Sunday, October 26, 2008

Barron's - Close but No Cigar, by Alan Abelson (excerpt)

What especially animates the 2008 election is the emergence of two babes in the political woods: the Dems' choice for the presidency and the GOP's audacious selection for the vice presidency.

Barack Obama may lack any substantive experience in running anything except water, but that's more than counterbalanced by the fact that since he was a lad of 7 or 8, when other kids were busy in such idle pursuits as playing baseball or throwing eggs at cars, he had his heart set on being president of these United States.

Preparing for that role required a misspent youth reading and writing and keeping slim. Yet come Nov. 4, 40 years of such disciplined drudgery might end up either paying off or forcing him to try something novel: gainful employment.

And then there's the magical rise of Sarah Palin. Miss Congeniality is transmuted into Miss Fancy Pants. Just shows you what can happen to that nice little girl next door when she gets the tiniest taste of the high life that comes with being a major-league pol.

There she was, happy as a clam or a polar-bear cub doing a little governing of Alaska (mean and dirty work, but someone has to do it), shooting the odd moose, raising a family and keeping an eye on the Russkies, only a hop, skip and jump across a frozen expanse of sea.

Then comes the call and, patriotic to the core, spunky Sarah answers it. She bids a sad goodbye to her jeans, sloppy shirt, mackinaw, deer-skin earmuffs, fur-lined mittens and bunny boots, and heads for that twisting campaign trail that leads to Washington, D.C.

But she can't go around rallying the folks to vote for her and old John in her birthday suit. So she hits all those snooty stores with funny names like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus, Barney's and Atelier, and dudes up herself, hubby and the kids. She tries on the frocks and she looks like a million bucks, which is about what they cost.

Actually, all that spiffy stuff came to a mere $150,000. But dear little Sarah never gave it a moment's thought because a kind gentleman named Larson appeared out of the blue, like in one of those fairy tales, and picked up the tab. And before she had a chance to say thanks, along comes a famous charitable organization known as the Republican National Committee and insists on paying back Mr. Larson every single penny of the $150,000.

And when word of her shopping and all got around, darned if she didn't receive some of the nicest phone calls. One came from a fellow named John Edwards, who wanted to know where she got her hair done and how much it cost.

It all made Sarah proud as anything of her country and jump with joy, relishing how much fun she'd have as vice president. Beats her why Vice Presidents Dick Cheney always looks like such a grump and Al Gore such a schmo. Maybe they hated shopping. Or maybe it was just that they had been so silly as to have thought it was a real job.

BUT, SIGH, EVEN THE ELECTION doesn't provide much of a distraction from the grave condition of the markets, lying comatose in intensive care, with a highly problematic prognosis. If anything, in fact, as John Harris, a reader and market historian, demonstrates, the election is a further cause for concern.

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