Not in Kansas anymore

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(Host) Commentator Philip Baruth recently spent a weekend traveling through New Hampshire that is, New Hampshire in the heart of primary season. It was a mind-blowing experience almost literally.

(Baruth) I spent this past weekend driving around the southern half of New Hampshire, and I have some advice for you: if you want to experience so much political discourse that your head will actually explode, drive around the southern half of New Hampshire in the last weeks before the New Hampshire primary. In Burlington, Vermont, where I live, I can usually choose between two radio stations offering political programming. In New Hampshire, I had my choice at any hour of the day between seven or eight different brands. I listened to Robert Kennedy, Jr., the environmentalist, give an absolute stem-winder of a speech to the National Press Club. I heard Al Franken talking trash really entertaining political trash about Bill O’Reilly.

And then there were those weird political voices that always seem to come in more faintly, a little scratchy, as though the guy is out in his garage cranking a generator as he rants. This past weekend, those were the kind of voices that couldn’t stop talking about Michael Jackson’s arrest for child molestation, and the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage. You could tell in the minds of those guys the two topics were interchangeable.

Then I’d get to my event, and I’d sit in a quiet corner of a bookstore with a group of eight or ten very thoughtful people, and these people of course *really wanted to talk politics.* In Concord, I had this incredible one-hour conversation with a middle school teacher about the No Child Left Behind Act. Basically, she thought it was leaving children behind, and I agreed, but still we managed to kill an entire hour with the intensity of our agreement.

Like I say, after four or five hours in the car, listening to all of this, my head exploded, and I had to pull into a Red Roof Inn in Nashua. I turned on the television to try to get a little relief from the non-stop political cross-fire. And there, out of nowhere, was The Wizard of Oz on TNT or HBO or whatever. Dorothy and her friends were running down the castle steps, pursued by those sick-looking green fascist palace guards. And of course because I’m watching it in New Hampshire, it instantly becomes politics for me, like everything else, and I’m thinking, okay, John Kerry is clearly the Tin Man, and Joe Lieberman is the Cowardly Lion, and yes, Dick Gephardt is the Scarecrow. But who’s Dean, I’m thinking as I drift off to sleep.

And then it hits me like a lightning bolt: Toto. Think about it: Toto’s the only one of the whole bunch who knows that there’s a humbug behind the curtain, controlling the Wizard. And Toto’s the one that keeps growling and pulling at the curtain until the illusion is revealed. You think these things as you fall asleep in a motel room in New Hampshire, deep in primary season, and for some reason they don’t really seem all that strange.

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