by ROBERT HEROLD & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & ith our financial universe teetering on the edge of a black hole, our legislative pygmies in Washington, D.C., voted down the one measure, flawed as it was, that might have restored some confidence and given the political process time to act in a more deliberate way. Apparently worried that the entire legacy of Saint Reagan depended on irrationally following the failures of deregulation and its sidekick, privatization, headlong into that place where no light can escape, these Republican legislative pygmies, aided by too many rattle-brained Democrats, peered into the hole and leaped.

Just in time for the vice presidential "debate." I place quotes around debate because Sarah Palin's handlers, scared stiff that her incoherence and ignorance can not be fixed by last-minute coaching, have demanded a rigid format that, they hope, will effectively place Palin inside a sound chamber. (If they could paste the answers above her head, they would.)

Once saddled with making Palin presentable, the McCain camp had to hope that they had on their hands an Eliza Doolittle, a My Fair Lady, who with just the right tutoring could be taught to pronounce correctly "the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain." By now they must know that they are stuck trying to transform the talentless Lina Lamont. You remember Lina (played deliciously by Jean Hagen), the silent movie actress in Singin' in the Rain, who looks so good in the silent films, but then come the talkies, which expose her voice. Here's a snippet from the famous diction lesson scene:

Phoebe Dinsmore: [giving Lina diction lessons] Repeat after me: Tah, Tey, Tee, Toe, Too.

Lina Lamont: Ta, Tey, Tea, Tow, Tew.

Phoebe: No, no, Miss Lamont. Round tones, round tones. Now, let me hear you read your line.

Lina: And I cayn't stand 'im.

Phoebe: And I cahn't stand him.

Lina: And I cayn't stand 'im.

Phoebe: Cahn't.

Lina: Cayn't.

Phoebe: Caaaahn't.

Lina: Cayyyyn't!

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & S & lt;/span & arah Palin did her own version of "cayyyyn't" when an incredulous Katie Couric pressed McCain's veep choice about her claims of foreign policy experience based only on living 40 or so miles away from Russia. The "Guv from Nowhere" showed herself to be the ignoramus on the issues that so many worried she was. Only last week, McCain looked straight into the camera and praised her as being "ready to be president." End of story.

What's worse, we have come to learn that she is like Lina Lamont in more ways than one. Unlike Eliza, who was a very nice young Cockney woman, Palin, like Lamont, has revealed herself to be a liar, cunning, opportunistic, devious, compromised and mean-spirited -- just an all-around not very nice person. The not-so-stupid Lamont, you recall, hauled out her contract by way of forcing the delightful Debbie Reynolds to continue to dub Lamont's voice. Vintage Palin.

As for McCain, it does seem his "who was that masked man" mucking-about photo-op routine on Capitol Hill accomplished nothing except to provide David Letterman two programs' worth of horse laughs as he regaled his audience of 20 million with one liners about McCain standing up The Letterman Show -- only an hour before McCain had been scheduled to go on the air. McCain, chortled Letterman, had breathlessly informed him that he had to go directly to the Capitol, silver bullet in hand. Instead, the Lone Ranger left 22 hours later following three public engagements, all caught on video.

So what does the Lone Ranger do next? He has tried gimmicks (gas-tax moratorium). He has tried going "dramatic" ("we are all Georgians now"). He has tried "off-the-wall" (selection of the unknown Sarah Palin). He has tried charade (drum roll, please: "I will go to Washington!"). Yet Obama still leads -- in fact, by his largest margin yet.

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & D & lt;/span & espite his wild leaps and bounds, nothing seems to be going right for McCain. I imagine he must be saying to himself: "While Barack is out talking to Paul Volker, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, Warren Buffett and God knows how many other heavyweights, I'm stuck here taking phone calls from my buddy Phil (that's "Nation-of-whiners" Phil Gramm) whose legislation caused most of this damn mess. And all the while I'm stuck trying to explain to the public why Carly Fiorina is my idea of a great chief executive. You know Carly, the woman who ran Hewlett-Packard into the ground and got that $42 million golden parachute. Talk about bad timing. And about Sarah? Why didn't I just stop and take a deep breath?"

Because, Senator, you have never stopped and taken a deep breath. What at one time seemed charming (e.g. "that McCain, what a maverick") now comes across as downright scary. Voters are coming to realize that your choice of this absurd Lina Lamont character was no accident, rather should be viewed as typical of the McCain way.

That's McCain's real problem.

Dreamworks Animation: The Exhibition @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 11
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