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Wednesday, December 17, 2003  

People are saying: Politics

  • Flemming feels Shrub's pain

  • Filmmaker and blogger Brian Flemming has been having a problem with embarassment. I'm not saying that Brian has done anything to be ashamed of. (Why would a smart and attractive fellow who uses a Mac?) It seems Brian is very empathetic. He becomes embarrassed on behalf of other people. I'll let him tell you about it.

    Our National Deer Caught In the National Headlights

    For one of the productions of a play I co-wrote, Bat Boy: The Musical, there was a performer who got an audition as a courtesy -- he was connected to a potential investor, and he wanted to be an actor, so he was allowed to come in at the last stage of auditions to "see what it is like" to audition for a play. And he sang. And he was tone deaf. And he didn't know it. And we all sat there, listening to this man embarrass himself in front of us. For one whole song. And then the second song -- a ballad.

    The experience was painful. For me, being embarrassed for someone is a very physical sensation. My gut clenches a bit. No doubt my heartbeat increases somewhat. I have to consciously stop my face muscles from wincing. For some reason, I reflexively bring my hand up to my chin and rest my head on it -- kind of like the "Thinker" pose. My legs cross, too.

    It's a very unpleasant sensation that fills my entire body.

    And this is what happens to me almost every time I see President Bush on video. He starts his awkward stumble through whatever it is he is trying to say, and I feel those same physical sensations, and I just can't stand it. I can't even listen to his words, because his utter failure to convincingly play his role -- competent leader of the free world -- is too distracting.

    This happens a lot: I go to watch a video clip of President Bush delivering a speech or conducting a press conference, and within one minute I have to turn it off, because I truly can't stand the feeling of being embarrassed for him.

    In these moments, I don't feel hate for the man, any more than I feel hate for an unskilled actor at an audition. In fact, the visceral response would seem to require sympathy at a certain level--and that's definitely what it feels like. You don't have to like or even know someone to feel sympathy for him. It's like watching someone get hit by a car -- Oh my God, that could be me, and that would be horrible.

    I know this feeling I get is not a result of my disagreement with the President on his policies. I didn't get this feeling when I watched his father on television. Or Reagan, from what I remember. I don't get this feeling from watching Cheney or Rumsfeld, two men whose political views I find appalling. I don't get this feeling from any other politician I can think of.

    No, I only get the feeling of being embarrassed for someone from George W. Bush. Watching President Bush deliver a speech is like watching a child who has forgotten his lines in the Christmas pageant. It's so painful that I just can't do it. I'd rather read a summary or a transcript of what he said.

    I am aware that I am out of step with much of the rest of the nation on this. The speech the President gave to Congress after 9-11 apparently gave many Americans greater confidence in him. I saw roughly one minute of that speech and became more scared of him than I have ever been. This was around the time I stopped watching TV for good.

    A writer recently described President Bush as "our national deer caught in the national headlights." It was the most apt description of him I have ever read, and I wish I could remember who wrote it.

    I generally read what our national non-leaders are saying instead of watching it on television, though I hadn't given much thought to why until I read Brian's commentary. It may be because I find them less immediate, and therefore less insulting when I don't have to see them or hear their voices.

    I'm a regular reader of Brian's fine blog and think you should be, too.

  • Make way for McLieb

  • Vance at Begging to Differ has made a novel proposal.

    A Not-So-Modest Proposal

    In this morning's Wall Street Journal, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, in response to the question, "If you had to rely upon a single person as your foremost foreign policy advisor, who would it be?", answers, "Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain." (Sorry, no link, I read it on dead trees.)

    And then it hit me. Lieberman's best chance at winning the election is to forget the Democratic party. He should similarly ask McCain to forget the GOP and instead be his running mate. They could represent the Demopublican Party. Or, if you prefer, the Republicrats. When you think about it, the concept isn't so far fetched. Lieberman certainly isn't pleased that the Democratic party seems to have written him off before the first snowflake even fell in New Hampshire. And McCain is undoubtedly still bitter about the 2000 GOP primary. They both have some decent crossover appeal with their respective opposition party.

    Either man alone would stand no chance. Together they very well could win.

    Do I believe a McLieb candidacy could win? Nah. But, Vance's idea does bring back youthful memories of having wanted to see a viable moderate-progressive third party or third party candidate emerge. I think we can all learn something about the political process in the United States by considering why neither is possible.

  • The man who would be king

  • Speaking of embarrassment, perhaps I should be embarrassed to admit I still don't know who I am supporting in the upcoming Presidential election. The folks at the Edwards Grass Roots Blog have some thoughts on the topic. They're not too pleased that a 'coronation' may have occurred.

    Elections, Not Coronations

    Boy, was John Edwards ever right when he responded to Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean by pointing out that "we Democrats have elections, not coronations".

    Here's William Saletan, writing in Slate Magazine:

    What was that again about counting every vote?

    Three years ago, Al Gore, trailing in the Florida recount, urged the nation to wait until all the votes were tallied. "There are some who would have us bring this election to the fastest conclusion possible. I have a different view," Gore pleaded.

    Gore's view was that the urge to unite and win must never shortcut the electorate's verdict. "What is at stake is more important than who wins the presidency," he argued. "What is at stake is the integrity of our democracy, making sure that the will of the American people is expressed and accurately received."

    That will must be expressed "without any intervening interference," Gore insisted. Elections should be determined "by the votes cast by the people, not by politicians."

    That was then. This is now.

    Now the presidential candidate Gore prefers is ahead. Not in the vote count—the first votes haven't been cast yet—but in Democratic polls and money. In Iowa, Howard Dean leads his nearest competitor by eight points. In New Hampshire, he leads by 14 points to 25 points. Financially, he's blowing the field away. He has already renounced matching funds, allowing him to ignore the customary spending caps and outspend his opponents with impunity in the early primaries.

    Should Democrats fight it out and see who wins? Not if Gore has his way. "Democracy is a team sport," he declared as he endorsed Dean in Harlem this morning. "All of us need to get behind the strongest candidate."

    Who decided Dean was the strongest candidate? Not the voters: They haven't voted. Not the polls, either: They've shown Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, and Wesley Clark scoring better than Dean in hypothetical match-ups with President Bush. The person who anointed Dean the strongest candidate is the same intervening politician who complained three years ago about intervening politicians.

    Does Gore's endorsement of Dean matter to this independent voter? Yes, it carries some weight. However, it will not be dispositive in regard to my eventual decision.

    On other channels

    At Blog Sisters: Are women more rational than men?

    At Silver Rights: Late Sen. Strom Thurmond's segregationist career and parentage of a mixed-race woman is considered.

    At Blogcritics: A moderate explains why not being ecstatic over Saddam Hussein's capture does not mean one is sleeping with the enemy.

    11:46 AM