When you are abroad during a U.S. presidential campaign, even with Internet access most of the time, the stuff that is going on back home can seem a bit mysterious once one catches up with it.
Back in 2004, I spent the big Swift-boating month teaching and vacationing in Australia. So, while I knew from nytimes.com and such that it was happening, I couldn't quite grasp how a home-front wartime deserter was able to trash the other guy based on lies so transparent that they should have been laughed at and then ignored. Nor could I grasp why the Kerry campaign didn't do anything about it.
Now after two days offline at Halong Bay I am trying to grasp this bizarre fake scandal regarding Wesley Clark, who is being savaged for saying things that are indisputably true. I gather he was asked why Obama is qualified to be commander in chief when he has never been shot down in a military plane and spent 5 years in POW camp. He answered that this is not really a qualification to be commander in chief - it doesn't involve running large units, making military decisions, etcetera - and added if anything over-elaborate encomia about how he honors what McCain endured, etcetera, etcetera.
This in turn apparently loosed a wave of hysteria about how he's dishonored America, needs to apologize, and so on ad nauseum. The fact that he was respectful and made an indisputably correct observation - McCain's experience may or may not be significant to one's assessment of his abilities and qualifications, but clearly is not itself c of c experience - just doesn't matter.
We are one crazy country these days, and not I fear headed towards greater sanity.