John McCain is quite possibly the most boring, uninspiring man alive. That Hardball’s Chris Matthews plans to spend an hour with him this week is a big ho-hum, but McCain is having things his way as the Democratic primary continues on its destructive course. One can only hope it will soon be over and that the one-man Republican ‘debate’ will be brought to an end as well.
In its mind-numbing quest for a new angle the Clinton camp has added a new dimension to its increasingly dysfunctional campaign with accusations that Obama is “elitist and out-of-touch” because of his remarks alluding to the bitterness some voters feel and their tendency to “cling” to religion, guns and anti-immigration sentiments. As he has said, he may have made a poor choice of words to describe frustrations many feel in the face of financial reversals, job insecurity and the absence of affordable health care.
The point isn’t, however, that people don’t or shouldn’t find comfort in their religious affliations and cultural diversions or that job losses and declining incomes haven’t produced understandable passions. Rather, it is a sense ‘out there’ that government has failed to understand or address the plight of ordinary Americans. There is little evidence that the Bush administration and most of the country’s leaders have given much thought to a struggling Middle America.
How this plays out in real time in real places isn’t about the way such concerns are expressed but more to the point whether or not they become part of the conversation at all. As one caller to a morning TV forum put it ‘you bet we’re bitter out here; our steel mills have closed, our jobs have been lost, and it doesn’t seem as if anyone in Washington cares’. And, she added, ‘Mrs. Clinton can reminisce that her summer cottage didn’t have indoor plumbing, ‘but she should know that my family never had a summer cottage with or without plumbing’.
Clearly playing the “elitist” card doesn’t work all that well in her case. But Senator Clinton may have a Lieberman-type whisperer pointing out that Gore and Kerry suffered the ill effects of not appearing to be ordinary guys. So there’s Hillary tossing down shots and beer at some bar somewhere with Joe Six-pack types, talking about indoor plumbing and accusing Obama of being elitist.
Strange how this stuff works sometimes – –Wasn’t George Bush, someone voters could imagine having a beer with for whatever that’s worth in a Commander in Chief. In any case he went to Yale and Harvard, not that he is any particular credit to either institution, and his family had plenty of money and a vacation home in Kennebunk, ME. What a guy. For her part, Hillary came from a pretty substantial background, rustic vacation home notwithstanding, and made her way through Wellesley and Yale Law School. Could boilermakers have been the beverage of choice at Wellesley and Yale?
As the Democratic primaries and the Republican candidacy roll on it is clear our decision-making process is becoming more precarious than ever. We were given to understand that Senator Clinton was a very bright, competent leader of vast experience, yet her campaign has been a muddle of political shenanigans, mismanagement and disingenuousness if not downright dishonesty. McCain, on the other hand, continues to claim he is a straight talker, who decries lobbying influences in government and extremists yet welcomes well-placed lobbyists as campaign managers and is “honored” to have the support of some exceedingly radical religious figures. Does Obama by contrast suffer from getting caught being honest, if politically inept, at times by not pulling his punches? Real straight talk, however, should never be confused with political hype.
Voters haven’t always been particularly discerning in their choice of leaders, often dwelling on the superficial and failing even more often to consider either what is in their own best interest or the country’s long-term security. Worked into a lather over issues that affect very few of them, for example what Republicans like to call the “death tax”, larger and far more important matters garner insufficient attention.
Yet even though the campaign season may appear to be dragging on too long, one thing favoring its longevity is that the electorate will have lots of opportunities to get a real sense of the candidates as deceptions wear thin to be replaced, hopefully, by substance.