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It's Not Conventions and Campaigns

Those who missed the recent political conventions can count themselves among the lucky! Gone are the smoke filled, boisterous, floor fights of yore. That was a time when we gathered around a small screen and watched the actual selection and nominating process, televised in black and white. We could be assured there would be suspense, drama, and comedy, none of which was preplanned. Now, we stared numbly at a technicolor, colossal spectacle, artificially choreographed, mindnumbingly over done, and the word boring doesn't even begin to describe the slick veneer, which covered the entire mess. The two occasions could only be characterized as the "Yawns heard 'round the world." Insomniacs rejoiced! Deliverance was at hand!

When the U.S. Congress, in 1788, decided that the first national election would take place on the first Wednesday in January 1789, they were mindful that many people would want to make speeches. So they gave each candidate plenty of time.

Apparently, it never occurred to anyone then, that 212 years later, there might be more than a dozen Republicans vying for the nomination, at least two Democrats, and countless minor party candidates, all of whom would need "plenty of time" to make speeches. As Laurel and Hardy were fond of saying, "Well, another fine mess you've gotten us into."

Hard to believe, but it was almost a year ago when we offered the following observations:

"Is anyone else out there wondering how to survive the political onslaught between now and November 7, 2000? That is the date of the next presidential election. Here we are, more than 13 months to go and we can hardly pick up a newspaper or turn on the television without hearing about that particular campaign. This started six months ago. Lots of us are already weary from listening to endless debates about the Clinton fatigue factor, the 'woodenness' of Al Gore, the flippancy of George W. Bush, the ranting of Pat Buchanan, the financial extravagances of Steve Forbes, and various traits ascribed to the other candidates."

The date on that was September 1999, and it's been all-downhill from there!

The field has narrowed considerably and the "chosen" four are slugging it out…..sort of….Al Gore looks like a second banana in a very bad vaudeville act, standing in the wings, waiting for the top banana to exit and secretly longing for the "hook" which may be the only way to pull Clinton off center stage. George W., on the other hand, is hoping the folks who voted for his Dad will see him as looking and sounding like Father, while simultaneously declaring that he is his own man and does not want to attract votes simply because of his paternal namesake. Whatever!

One of the earliest wrinkles (and we use the term advisably) in this campaign had to do with "image attire." At that time, Maureen Dowd, offered this analysis in her weekly syndicated column: "George W. (Bush) has traded his cowboy boots for black loafers to look more earnest, and Al has traded his black loafers for cowboy boots to look less earnest. It's unsettling when candidates start fiddling with their clothes and hair and speech patterns, trying to project a different image. They are in public life for decades, and they still don't know who they are? Candidates pay political consultants millions for fashion advice so they can 'be themselves.'"

Which reminds us of the story of a debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in their bid for the U.S. Senate. Lincoln was not as great an orator as Douglas was, and old Abe was certainly not considered a handsome man. At one point Douglas accused Lincoln of being two-faced. Lincoln replied, "I leave it to the audience. If I had two faces, would I be wearing this one?"

November of 2000 is now bearing down on us and in a few short months, we'll have to "face the music." Women have always offered both serious and humorous perspectives on this topic, which traditionally deserves a bit of each.

In her book "Thinking Out Loud," Anna Quindlen wrote this, dated November 4, 1992: "For the last fifteen years Barbara Walters has been haunted by the comment she made to Jimmy Carter in a pre-inaugural interview. 'Be wise with us,' she said. 'Be good to us.' The truth is that we all know what she meant, because most of us, on one Tuesday in November or another has felt at least a whiff of the same thing. It's called hope."

When those optimistic expectations are "trashed" it makes it much more difficult to walk into that booth the next time--but we must. In 1873, suffragist Susan B. Anthony was fined $100 for attempting to vote in the 1872 Presidential Election. She was merely one of a legion of women who worked tirelessly to achieve the right for us to cast our ballots. No matter how dismal the selection may seem, regardless of the cynicism the process produces, women in particular should feel added pressure to participate—the privilege did not come easily!

The road to the White House is long and tortuous…for the voters! An unfortunate aspect of such a long, drawn out and often tedious proceedings is that it gives so many Americans just what they are frequently looking for—an excuse not to vote. The number of people eligible to register, and those who are actually showing up to cast their ballots has dropped precipitously in the last two decades. How many times have you heard the comments: "They're all a bunch of crooks," "It really doesn't matter anymore," "I'm just fed up with the whole business." There's the story about a city councilman who was campaigning door to door, and he thought things were going pretty well until he found himself facing a very grouchy-looking fellow. After the candidate's little speech, the man said, "Vote for YOU? Why I'd rather vote for the Devil!" "I understand," said the candidate, "But in case your friend is not running, may I count on your support?" Ronald Reagan was quoted as saying, "Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."

Women historically have always had a great deal to say on the subject. It's worth pausing for a moment and considering their sentiments:

Writing to her husband, the second President of the United States, Abigail Adams implored him to: "Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or Representation."

"Well, I've got you the presidency, what are you going to do with it?" Florence Harding, wife of the twenty-ninth president of the United States.

"Every politician should have been born an orphan and remain a bachelor." Lady

Bird Johnson, wife of the thirty-sixth president of the United States.

"A woman is like a teabag—you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water." Nancy Reagan

One of our personal quotes was offered by columnist Meg Greenfield, "Everyone seems to be running against a liar, but nobody seems to be one. Odd—I mean, the math doesn't work out!"

Two long time political authors and observers recounted these two vignettes…which say a lot about power and perspective.

Christopher Matthews, who now has his own cable program, "Hardball," by his book of the same name wrote, under the heading of Perspective:

"At a black-tie 'roast' of New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley held in 1987, his colleague Albert Gore of Tennessee told the following tale:

Senator Bradley came to the Senate with his reputation as Princeton All-American and National Basketball Association Star preceding him. Invited to make a speech at a large banquet, the confident legislator sat at the head table waiting to make his address.

When the waiter came around and put a pat of butter on his plate, Bradley stopped him. 'Excuse me. Can I have two pats of butter?'

'Sorry,' said the waiter, 'one pat to a person.'

'I think you don't know who I am,' Bradley said, 'I'm BILL BRADLEY, the Rhodes Scholar, professional basketball player, world champion, United States Senator.'

The waiter said, 'Well, maybe you don't know who I am.'

'Well, as a matter of fact I don't,' Bradley said, 'Who are you?'

'I'm the guy,' the waiter said, 'who's in charge of the butter."

In the world of power, there's always someone you have to deal with."

Peggy Noonan, speechwriter for President Reagan, in her book, "What I Saw At the Revolution," wrote:

"By the summer of '85 I had been through the Three Phases of the White House.

The first is, 'Gee these people are gonna be so smart,' and you keep quiet so no one knows how dumb you are.

The second is, 'Hey, I'm as bright as the other guys,' and the affirmation makes you generous, the happy pride makes you nicer to the lady in the cafeteria. But you're also a little disappointed, because you wanted to learn.

The third is, 'Oh my God, we're in charge???" And you start having mild anxiety attacks and talking too much."

Will there be a person still breathing who is not turned off, tuned out, and totally disinterested by the time November 7, 2000 arrives? Maybe that's part of the strategy. With the general populace completely numbed by Election Day, it's conceivable that Mickey Mouse could win on a write-in ballot. After all, he has been responsible for unimaginable economic growth in this country and abroad…..all those theme parks translate into lots of construction jobs and then a vast employee workforce to keep them running, clean and wholesome. Let's not forget the Warner Brothers stores, which have produced similar financial and occupational gains for so many people. Then there is the matter of the stock implications. And, who has done more to bring families together in a cheerful, healthy and uplifting environment that embodies the "family values" so often hyped today by politicos? The Mickey Mouse ticket can point to years of consistent, visible and decent behavior on the part of all those connected with his efforts. Walt Disney was the epitome of an ethical, unblemished, and scandal free code of conduct. Those of us who have reached "a certain age" grew up with the Mouseketeers. Mickey has never disappointed or betrayed us.

That brings us back to whose face is looking pretty good right now as a presidential candidate. How 'bout ole' Mickey--you know the Mouse with the big smile, funny short pants, and huge red bow tie? Or, a blue one….

Walt Disney himself said, "I owe it all to a Mouse."    

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