John McCain's Senior Moment

Making the senior Arizona senator's age and wealth an issue—subtly—is critical for Barack and the Dems.

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DENVER—You have to take the shot. When your opponent would be the oldest president, ever, and he's spent most of the summer portraying you as a treasonous, panty-waist, self-centered rock star, and he has a senior moment on the national stage, if your name is Barack Obama you have to take the shot.

But the Gift of the Twelve Houses will only go so far.

Democrats, bless their bleeding little hearts, often do forget that getting obscenely rich is the whole point of being American.

It is right there in the founding documents. When Jefferson wrote about the pursuit of happiness, he wasn't referring to spiritual bliss, he was talking land, tobacco, slaves and gold.

Here in the US of A, we spend our dreary existence, from forceps to shroud, plodding along, wasting money on lottery tickets, drooling at American Idol, sustained by the hope that some deus ex machina like Richard Gere or Meg Ryan will appear, with dazzling teeth and a hot bod, and cash falling from their pockets, to free us from our mounting debts, soul-killing paperwork, and insipid boss. It's the American Dream.

So if John McCain dumped his ailing first wife after finding a golden ticket in the form of a blonde heiress, allowances will be made. And if she wants to spend her daddy's money on beachfront real estate and half-a-million-dollar-a-month credit card bills, well, after what McCain went through in North Vietnam, maybe it's a kind of karmic payback.

No, the issue ain't the money. The U.S. Senate has always been a haven for, as the late, great Speaker Tip O'Neill put it, "the idiot sons of the rich." In many cases, so has the White House. It's not like W or JFK cured cancer. Americans expect their presidents to have fulfilled the basic prerequisite of accumulating wealth and power. The poor and meek need not apply.

And if it ain't the money, neither is it the age.

We're a country dominated by fading Baby Boomers, for whom losing car keys, forgetting to flush and failing to pull up one's zipper are lamentably familiar conditions. Why just the other day, I put the butter away in the microwave and...uh...what was I saying?

Oh yeah. Age. A direct assault on McCain as "too old" won't work. Especially coming from a candidate whose own shortcomings are youth and inexperience. The Democrats would just look mean and arrogant.

No, as the Wicked Witch reminds us (no shabby pol, she), these things must be handled delicately.

The voters know McCain is old. And, without help from the Obama campaign (and no doubt remembering the sad and cautionary spectacle of Ronald Reagan's testimony in the Iran Contra case) they are quietly watching for signs of impaired judgment or vacuity.

So, for the Democrats, "out of touch" are the wonderfully double-barreled words. Expect to hear them a lot in the coming weeks.

McCain ($5 million a year is middle class?) and advisers like Phil Gramm (Hard times are all in our whiny minds?) have laid the foundation for Obama to credibly allege that the Republicans are "out of touch" with the economic challenges confronting American families.

Being "out of touch" with average citizens can be a killer in recessionary times (see George H.W. Bush, 1992)—but the phrase has a special resonance now, when McCain keeps confusing the Shiite and Sunni, the Czechs and the Slovaks and shows other sporadic signs of cluelessness.

Otherwise, who would begrudge a nice ol' guy his well-deserved rest in Sedona, or California, or Virginia, or Phoenix or...um....

Well. You see? I lost track of them myself.