“How you doin’, ma’am?” The whiskery old man, slumped against a wall, looked up at me as I walked past.
“Good, thank you, how are you?” I replied, smiling at him as I carried on walking.
His face changed as he hauled himself to his feet. “Somethin’ funny? You think somethin’s fuckin’ funny?” Following me closely down the street, he yelled over and over again “You think somethin’s fuckin’ funny?!” then bellowed a triumphant “FUCK YOU, MA’AM!” as I escaped into a shop.
“You dating that guy?” asked the man behind the counter.
It would be nice to have someone to protect me from the occasional Mr Fuck-You-Ma’am as I go to buy the Sunday papers, but I’m not the President or a presidential candidate so apparently I don’t qualify. Obama and Romney have the Secret Service to prevent any crazies getting near them; I use the impermeable aura of my British awkwardness and the odd bit of fast walking.
We learnt a lot about the Secret Service last week. The news that some of the nation’s finest had been caught with prostitutes in Colombia was less shocking to me than the fact that one of them had argued about the bill (very poor behaviour). This was a good old-fashioned scandal with all the best elements – hookers, sex, booze, politics – and a perfect diversion from the other big story everyone was squealing about; specifically, who was worse: Romney, who stuck his dog on the roof of his car for a 12-hour journey, or Obama, who ate dog meat as a child in Indonesia.
Either the level of political debate has plunged to a new low, or everyone’s just a bit giddy that finally the race for the White House is underway, sort of. Personally I am glad that we haven’t yet reached the zenith of serious political discourse because (a) I won’t understand much of it and (b) I might get bored with politics and then would have literally nothing to talk about to anyone.
We are, though, enjoying a minor burst of damp speculation about whom Mittens will choose as his running mate. He needs someone who can balance his unpopularity with hard-core conservatives, and bring a little sparkle to the GOP campaign; he has yet to translate his alleged warmth and humour to the big screen. The most likely VP contenders include:
- Congressman Paul Ryan: a fiscal conservative responsible for pulling together the GOP’s budget proposals. Astonishing blue eyes. A bit worthy and therefore dull. Fun fact: he taught his nine-year-old daughter how to shoot a .243 light-caliber Remington 700 bolt-action hunting rifle.
- Governor Chris Christie: appeals to right-wingers and has been a loyal supporter of Romney. He has a high public profile and an even higher cholesterol level. Fun fact: he used to steal doughnuts when he was at college.
- Senator Marco Rubio: pin-up of the Tea Party (because that’s a title everyone wants). Fun fact: his first job was building cages for exotic birds.
- Senator Rob Portman: well-respected and has held positions in federal office. Fun fact: who?
- Governor Bob McDonnell: has good right-wing credentials but the laydees hate him because of his position on contraception and abortion in his state of Virginia (although recent reports suggest he is softening his line on this). Fun fact: he enjoys the most severe hair parting in U.S. politics since Millard Fillmore (1800-1874).
Rubio is out campaigning with Mittens today, so perhaps he has the edge. In the meantime, I pity the poor journalists and commentators who are putting off the moment when they have to start explaining to a disillusioned public the minutiae of the policy differences between the parties. Hence general newsy relief when anything else vaguely interesting happens, like Twitter war breaking out between senior party spokesmen @DavidAxelrod for Obama and @EricFehrn for Mitt. As I write, there is a minor kerfuffle about Mitt’s recently appointed foreign policy spokesman who has deleted over 800 of his more fruity tweets and apologised for his less than gentlemanly comments.