The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘I Also Hope to Keep a Steady High’

Posted on | August 31, 2020 | Comments Off on ‘I Also Hope to Keep a Steady High’


Worrying about politics is a waste of time, and nobody who knew me when I was in college could ever have imagined that I would grow up to become a political journalist, wasting my time this way.

My perspective on the political scene is idiosyncratic, simply because most people in this racket have been political junkies all their lives. They came to Washington right out of college, and wish nothing more than to be taken seriously as pundits, capable of prognosticating future outcomes. In contrast, I left college with the career goal of becoming a rock star, jammed in bands for a while, then stumbled into a newspaper career three years later, worked for years as a sports editor, and didn’t make it to D.C. until I was 38 years old, married with three kids.

It happened the other day (thank you, YouTube algorithm) that I started watching old videos of the jazz-rock band Chicago. Did you know that Chicago’s guitarist Terry Kath was Jimi Hendrix’s favorite guitarist? To listen to Kath play on “25 or 6 to 4” is to be amazed, and it’s a pity that Kath (who died tragically in 1978) is so seldom mentioned among the rock-and-roll greats. Kath could also sing like Ray Charles, a distinctive bluesy baritone, and as I watched videos of Chicago in early concerts, I remembered one of my old favorites of theirs, “Dialogue (Part I & II)” in which Kath trades lyrical lines with Peter Cetera:

Are you optimistic
About the way things are going?

No, I never ever think of it at all.

Don’t you ever worry
When you see what’s going down?

Well, I try to mind my business,
That is, no business at all.

When it’s time to function
As a feeling human being,
Will your Bachelor of Arts help you get by?

I hope to study further,
A few more years or so.
I also hope to keep a steady high

Such was my youthful attitude: “Don’t bum me out, man.”

You can perhaps see why I’ve always been mystified by these ultra-serious young “activist” types, crusading against social injustice all over the Internet when they’re not busy rioting in the streets. Far be it from me, a responsible father and grandfather, to encourage young people to pursue psychedelic hedonism as a way of life, but in some ways that would be preferable to becoming a “social justice warrior.”

These cynical ruminations were inspired not just by old Chicago songs, but also by the realization that the past three months of riots started because George Floyd overdosed on fentanyl.


Has any attempt to “keep a steady high” ever backfired so disastrously? Documents made public last week show the medical examiner found Floyd had “a fatal level of fentanyl under normal circumstances,” and bodycam videos show Floyd complaining “I can’t breathe” before the officers put him on the ground. In fact, the reason Floyd was on the ground was because he refused to let officers put him in the back of the police car, struggling and complaining of COVID and claustrophobia. Police, recognizing his “excited delirium” as evidence of a drug overdose, called an ambulance, then held him on the ground while they waited for the ambulance to arrive. There was no “systemic racism” involved, nor can the charges of murder against the officers be justified.

Well, I try to mind my business,
That is, no business at all.

Do you see the relevance here? The 1970s were a decade when there was a lot to be depressed or angry about, if you cared to pay attention to what was happening in the world. So not caring — complete cynicism — became a very widespread attitude. Just mind your own business and, like the song said, “try to keep a steady high.” Also, if you’re going to freak out on drugs, try not to do it on a city sidewalk after you’ve just been caught attempting to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.

Am I “optimistic about the way things are going”? Well, it is a hazard of my profession that I can’t simply ignore how things are going, and I hesitate to offer predictions, however . . .

How bad do things look for Joe Biden’s campaign right now? Consider this: Democrats are worried about Minnesota, a state no Republican presidential candidate has carried since Richard Nixon’s 1972 landslide. Yet polls show President Trump gaining ground in Minnesota, and Democrats are worried because they haven’t seen any appearances by Biden or his running mate Kamala Harris. “Why aren’t they here?” one Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party official told Minnesota Public Radio last week. “We need to hear from them. We need to see their presence on the ground.”
Biden’s peril in Minnesota is in many ways emblematic of everything that’s gone wrong for Democrats in this campaign. While the Real Clear Politics average of Minnesota polls still shows Biden leading Trump by more than five points, a poll by Emerson College earlier this month had Trump within three points, and a poll by the GOP-affiliated Trafalgar Group two weeks ago showed a tie in Minnesota. How could a state that twice gave majorities to Barack Obama, a state that not even Ronald Reagan could win in his 1984 landslide, be in play for Trump this year? Well, in a word, riots. . . .

Read the rest of my latest column at The American Spectator.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers!

Did I mention that Adam Schiff is blaming Russia for the riots?



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