Only a cataclysm -- the proverbial dead girl or live boy -- can keep Obama from winning on Nov. 4. He'll be nicked and bloodied plenty before the votes are cast, but McCain cannot stop him. Neither can Sarah Palin, no matter how loud her bark. Devoid of discussion about their plans for our future, the GOP ticket has been reduced to incessant yapping about the badness of their opponents. They are Bob Dole without the humor, Walter Mondale without the eloquence. All they can do is smile and bray and pretend the hurricane hammering the screen door is only a drizzle.
Pretending -- or, as they like to call it, creating a new reality, a master trick of this century's Republican Party. As one of President Bush's senior advisers said in 2002:
"[W]e create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
They're rolling out the dogeared book of dirty tricks and pulling out their favorite reality changers. The biggest crowd-pleaser, naturally, involves demonizing The Media. Rolling Stone publishes a solid on McCain's unflattering past, but most conservatives won't bother to read it -- they're convinced the mainstream media is out to get their guy and his purty sidekick, dadgummit, so you can't believe anything The Media says.
This, of course, is a reliable hypocrisy from the camp that loves to hate. In their twist on twisted reality, The New York Times is a vile snakepit of liberal Obamabot liars, except when they write about Obama's connections to '60s radical William Ayers. That's when the Times is gospel money.
(One of our favorite conservative alternate-reality pranks is the "you won't see this in the mainstream media" snipe hunt. About once a month somebody will send an e-mail with a story or pictures about a heartwarming, positive story, datelined Iraq, with the header: You Won't See THIS In The Mainstream Media. The story, without fail, was written by The Associated Press and published across the country.)
The neo-reals have also uncorked the "some say" genie, a cousin to "fair and balanced." The latter claims "both sides" need to be heard, even if one side insists science is valid and the other clings to supernatural magic. Thank God the people who spew this line weren't reporting in 1945; they would have asked the Nazis for their side of the Holocaust -- you know, just to be fair and balanced.
Their "some say" attacks are clumsy but effective. "Some say Barack Obama is a Muslim." "Some say Obama is a sleeper agent for Al Qaeda." "Some say Obama is actually Osama bin Laden's second cousin, once removed." It might be bilge water, sure, but some say it's true, so why not have that debate? We don't expect McCain to go that far in his Tuesday debate with Obama, but anything is possible when a certifiably insane man runs for president. There could even be knives, though we suspect the debate commission will probably run both candidates through metal detectors before they take the stage.
McCain has no choice but to throw the long, noxious pass -- think of it as a Hail Mary stinkbomb. If it lands just right it will cover Obama in muck so deep and vile that every other Chicago politician will seem spotless by comparison. And even that might not be enough to stop Obama.
This is John McCain, distilled. Half a lifetime spent gladhanding and grinning, plotting and attaining, now reduced to one last gambit that probably won't work. Purgatory can be peculiar, especially in an unreal reality.