for his old gaffe. Then Gail Sheehy weighed in in the new Vanity Fair. Mrs Sheehy is America's maestro of menopause, the woman who's taught millions of readers to regard any unfriendlysounding `mid-life crisis' as a positive `growth opportunity' or 'passage'. Her last book was called Understanding Men's Passages, which sounds like a celebrity memoir by a Hollywood gerbil, or perhaps a guide to New York Times reporters. …

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