Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Planet of the Monkey Men

A generation ago - in the 80's - for just a brief moment in time the Traveling Wilburys emerged above the hustle and bustle (can you ever have one without the other?) of the hedgerow. The hodgepodge of talent that united under the Wilbury banner included George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty. Sadly, while they experienced a considerable amount of success with their debut effort, The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. I, by the time they released their follow-up album two years later the quintet had lost 20% of its star power. Roy Orbison - a man whose life story was so sad that he should have sung it himself with that mournful voice of his - died at age 52 in December 1989.

For reasons logical probably only to me, the recent news on the political home front here in the State of Jersey Gardens and too many other damn shopping malls to count has brought the Wilburys to the forefront of my mind again. This year, New Jersey has the distinction of being one of two states whose gubernatorial election has been dressed in the trapping of national significance (in case you are keeping score at home, Virginia is the other). One might have anticipated that given our turn at a soliloquy on the national stage, we would have made ourselves all pretty like. Had one anticipated that, one would have been - by mid October - nineteen days out from Election Day - awakened this morning (and every other morning since this dreadful campaign started) wholly disappointed.

An election that could have been replete with a robust exchange of ideas between the standard-bearers of the two major parties has deteriorated into a slap fight between the stoppable force and the movable object. For good measure, Jiminy Cricket has been invited to serve as the special guest referee. Considering that Ralph Nader lives elsewhere and, sadly, as of yesterday Captain Lou Albano lives not at all, who else were we going to get to play the part? Professional gadfly does not pay as well as you might suspect or, perhaps, hope.

Instead of getting an issue-driven race, we have been treated (again, using the most expansive, accordion-like definition of that term permitted by the laws of (a) language; and (b) physics) to one in which the two principal combatants' positions have morphed into nothing more of less than an incessant chorus of, "I know you are but what am I?" as they have hurled inane accusations across the aisle at one another. The cherry on top has been when one is not advancing the cause of why he should be elected, usually by uttering something substantive such as, "Because my opponent is a poopy head", he is firing his biggest guns directly into his own feet.

For instance, having spent weeks dealing with charges that while he drives he pays scant attention to the speed limit, the challenger has been confronted this week with records obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act request (one made by his opponent by the way) that document what can fairly be called somewhat egregious overspending for his official travel while he was the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. Of course, his incumbent opponent immediately seized upon the issue to point out that because he (our current governor) is really, really rich he neither takes a salary for doing his job nor bills any of his official travel costs to us, the really, really not rich taxpayers.

A suggestion for official spokesperson Darcy if I may? Add those two things (working for nothing and paying his own way) to the list that all of our State Cabinet heads have been directed by the Guv's Deputy Chief of Staff to formulate. The marching order from on high is simple: come up with (in the next week or so) an event or two or three, "that show job creation or economic development in the private sector." The memo's author, ever a realist, acknowledged that the foot soldiers in the army of fluff might have a bit of a problem completing this particular mission. He wrote, "I know that this might be a stretch for some of you, but please be creative." If one is going to cast aspersions on the challenger's presumptively creative bookkeeping for his official travel, then I would submit that it is eminently reasonable to cast aspersions on the incumbent's Deputy Chief of Staff's exhortation to members of the Cabinet (a/k/a public employees) to do that which is necessary to schedule events at which one's admission price includes at least a bit of smoke and multiple mirrors. With a straight face, the incumbent defended the memo.

Voters elsewhere might very well be outraged or even surprised by what passes for S.O.P. here in the Land of the Meadows. Not us. We shall, on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November do in the voting booth what we do when we drive on the Turnpike north of Exit 12 on a hot, sultry summer day. We will hold our breath, do what we have to do and get the hell out there as fast as we can. 'Cause in Jersey, anything's legal as long as you don't get caught.

And apparently it is worth doing as long as it gets you elected. A fellow from Freehold once observed that, "in the end, nobody wins unless everybody wins." A sentiment that has not seen the light of day at all during this campaign.

And now we stand just around the corner until Election Day. Can't hardly wait.

-AK

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