Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Annals of Irony

Reading David Brooks’s attempts at sarcastic humor is like watching your aged grandparent do the Funky Chicken: it’s hilariously horrifying.

At first it seemed like a few random cases of lassitude among Mary Chapin Carpenter devotees in Berkeley, Cambridge and Chapel Hill. But then psychotherapists began to realize patients across the country were complaining of the same distress. They were experiencing the first hints of what’s bound to be a national phenomenon: Obama Comedown Syndrome.

The afflicted had already been through the phases of Obama-mania — fainting at rallies, weeping over their touch screens while watching Obama videos, spending hours making folk crafts featuring Michelle Obama’s face. These patients had experienced intense surges of hope-amine, the brain chemical that fuels euphoric sensations of historic change and personal salvation.

But they found that as the weeks went on, they needed more and purer hope-injections just to preserve the rush. They wound up craving more hope than even the Hope Pope could provide, and they began experiencing brooding moments of suboptimal hopefulness. Anxious posts began to appear on the Yes We Can! Facebook pages. A sense of ennui began to creep through the nation’s Ian McEwan-centered book clubs.

Up until now The Chosen One’s speeches had seemed to them less like stretches of words and more like soul sensations that transcended time and space. But those in the grips of Obama Comedown Syndrome began to wonder if His stuff actually made sense. For example, His Hopeness tells rallies that we are the change we have been waiting for, but if we are the change we have been waiting for then why have we been waiting since we’ve been here all along?

What’s especially ironic is that up until now, he has been all over Barack Obama like a goopy-eyed groupie. Watching him on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer a couple of weeks ago, Mark Shields could do nothing but gape as he went on about how much he admired the Illinois senator. Now he thinks he’s found a chink in the armor: he’s human, and he’s a politician.

Of course it was easy for Mr. Brooks to be a Barack-booster when it looked like he didn’t have a chance of winning the nomination, and anything he could do to tear down Hillary Clinton without looking like a wingnut was the way to go. Now, however, the Clinton campaign has run into trouble and Mr. Obama is actually leading in the delegate count. Zoinks. So he has to go to his back-up plan, which in this case is an attempt to channel the sarcastic sneer of Maureen Dowd, who stole it from Frank Rich. (And they’re freaked out about Mr. Obama trading phrases with Deval Patrick?)

The next level of irony surfing comes when you read this:

How is a 47-year-old novice going to unify highly polarized 70-something committee chairs? What will happen if the nation’s 261,000 lobbyists don’t see the light, even after the laying on of hands? Does The Changemaker have the guts to take on the special interests in his own party — the trial lawyers, the teachers’ unions, the AARP?


The victims of O.C.S. struggle against Obama-myopia, or the inability to see beyond Election Day. But here’s the fascinating thing: They still like him. They know that most of his hope-mongering is vaporous. They know that he knows it’s vaporous.

Eight years ago he and all of his conservative pals were saying the same thing about the “compassionate conservative” from Texas: it’s okay that he’s vacant as a jar; he will learn as he goes and his vision — whatever it is — will be shaped by the responsibility of the office… or some such bullshit. Only now he’s seeing such dreaming as a detriment? And Ronald Reagan’s shining city on the hill was any less vaporous? In the case of George W. Bush, since it never occurred to the right wing that they never would get their way when he was in office, they didn’t worry about what would happen if they didn’t.

Just leave the snark on the table where you found it, David, and don’t use it without the supervision of a grown-up.