Monday, April 10, 2006

Where have you been the last 40 years?

Joe Klein has a new column that's recommended, though a tad on the obvious side: Pssst! Who's behind the decline of politics? (Consultants.)

Well, duh! Ten seconds alone with Paul Begala would supply all the evidence needed to reach that conclusion. Now there's some strategist named "Mudcat" (git it, he's Southern) Saunders plugging his book which suggests, among other things, that the Democrats can win over Middle America if only they'd attend more NASCAR events.

Yeah, that's what we need: more candidates pretending to be someone they're not. Remember when John Kerry ventured out to a race during the 2004 campaign, delivering this infamous quote: "Who among us doesn't like NASCAR?" People who use clunky phrases like that, for one.

Voters don't like being patronized. And would anyone really change their vote based on a candidate's sports allegiance? (Although I will say the best thing about Bush is that he seems to be a legitimately passionate baseball fan. Kerry, trolling for the jock demographic, once referred to Red Sox star "Manny Ortiz.") It's okay if you don't like sports, or shoot guns. Just admit it and move on.

Perhaps the worst moment came with the Bush Administration torture scandal: How to respond to Abu Ghraib? Hold a focus group. But the civilians who volunteered for an Arkansas focus group were conflicted; ultimately, they believed the Bush Administration should do whatever was necessary to extract information from the "terrorists." The consultants were unanimous in their recommendation to the candidate: Don't talk about it. Kerry had entered American politics in the early 1970s, protesting the Vietnam War, including the atrocities committed by his fellow soldiers in Vietnam. But he followed his consultants' advice, never once mentioning Abu Ghraib—or the Justice Department memo that "broadened" accepted interrogation techniques—in his acceptance speech or, remarkably, in his three debates with Bush.

Klein concludes optimistically with this prediction about 2008:

The winner will be the candidate who comes closest to this model: a politician who refuses to be a "performer," at least in the current sense. Who speaks but doesn't orate. Who never holds a press conference on or in front of an aircraft carrier. Who doesn't assume the public is stupid or uncaring. Who believes in at least one major idea, or program, that has less than 40% support in the polls. Who can tell a joke—at his or her own expense, if possible. Who gets angry, within reason; gets weepy, within reason ... but only if those emotions are real and rare. Who isn't averse to kicking his or her opponent in the shins but does it gently and cleverly. Who radiates good sense, common decency and calm. Who is not afraid to deliver bad news. Who is not afraid to admit a mistake. And who, above all, abides by the motto that graced Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Oval Office: let unconquerable gladness dwell.

Let's hope he's right. One problem, though. When such candidates emerge, they're usually rejected by their own party (see Kerrey, Bob and McCain, John). Getting rid of consultants, and closed primaries, would give us much better options on Election Day.

No comments:

Post a Comment