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Play President For Me
Nancy Morgan
February 4, 2008

Form, not substance, will determine the Democrat nominee

The candidate enters the room. Applause, excited whispers. Candidate strides to the podium, scanning the crowd, making sure the cameras are on. Halfway to the podium the candidate pauses. Eyebrows go up, mouth opens, surprise registers and up comes the arm, pointing to someone in the audience. A dozen people start swiveling their heads to catch a glimpse of the anointed. Finding no-one, a full half will be amazed that the candidate actually remembered them from that meet and greet 5 years ago. Wow!
At the podium, candidate remembers to smile, sometimes pointing again and mouthing an imaginary conversation with another good friend they're surprised, surprised to find in another area of the audience. Finally, hands up, palms out, a look of humility, before registering whatever emotions have been scripted for that particular venue. Now, down to business.
The script may vary but there are certain established rules that Democrat candidates must follow if they are to have a chance at the brass ring. Image is first and foremost. Apparel, accessories, makeup and hairdo determine that important first connection.
For women: A business suit accompanied by a touch of lace or jewelry to remind the voters that they are still feminine. No pants suits, unless you have fat legs. (Fat legs bring forth negative images and poll worse than pant suits) Easy on the make-up or you'll suffer the fate of Kathleen Harris, however botox is highly recommended for candidates over 50. Showing cleavage is risky. You could be consigned to the ranks of trailor trash or you could get lucky and be the focus of a national conversation for up to a week. Generally not recommended.
For men: For important debates, a red power tie is mandatory. For county fairs, its recommended that jacket be removed and sleeves pushed up to show you're a regular guy. Color co-ordination is important and in informal venues, a stray lock of hair falling over eyebrows is recommended to show how natural you are. For younger candidates, a touch of gray at the temples gives the necessary gravitas.
The life of a candidate is not easy. Varying from the script can cost crucial votes. It is essential to couch all answers in the most general terms so as to avoid alienating an important voting bloc. Taking a stand is not recommended. At this stage of the game, it is essential to appear to be all things to all people. Only a novice gets sidetracked by the issues.

Also important is to know where the cameras are at all times. Candidates are advised to take their cue from Bill Clinton. He got caught coming out of Ron Brown's funeral laughing. Pro that he is, he immediately discovered he was being filmed. Shoulders slumped, head went down and his hand went to his face, ostensibly wiping away a tear. From joy to sorrow in two seconds flat. It played in Peoria.
Body language is something all candidates must master. Pointing is out. Its essential that all four fingers touch the thumb when emphasizing something. Hillary has this down pat. Also, wide sweeping motions signal openness and passion but should be used sparingly. Nodding the head while listening signifies agreement without having to actually commit.

Tears are tricky. For women, they could signify weakness or, if you're lucky, a stray tear can garner you (another) national conversation and points for being human. In men, a gentle misting of the eyes can do wonders for sensitivity ratings. Again, this tactic, to be effective, must be used sparingly. Undecideds may not vote for a sissy.
Democratic candidates must also follow general mandates from their party leaders. If the mud slinging gets to the point of appearing to divide the party, steps must be taken.

Democrats favor a touchy-feely photo-op to give the impression its all in good fun. After a week of trading barbs, Obama and Clinton were required to make-up. They were photographed invading each others space, almost appearing to swap spit. Hands on shoulders, lips planted on each others ears, both mouths going at once, laugh, smile, nodding of the heads, another laugh, touch, touch. Presto, we're really buddies despite what he or she said. John Kerry and John Edwards had this down pat, going into clinch mode ad naseum, hands all over each other, whispering in each others ear every 2 minutes. Hey, it worked with the gay lobby. And the feminists. 
Even if a candidate masters all the rules, unexpected catastrophes can and do occur. George Allen found this out the hard way after being caught uttering the word macaca. Obama could lose the race in a hot second if a photo of him smoking made its way to the internet. And Hillary, well, its hard to say. Hillary has shown inhuman resilience in the face of hundreds of scandals that would have toppled lesser mortals. Considering she will go to absolutely any lengths, my bet is she will be able to surmount most unforeseen obstacles. (Don't forget, she still has those 1,000 FBI files.)
All the candidates are to be commended for coming so far. For being able to present whatever image will work best with a particular audience. And for realizing so quickly that the 2008 presidential race will be won based on form, not substance.
Nancy Morgan is a columnist and news editor for www.RightBias.com
She lives in South Carolina
Article may be reprinted, with attribution

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