Saturday, October 02, 2004

Leading Them By The Nose....


When I hear criticisms of Kerry as the Democratic candidate, I am often left wondering what it is that inspires those criticisms. That is, the speakers will declare something silly like, "Kerry doesn't excite me", or "He was picked because he was considered the most electable", as if... as if either statement has any significance, or as if parties should pick unelectable candidates. Or "Bush reminds me of a guy I'd drink a beer with", or "I like his swagger and confidence - he's like me" (which is pretty much what a blue collar attendee at a Nascar event said a few months back - as if Bush is anything like him). When you hear something more substantive, such as "Kerry flip-flops", and press for details, you're lucky if you get any. In my experience, pressing for details reveals these comments to be inspired not by the candidate, but by news coverage of supposed voter ambivalence and of the other side's attack ads.

I am often left to wonder what these people want in a candidate. Whose idea is it that you should want a candidate you would drink a beer with, or that you shouldn't want a candidate who instead drinks wine and likes fancy food? Or that you should have an (unelectable) candidate who excites you, rather than a staid, intelligent, and competent candidate who seems, well, staid, intelligent, and competent instead of "exciting". The media, I suppose, started to buy into the packaging and selling of a candidate, over the substance and competence of a candidate, after the Nixon-Kennedy debates. So "Dukakis looks silly in that helmet"-type nonsense often becomes the media's central focus, as opposed to the candidates' positions on the issues. (The media's distractability was very well highlighted by their response to the "Swift Boat Liars" nonsense - and the effort of even the New York Times to blame a candidate for its poor work. Sure, Dukakis didn't have to put on the helmet and get into the tank, but was that really a story?)

If you were "surprised" by John Kerry's performance at the first Presidential debate - which he is widely regarded as having "won" - here's some news for you: If you had been paying attention to the candidate as opposed to the spin, you wouldn't have been surprised.

You want a candidate who thinks in simple terms and speaks in pre-packaged sound bites, instead of one who understands the world's complexities and whose comments reflect thought and abstraction? Perhaps, then, you should do us a favor and limit yourself to voting for the county dog catcher. If you want more from a candidate, stop regurgitating the media's latest spin, and start listening to what the candidates are actually saying.

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