Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Personal, Petty, Pathetic Politicians

A few things are clear to me after John Kerry's recent gaffe. First, a well-delivered joke and John Kerry are as comfortable together as oil and water. Second, the judgment of Kerry's advisors, and of Kerry himself, in equipping the senator with a joke is wretched. Watching Kerry give this freebie to the Republicans reminded me of what my friend Hank Shiffman wanted to call the (so far unwritten) history of the dysfunctional startup where we used to work: One Car Pileup.

Third, Kerry's attempted joke was mean-spirited. Here is what his advisor's claim he meant to say: “Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.” As illuminating as it is hilarious. (What came out, of course, is "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq." Which brings to mind Secretary of State Elihu Root's response to President Teddy Roosevelt, when Roosevelt asked Root what he thought of Roosevelt's defense of his taking of the Panama Canal: "You have been accused of seduction, and you have conclusively proven that you are guilty of rape.")

Faced with the predictable Republican counterattack (Bush: Kerry's comments were “insulting and shameful"); Cheney: "He was for the joke before he was against it”), Kerry had this to say: "I'm sick and tired of a bunch of despicable Republicans who will not debate real policy, who won't take responsibility for their own mistakes, standing up and trying to make other people the butt of those mistakes."

Slow down there, Senator Kerry. What did your botched joke have to do "real policy?" How about a taking some "responsibility" for the lameness of the attempted joke itself, and not just for its botched execution?

All right, enough about Kerry, he did what he did and meant what he meant. Still, for just a moment, I imagined a world in which President Bush, rather than responding in kind, might have shrugged when reporters questioned (baited?) him and said, "I've seen the tape, and I recognize that Senator Kerry was trying to insult me, not our troops, whom I'm sure as a combat veteran and a patriotic American he fully supports. So I consider this a non-issue, and hope we can now move on to more substantive topics."

Imagine it! The dignity! The leadership! The Christian charity! The bearing in keeping with the gravitas of the office itself! Not to mention the newsworthiness, too, in an era where Virginia Senator George Allen is actually running against the sex scenes in James Webb's novels. And who knows? Maybe other Republicans, and Democrats, too, might take their cue from Bush's gracious lead. Maybe our politicians as a class would start acting slightly less... juvenile?

But my little daydream ignores one important dynamic here: the Republicans don't want to talk about the real state of the country and the world, any more than the Democrats know how to. So both parties prefer to sling bullshit. It protects them from having to say anything real.

Mixed in with all this is my nagging sense that, in a democracy, even one as gerrymandered as ours, the fault lies not in the politicians, but ultimately, instead, with the voters who put up with them.


Anonymous said...

If there were a candidate on the ballet that didn't sling mud...I'd vote for him/her. Unfortunately, that seems to be an impossibility. Here in TN, we've already made national news with our Corker/Ford race for senate. I can't wait until election day is history! Of course as soon as next Tuesday has come and gone, we'll be gearing up for the 2008, which I expect to be the nastiest ever.

David Terrenoire said...

I've been active in politics since 1968 (Clean for Gene!) and I'm tired. This is just the most recent example of bullshit.

I'm done.

Yes, I say this every two years, but this time I mean it. I'm done. I'm not even voting, the first election I'll have missed since 1972.

It's been a decision long in coming and one I'll be writing about more over at The Planet. I don't intend to blog whore, just to let you know that my reasons for opting out will be set out in detail.

But I'm done. It's someone else's turn.

Anonymous said...

Yes, there clearly should be a choice of

'none of the above'

The idea of an 'uneducated' operating a naval vessel or military aircraft scares me.

I guess since I'm not scared of that, they must be educated.

Barry Eisler said...

David, don't do it! It's not easy, my friend, I'm with you on that. But as Andrew Sullivan says, "this isn't an election... it's an intervention." Intervene!


Anonymous said...

All I know is that Kerry really knows how to (and I'll use the clean version of this) mess up a dream of passion. Can there be any one more maddening.

On another note, thanks for blogging so much. I really appreciate the writing and opinions.

Anonymous said...

Ruth, I hear you! I'd vote for one who didn't sling mud, too.

Barry, I like your daydream. And JR, yes! A leader! Imagine that!

I recently described everything I want in our next president (ideally). She said, "Oh! You want a leader and a statesman."

If I one ran, with dignity like you described, I think I'd vote for him even if I disagreed with him on nearly every possible issue.

Barry Eisler said...

Db, my pleasure, glad you're enjoying the posts and thanks for your comments.

Check out the photo from our troops in Iraq on the Drudge Report. It's hilarious. If Kerry's bumbling weren't causing so much damage, I'd feel bad for the guy.