Friday, March 30, 2007


It wasn’t a great movie but it keeps coming to mind, The Candidate, starring Robert Redford in the title role and Peter Boyle, magnificent as the campaign manager.

Released in 1972, it shows the transformation of an idealistic, and good-looking, college professor into a political product.

The catalyst is win-ability. Fringe candidates can maintain intellectual and ideological integrity, but when actual victory comes in sight, the candidate must “get serious.” Robert Redford wound up saying whatever Peter Boyle told him to say.

Aesthetic appeal can be a major element of a candidacy. In some ways it’s better to follow an attractive leader into failure, than to follow a frump to success. Like, we’re all going to die anyway, why not spend the time we have here on earth with people and leaders we like?

JFK was the prototype. Who remembers the issues of the 1960 race? I do. Quemoy and Matsu. Oh, and the “missile gap.” It was Kennedy’s (totally disingenuous) assertion that the U.S. didn’t have enough nuclear missiles.

Also in that mold are Barack Obama and Gavin Newsom.

I still haven’t heard one policy-related reason to vote for Obama. I’m, like, still waiting.

Our troubled mayor enjoys high poll ratings. Why? Newsom looks good in pictures (except for Luke Thomas pictures) and he talks sort of like a mayor and he doesn’t propose disruptive programs. (It doesn’t hurt Newsom that his opposition kowtows to bicyclists and the corn-based grocery bag crowd.)

So the best candidate anti-Newsom (used to be called anti-downtown) interests can come up with so far is Danny Glover, who has way more screen appeal than Gavin. Who the hell knows what kind of mayor Danny Glover would be? Who the hell cares?

A good contrary example of what I’m talking about is Hilary Clinton. Maybe there was once something attractive about Hilary, but she “got serious” many moons ago, and there’s no appeal left.

Voting for president is partly a television casting choice. The president, whoever he or she may be, gets four long years of TV face time. If it ever looked like Hilary could really become president, television addicts would flock to the polls to vote against her. She's simply unpleasant to look at and listen to.

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