NY Times columnist Frank Rich expands this morning on a point I made here a few weeks ago re McCain’s ineffective hammering on the Bill Ayres issue, which struck me as odd because so many American voters were born and grew up long after the Vietnam War, so whatever Ayres did, however reprehensible, doesn’t have a lot of power to repel anymore. To millions of Americans born after 1970, the Tet Offensive and Da Nang are about as remote as Gettysburg and Second Manassas. That old dog, as professional Texans say, just won’t hunt anymore.
McCain’s tactics re Ayres reminded me dimly of learning, as I grew up, about the bitter days of the Cold War and the McCarthy period. Well into the 70s and 80s, older people from the small minority that cares about politics would still debate Alger Hiss vs. Whittaker Chambers, and if those names strike few sparks with you, that’s about how a voter born in 1980 might think about Bill–who?–Ayres. A few scholars continued to crank out books showing that Hiss was in fact a Communist or was in fact not a Communist. I seem to recall that the weight of evidence finally shifted against Hiss. . . I think.
(And don’t forget–if you ever knew about– that “missile gap” that helped Kennedy nose out Nixon, and then turned out not to exist.)
Anyway, the hinge of history swings; things change. We don’t always “solve” our communal/political problems and get some final “closure”; sometimes we just walk away from them.
I think the McCain/Palin campaign this time may well be the last in which the dusty ghosts of the Sixties, reeking of pot and Jade East, rise to haunt us again.
Check the Rich piece here if you like.