Thursday, October 16, 2008

John McCain and the Overhead Projector

My friends, I'm betting it happened this way...

Just before the second debate, one of McCain's policy aides breathlessly rushes up to him.

"Chief," he says --you just know that McCain's staff is encouraged to call him something like 'Chief' or 'Boss'-- "we have evidence that BHO voted to provide three million dollars for a projector for a planetarium in his hometown of Chicago! You can really nail him with this!"

They can't bring them selves to say Obama's name out loud. They prefer to call him something like "BHO", in the way that the 9/11 Report called Kahlid Sheikh Mohammad "KSM" and Osama Bin Laden "OBL". It gives them a sense of comraderie -- a sense of mission.

McCain's eyes light up. Projectors? This is something he knows about. His post-POW years in the Navy were spent giving military briefings to politicians. He's worked with overhead projectors for years. He knows all about overhead projectors. He can even change the bulb in most models of overhead projectors; find another Senator who can do that. And who ever heard of spending three million dollars on an overhead projector? That's the kind of overspending even the Pentagon, his beloved Pentagon, which has turned overspending from an art into a science, couldn't manage.

McCain realizes he's got something good here. "Tonight, at the town hall debate," he says, "if _that one_ dares to mention wasteful government spending, I'll sock it to him with this!" McCain chuckles. "A three million dollar overhead projector!"

The aide is about to correct McCain when Cindy walks into the room. McCain's wristwatch beeps twice.

"Two thirty, Johnny", Cindy says. "Nap time."

McCain is happy. He looks in a nearby mirror. His seventh cranial nerve fires, pulling his risorius facial muscles back into something that looks like a smile. He's really going to hand it to that upstart tonight.

"Nap time." Cindy repeats.


"What the hell do you mean, wrong?" McCain thunders at his young science aide. The second presidential debate ended about an hour ago, and McCain was sitting in his suite at the Carleton in his US Navy bathrobe when this kid brought the news.

"Well, Chief, um, it wasn't an overhead projector that BHO tried to get for the planetarium. It was a planetarium projector. Different thing."

McCain will have none of it. "What the hell's a planetarium projector?" he thunders again.

"Well, sir, if you remember the last time you were in a planetarium, that big thing in the middle of the room. Looks like a giant insect. That's the planetarium projector.

"That thing? What does it do?"

"It projects the image of the stars onto the dome."

"I thought that was a pendulum to make the room spin."

"Uh, no sir, when you're in a planetarium and if feels like the room is spinning, sir, that's really the projector making the stars spin."

"Son, I'm an old fighter pilot and if the seat of my pants tells me that I'm moving, I'm moving. I know a spin when I feel one."

"Yes, sir." The young science aide pauses. "Chief, should I have Ms. Pfotenhauer issue another clarifying statement to the media, explaining what you meant to say?"

"Fuck 'em," McCain growls. "I'll bet not a single Warshington reporter knows the difference between this planetarium projector and an overhead projector, either.'

"Yes, sir," the aide says gamely. "But the blogosphere, especially the science bloggers; they're up in arms."

"Blogosphere?" McCain asks for the thousandth time.

The science aide wiggles his fingers in a typing motion.

"Oh, yeah, those geeks who write on the internet tubes," McCain says. "You told me they loved Sarah."

"Well, yes, sir. But there's a small group of science writers who really care about planetariums."

"Are any of them going to get to go on TV and complain?" McCain asks. This is something few young people understand about McCain -- he doesn't get modern technology, but when it comes to technology he grew up with, he's a master at using it for his ends.

"Not likely, sir" the science aide sighs.

"So fuck them too," McCain snaps. "Anything else?"

"Just next time, chief, if you could remember that it's a planetarium projector, not an overhead projector."

McCain just stares at him. "Anything. Else?"

The aide knows a dismissal when he hears one. "No sir, nothing else."

"Good night, then," McCain says, reaching for the tv remote.

"Good night sir."


Halfway through the third and final debate, McCain's young science aide makes the mistake of taking his attention off the screen for an instant as he gets another cup of coffee. Suddenly the Blackberry on his hip starts twitching and buzzing. The RSS feeds to the top science blogs have simultaneously started spewing. The aide rushes back to the TV.

"Did he?" the science aide asks.

"Yep," the foreign policy advisor says. "'Overhead projector' again."

The science aide's fingers start to go numb as his Blackberry continues to vibrate nonstop.