2016 election

I, Virginia Bergman, pledge not to vote for a male presidential candidate in 2016 just because he's male.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Charm vs. substance

So who cares about Karl Rove’s opinions anyway? I ask myself, as he heads on down the road where President Bush has promised soon to follow. I’m hooked, though, and Rove’s stuff about Hillary’s “negatives” prompts a quick search of archived NewsHour transcripts at PBS from the 2000 and 2004 campaigns.

Those were the days, you’ll remember, when pollsters and pundits pointed to Bush’s moral character and the indisputable fact that Americans liked him: “He’s the kind of guy you could enjoy sitting down with in a bar and swilling a beer or two,” his supporters were given to boast.

Replying to a question from Margaret Warner in 2000, pollster John Zogby opined: “Well, I think basically if you go back to 1988, that's the classic example. Dukakis never really built up his likeability, therefore it was easy to knock him down. But America likes George W. Bush. They seem to like what they see. And at the same time, they don't like Al Gore very much.”

In the transcript of a David Brooks and Mark Shields analysis from the 2004 campaign, Shields detects change in the air: “I’d add one more thing: George Bush’s likeability edge, which I think everybody acknowledges over John Kerry, and his congeniality and just his naturalness were bigger assets in 2000 than they are in 2004.”

Shields continued: “I think Andy Kohut {pollster} was absolutely right. This is not a popularity contest. He {Kerry} cannot be unlikable, but he’s not going to out charm George Bush.”

Whatever. In 2004 the American electorate allowed charm to trump substance once again by electing Bush to a second term.

August 2007: Charm has worn out its welcome in the White House. An article from CNN online the other day discusses poll results revealing American skepticism of the upcoming Petraeus report on the war in Iraq. The article quotes Polling Director Keating Holland: "It does seem to indicate that anyone associated with the Bush administration may be a less than credible messenger for the message that there is progress being made in Iraq.”

In the end, choosing charm over substance in electing a president appears not to have served our nation well. Hopefully, the majority in our electorate will take the time in the 2008 campaign to evaluate the candidates on the basis of more serious qualities, such as knowledge, wisdom, experience, and genuine compassion ― think Katrina.

Which brings me back to Hillary Clinton. I doubt that anyone will ever describe her as enthusiastically as they did George W. Bush as someone they’d enjoy having a beer with. But, hey, let’s give Hillary a break: Dubya has a lot more experience as a barfly than she does.

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