There’s a moment in Superman II where E.G. Marshall, playing the President of the United States, appears on television, announcing to the nation that he has surrendered his authority over to General Zod. But Marshall breaks down midway through the speech and shouts into the microphone, “Superman: can you hear me? Superman!” Zod then picks up the microphone and asks, “Where is this Superman?” and demands that Superman come to challenge his authority if he dare, so that the son of Jor-El can eventually kneel before Zod.
But Superman has lost his powers. He has just been beaten to a pulp by some hick in a diner and he suggests to Lois Lane, as he is bleeding, that maybe they might need a bodyguard. But Superman, knowing that he must rid the world of the forces of evil, insists that he has to go back. He eventually gets his powers back and stops the three baddies. Though not without sacrificing his love for Lois Lane.
The moment is one of supreme comic book movie melodrama, but for some damned reason, it’s one of the grandest cinematic moments I remember as a kid. It might be the general state of helplessness, an unexpected breakdown following the calm actions of a leader willing to kneel before Zod to save human lives. But I like to think it’s more about decency in the face of horrible capitulations — something that buys the human race a little more time.
In contemplating the current situation, I feel almost exactly like E.G. Marshall reflecting the will of the people. If Kerry is really presidential material, just where the hell is he? Deaths continue in Iraq. The economy remains in the toilet. Bush’s approval figures are now the lowest ever in his presidency. And now Bush wants more troops while remaining in firm denial about the consequences of our actions: “The actions of our enemies over the last few weeks have been brutal, calculating and instructive. It reveals a fanaticism that was not caused by any action of ours and would not be appeased by any concession.”
This should be a slam dunk, a moment that the Democrats should be seizing with momentum and mobilization. This should be a time in which John Kerry is galvanizing the nation with the same fire he showed protesting Vietnam.
Pollster John Zogby himself is on record stating that John Kerry will win, but only if he, and he alone, will screw it up. And from where I’m standing, I see a tepid man and an ineffectual leader. I see a man playing it far too safe for the present time. I see a man who doesn’t have the guts to fight the good underdog fight and act like a goddam President, a man who believes that Bush’s extra spending before the Republican National Convention will somehow buy the faith of the American people — this even as Tom Clancy almost came to blows with Richard Perle..
Kerry’s hands may be admittedly tied by current campaign finance and a colossal Republican-to-Democrat spending gap. But the real question here is whether postponing the nomination until the Republican National Convention so that Kerry can spend his own money is worth sacrificing the general morale of the country.
It would be one thing if Kerry managed to express public consternation over our current unwillingness to accept responsibility for the horrors that we sow. But whether he’s officially the Democratic candidate or not, the time has come for Kerry to start acting like our next President, which means sacrificing something in the process.
John Kerry needs to show us that he’s Superman.