Friends, you have no idea how hard it’s going to be to keep you entertained for the next 800 words. For I write on Friday, Nov. 3, when there is time for the world to change three, four, maybe five times before you set eyes on this humble effort. As I write today, well-informed friends say that they hear talk from their well-informed friends concerning the brighter prospects of one Albert Gore. Yesterday, those same friends were practicing sentences without nouns in anticipation of a Bush restoration.
As for the New York Senate race, well, whose poll am I to believe? Upon what source should I rely as I attempt to live up to the example set by that well-known seer, Claire Voyant? Is the race a toss-up, as some say? Is Rick Lazio really ahead in the final days, or do some pollsters specialize in wishful thinking for the benefit of their benefactors? Is the Middle East to be Hillary Clinton’s downfall, or is it her, er, upfall? How does one fall up, anyway?
It’s tough, I tell you. All those blow-dried pundits can spout whatever they want tonight, change direction tomorrow, return to their Friday wisdom on Sunday, declare themselves clueless on Monday, deliver the results with self-satisfaction on Tuesday, and nobody will notice anything save the part in their hair and the coordination between blazer and eye color. Great. And here I am, trying to entertain you, provoke you if I can, and yet you’ll excoriate me, burn me in the small upstate town of Effigy if I make some outdated pronouncement that has the double disadvantage of being wrong.
For example, let’s say I assert that a certain Long Island Congressman capped off a rotten campaign by acting like a sniveling hypocrite in that campaign’s final days. Let’s say I characterize that same Long Island Congressman as an embarrassment to the state, a woefully unprepared careerist who remained silent while his allies essentially branded the First Lady of the United States a traitor. (If Mrs. Clinton was, as Mr. Lazio suggested, “cavorting” with terrorists, and if those terrorists were responsible for killing U.S. sailors aboard the U.S.S. Cole , as the state Republican Party insisted, then she committed treason, right?)
Let’s say I write all these things right now, on Friday, Nov. 3. There you are on Wednesday or Thursday, chortling in your pajamas as you read the morning newspapers and their references to Senator-elect Lazio and how his victory was inevitable because of the splendid campaign he ran and his never-say-die attitude and boyish smile. And here I am, back in the dim past, running down the great Senator-elect.
Ah, but maybe there are no references to Senator-elect Lazio because the ambitious lightweight wound up on the short side of a long count. In which case, who cares what I thought of his campaign?
You see the dilemma, then. At least “Dewey Beats Truman” was timely. Wrong, but timely. And a collector’s item. The only people who hold on to their copies of this page are those who own dogs with bladder problems.
It’s tough, I tell you.
You know, it didn’t have to be this way. I could have taken the civil service test 25 years ago, as certain family elders wished. Ah, the foolishness of youth! Instead of writing about politics four days before an election, in a newspaper that will be circulated after the election, I could have been counting the days to retirement with half-pay (assuming I survived the bad guys or the fires). What’s the big deal about a backdraft anyway, when compared with the task of putting together a post-election political column four days before the vote?
It’s tough, I tell you.
You want to see me sweat? I’ll give you sweat, and maybe some other bodily fluids: At this very moment, I have no idea who’ll win the White House; and there you are, reading these words after Election Day, laughing at me as I squirm. You ought to be a journalist, you snarling jackal! Go and shoot the wounded, why don’t you?
You know, I stocked shelves for a living once upon a time. Dropped a carton of C&C Cola on my foot. The shop steward pointed out that I wasn’t wearing protective shoes. Thanks, fella. I taught for a year, too. Six classes of 50-plus kids. Catholic school. Individual attention? Forget about it. It’s funny-I’m sending my own kids to Catholic school now. Twenty-five years later.
I could be hanging up my badge today. Instead, I’m writing about a post-election story four days in advance.
Hey, I’m finished.
That wasn’t so hard after all.