Here in Oz we like our believing politicians to wear their religion lightly: Tony Abbott for this reason will never be Prime Minister. Not so in the US, where all candidates for high office must be pious. Even so, the spectacle of confession and group hug at Saddleback Church was disgusting. We are inured to boasting in candidates: modesty and a proper degree of reserve are luxuries reserved for the obscure. But Saddleback took us into that dark place in which the sincere is contaminated by performance.
It’s interesting to compare the two candidates’ answers to the question about regret. Which, I wonder was the more hypocritical?? McCain spoke about his first marriage, using a ritual formula in which one party is entirely responsible for something described as a ‘failure’. Besides the obvious point – that the formula deprives the first Mrs McCain of agency – an admission in that form follows the adman’s recommendation for damage control: admit everything and apologise repeatedly.
Obama I suspect was more complicated. First we had blame-transfer. Gee, I lacked a father and consequently dabbled a bit. The audience knows all about absent fathers in the black community, so it does no harm to offer oneself as an example. You get to be a victim. As for drugs, Clinton has lowered the bar on those: after him politicians fell over themselves to confessing a tiny bit of youthful naughtiness. Which leaves only self-pity, as regular a feature of adolescence as acne.
Too cynical? Onscreen,? McCain convinced me that he really does feel lousy about whatever he did in his first marriage, not that that matters a damn. Obama reminded me of Prince Hal in the Eastcheap Tavern. This man is not knowable, either, not yet. Wait for Act V.
The whole scene brought to mind the scene in Coriolanus in which Menenius and Volumnia busily compute how many wounds Coriolanus has on his body. It was customary to exhibit before the plebeians the scars of wounds received in battle against Rome’s enemies. Oh goody, says Volumnia, ‘there will be large cicatrices to show the people.’ (She’s his mother, by the way.)