Saturday noon. Recollection of the last 24 hours is excruciatingly difficult; I have taken every remaining pill in my kit bag, and yet somehow, despite the presence of enough chemicals in my system to transform me into the Joker, I have developed a raging cold. My throat is nearly sealed shut, which may work to my advantage since I’m reaching the point at which the rude answers which bubble up in my skull every time someone speaks to me are threatening to spill over into actual vocalization. Ever since Wednesday I have been asking myself in re my pharmacopia: how many is too many? Crashing into every sharp corner in my hotel room, I know the answer: however many I took when I woke up this morning.
Last night was the Ronald Reagan Banquet, a dinner which was for and unfortunately not of Ronald Reagan. Eating a dehydrated teriyaki jerky chunk of the old fraud might have given me some of his strength. I’ve heard the words “Ronald Reagan” and “tax cuts” so many times now they’re beginning to lose whatever meaning they might have once had, and Will, that payola-stuffed bloviator of manifest destiny, will say them another three dozen times while I tuck into my mashed potatoes. After the ghouls-gone-wild reception given to Ann Coulter a few hours ago, the crowd receives him politely and respectfully, and even considering the fact that this is an older crowd, made up largely of the parents of the rich kids hooting and snarling at Ann’s anti-McCain jeremiad, it still has the tone of someone forced to hear their grandpa read cowboy poetry just after they’ve come back from yelling “SHOW US YOUR TITS!” to drunken frat girls. Will himself is perfunctory at best, showing his chipper cheerleader side only when discussing Old Mother Reagan; the rest of the time, he’s just there to pick up a check. He even senses the hostility in the room when called upon to mention the Supplicant McCain: urging the crowd to be “happy warriors” for the default candidate, he sounds like a bored Sunday school teacher leading his tenth consecutive round of “I’ve Got the Joy” for a group of sugared-up fourth-graders.
At some point I sneak into a screening of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a Michael Mooreian abortion by Watergate apologist/novelty actor Ben Stein. An exciting tour through a number of major logical fallacies, Expelled features the wooden-souled Stein attempting to illustrate how the Stalinist mandarins of academia have systematically excluded the teaching of intelligent design from our universities just because it’s completely unscientific nonsense. Stein soft-peddles this idea, of course, choosing instead to focus on the fact that Richard Dawkins is kind of a jerk (and who among us would not be, if we were constantly being pestered by game show hosts about why voodoo isn’t taught in school?). Dawkin’s quasi-aristocratic hostility makes him look bad, to be sure, which would be relevant if atheism had anything whatsoever to do with the fact that ID is not science. Which it doesn’t. The fact that ID is not science has everything to do with the fact that it is not taught in university science classes, however, a point that seems not to have occurred to anyone in the crowd who hisses when those evil poindexters of academia won’t answer Ben’s questions about how come why for no they teach it. Ben would have gotten the same snippy, defensive answers if he had asked why Lawsonomy is not taught in physics classes, or why the teachings of Trofim Lysenko are not the focus of biology classes, but those questions remained unasked: Ben’s concept of “academic freedom” requires only that his favored brand of buncombe gets equal time. I attempt to wrap my thoughts around the notion that a movement that considers itself the only sane and reasonable guide to the challenges of the post-modern world is gleeful about the idea of demanding academic equal time for ideologically driven pseudoscience, but there isn’t time.
Radio next. Two shows: an Air America appearance and a Pacifica player to be named later. It’s hard to gather my senses because at this point I’ve learned of the existence of a liquor store across the street from the hotel and am coping with the last day of this non-stop death-worship of Reagan the same way I dealt with the last few years of his presidency: by soaking my every cell in CnH2n+1OH. Sam Seder (who I can’t stop thinking of as Fenton Muley) brings up an important point about Reagan that I’m too unfocused to remember myself: the Reagan around which this conservative circle is jerking is a myth, a fabrication, a fiction. The real Reagan raised taxes (or rather engaged in “revenue enhancements”), presided over a massive recession, cut and ran when faced with bloody terror attacks, talked constantly about a balanced budget and a line-item veto but did nothing about them, and “won” the Cold War by spending nonexistent money that would be handed down to his heirs, never to be paid off, as if this were somehow more fiscally conservative than the tax-and-spend model with which he vilified Democrats. Reagan’s strength as a paragon of conservativism is identical to Christopher Reeve’s strength as Superman, a pleasant fiction propped up with special effects and made believable by the empty shell upon which it was impressed. This is, by no means incidentally, the reason the CPAC crowd loves Romney so much: he is their new Ulrich, their man without qualities, upon whom they can press the rubber mask of Reagan.
But it’s too late, too late: the mashed potatoes go down with a sour wince, and the cash bar is only serving off-brand Scotch. Unless the few desperate rumors that the failed revolutionary and fourth-rate historical novelist Newt Gingrich will announce his candidacy tomorrow are true, the cretins of conservativism are stuck with McCain, a man who inspires them as much as did George H.W. Bush (a man who, himself, inspired them as much as a leaky, pebbly bowel movement in the middle of the night). In the bars, on the streets, in the lobby, in their rooms screaming obscenities at Chinese hookers, the CPAC crowd is frustrated and cross, angry at their own partisans for their failure to be as rabidly ideological as they wanted, for their failure to open wide enough when they snapped “Bend over!”. They’re looking around for a dog to kick, but the only dogs are running…