Column: Elections Bring Out Politicians' Keen Abilities To Talk Nonsense

This story was written by Beau Elliot, The Daily Iowan
So the presidential campaign has come down to the stars. And we ain't talking astrology here.

At least, I think we're not. But it's often hard to tell what we talk about when we talk about politics (to channel the spirit of Raymond Carver). We might as well talk about plasma physics, which, as it turns out, very few of us can. I, however (channeling the spirit of Sarah Palin), can talk about plasma physics because I was once a plasma donor.

Meanwhile, back at the presidential campaign, it turns out that Barack Obama supported a $3 million "earmark" for an "overhead projector." At least, that's what John McCain claims.

Oh, those awful earmarks. Will they never end? (Although, I have to confess, I leave earmarks on my pillow damn near every night. I'm trying to do better. I promise.)

And $3 million for an overhead projector? What was Obama thinking?

Well, it turns out to be not exactly an overhead projector. (So much of life turns out to be not an overhead projector. Have you noticed?) In reality, it's a new planetary-projection system at the world-famous Adler Planetarium in Chicago, the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere, and it's part of a $10 million renovation project using private money in addition to federal, state and city funding. The Adler had used its old planetary-projection system for 40 years, and it was, as you might expect, outdated.

So, it's not exactly an "overhead projector," as you might find in an elementary or a middle school classroom, as Johnny Mav has implied.

By the way, China recently spent several million dollars to renovate a planetarium in Beijing -- all of it, as you might expect, paid for by the government. The cost of that renovation, according to the head of the Adler planetarium (which helped with the project) was far more than the cost of the Adler renovation.

And if McCain were serious about going after earmarks, why do you suppose he never mentions the $250 million in federal earmarks that Palin went after? I mean, that sounds kind of like socialism to me.

But I forget -- Obama is the socialist. I mean, that's what Sarah Mav keeps telling us: Obama wants to redistribute the wealth through the tax system. The horror.

Except, of course, that is the point of a progressive income-tax system, and it has been the law of the land in the United States since the 16th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on Feb. 3, 1913.

I'm not sure turning the clock back to Feb. 2, 1913 is exactly the change we need. Maybe somebody could mention this to Palin.

Not that the Alaska firecracker is the only one hurling the word "socialist" around. Christopher Reed, the Republican challenger to Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, described the $700 billion economic-bailout play backed by the Bush White House and most of Congress as being "socialistic" and "aiding Wall Street."

Yeah, you know -- that would be "Wall Street" as in Wall Street, that famously socialist organization that has been viciously undermining the American way for going on decades and decades now, if not longer. Thank god Reed sussed it out (to use a British word, which obviously comes from a socialist country, Margaret Thatcher notwithstanding), exposing these socialist provacateurs hiding in the canyons of lower Manhattan and plotting to overthrow the American way.

Reed also blames "radical environmentalists" for "high" fuel costs (somehow missing the fact that oil prices are the lowest they've been in a year, and gasoline prices dropped 53 cents a gallon over the last two weeks -- hello, are you paying attention to anything, not-quite-serious candidate for Senate?) and somehow tying said radical environmentalists to the UntedStates not building any new oil refineries.

Well, not exactly. U.S. oil refineries are nowhere near capacity at the moment, and, in any case, another eight or so are scheduled to come on line in the next year and a half or so. So much for "radical environmentalists" causing high fuel costs. Reed's campaign seems to be stuck in July. Somebody should inform him it's almost November.

Of course, Reed also accuses Harkin of being the "Tokyo Rose of Al Qaeda and Middle East terrorism," so it's easy to figure out that he's one or two lug nuts short of a complete wheel.

Well, at least it's not the Montana governor's race, in which a candidate had to defend himself against charges he was a vegetarian. No, really. It's what we talk about when we talk about politics.

I'm going to go outside and stare at the stars until my eyes glaze over. Then everything will become clear.