My son sent me a video of Beto O’Rourke at a campaign town meeting and I just went off. He hadn’t even gotten to the subject matter in his scripted response and I was just thinking. Liar. Liar. I got more critical from there. It still bothers me just thinking about it. (Update: Now not so much after the following comparisons, though. Beto doesn't look quite so bad.)
I decided I was being unfair to O’Rourke, by comparing a politician’s speech to regular everyday speech for honesty and presentation. Because I never watch politicians, for exactly this reason, it’s like a one-man police lineup. If people spoke as I want them to, with a brief, tightly-worded argument that anticipates possible objections, they would be very quotable – and unelected. It’s their job to convince people they are special leaders. Part of how they do that is by distracting them with shiny objects, as one would with a toddler, or motte-and-bailey arguments.* Because it works.
So I thought it would be fairer to compare him to videos of other politicians, for content and presentation. I just went to YouTube and put in their names and picked a short video that looked like it might be a talking point disguised as an answer to a question, as Beto’s was. I actually haven’t heard any of them very much, not even Trump, who I just hear sound bites, by his supporters or his opponents.
Ted Cruz – I expected I was going to think “arrogant,” and that’s there, but not as strong as I thought. What I’m seeing is some preacher going on, a little camp meeting. Not the sweaty, shouting guy. The warm-up guy. A little too smooth, though. He looks less like Eddie Munster when he’s talking than he does in still pictures.
Elizabeth Warren - Irritating, but I can’t place it. Schoolmarm? No, she sounds like she’s forever on the verge of losing her temper and most teachers don’t do that. It would be hard to have someone talking like this in your kitchen, there’s too much energy spitting out, but I guess it’s supposed to play on the big stage. It’s like a parent lecturing a child – a lot like me, probably – and you hope it’s some other kid that you don’t like.
Donald Trump – Unlike the rest of America, I actually haven't watched him much. Just soundbites from his supporters and opponents. Again, I was expecting mostly just “blowhard,” but there’s something else. He’s like an old college football coach from the 80’s Bear Bryant No, that’s not it. Nothing like him. Woody Hayes Oh my, yes. We have resurrected Woody Hayes and elected him president of the US.
Bernie Sanders - As God is my witness, I didn’t know he was Jewish until this minute. Old Jewish guy, shaking his fist at the clouds, doesn’t listen to anyone else! I can relate to this! Born in Brooklyn, moved to Vermont. Of course! (Facepalm.) I actually like this style. You can easily picture him saying “Get off my lawn.”
Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez Holy crap. “So, Madison was like at the basketball game, and she was wearing that tight sweater and was all over Hunter, and OMG I was just, like, I can’t believe this…”
Mike Pence Okay, this is the good dad, who’s so disappointed in you, son, but I’m sure you’ll get right back on track and we’ll be seeing a better report card next time. Any questions? Fine. I’ll be checking back with you to look at that geometry homework every night for the rest of the week, then you’ll be on your own again.
Maxine Waters I was expecting fiery, sharp, a little out-of-control. Janis Joplin. I wasn’t expecting slow and stupid.
John Cornyn, the principal, explaining at the emergency assembly why the prom is being cancelled because of all the arrests at the parties after the baseball championship. And Cory Booker channeling Hoover in Animal House.
Speaking of which, I’m glad I couldn’t find anyone of either party quite like this. Maybe there’s hope after all.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz “That speaker jack you injected into my spine is uncomfortable. Stop making me say things, I want to stop now.”
Nancy Pelosi Okay, the botox throws off the facial cues, but I didn’t make her get the treatments. This is like the lady across from you at lunch at a conference explaining some conspiracy theory, like the government covering up about Area 51, or GMO foods causing the extinction of 2700 species of butterfly in one year. Does that seem unfairly extreme of me? She has said “Civilization as we know it would be in jeopardy if Republicans win the Senate.”
A lot of folks in this one, but combined with this one of Grassley, I have to say he is plodding rather than charismatic, like a bank vice president who is patiently explaining that the out-of-town developers aren’t getting a loan because the bank’s long-established criteria suggest they won’t be able to pay it back. The out-of-town developers are acting like they have been through this before with other banks and are sure they’re going to get their way eventually. I have always said it would be good to have a boring president. Worth a try, anyway.
*The speech was: Do I think kneeling in protest is disrespecting the flag, our country, and our veterans? Well it’s a peaceful protest. (No one ever said it wasn’t.) Selma was a peaceful protest. Let me tell you how wonderful Selma was, including WWII vets. 60’s. Freedom Riders. Selma. Names and places that are invocations. Did you notice that I mentioned veterans? My God, Selma and the Civil Right Movement was great. How can people be against Selma? This is the same thing, because it’s peaceful. Also, black people are sad about 0.01% of the deaths being unfair because of police
so pay no attention to the funerals all those other black families have to go
to. Except for the sadness part. We want
to build on that, and redirect it all to injustice that politicians can fix,
just by caring and funding programs that talk about things.