Mitt? You got a minute? It looks as if you have the nomination wrapped up. Congratulations. Not to rush things, but I have discovered the perfect vice-presidential choice for you. Her name is Dora the Explorer. Let me tell you: This kid is the real thing. A young, dynamic, attractive, bilingual Hispanic female with a big smile and — here’s the beauty part: a pet monkey, named Boots. Think: Sarah Palin without the baggage, but even better because Dora is a proven problem solver, just what you want in a VP. Trust me on this one Mitt, you could do worse, and very well may.
I have come to know Dora very well in the last year or so because, along with my three-year-old granddaughter, Jasmine, I watch The Dora the Explorer Show. Love it. Dora isn’t one of these Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich types, talking endlessly about esoteric stuff (moon shots manned by school kids to give them jobs, privatizing the Department of Defense, whatever). No, this kid delivers the goods. Each TV program presents her with a problem and she solves it in less than 30 minutes (a tad faster than Congress), not through rhetoric or spin or big donations, but by her own problem-solving method, relying on the private sector.
Here’s Dora’s method: Let’s say she’s walking with Boots (the location is unclear, but there are a lot of tropical trees and plants, so it might be Florida, as in lots of electoral votes). She learns of a big problem (e.g., a baby chick has lost her way and wants to get home to Chicken Coop Hill). Does Dora panic? Does she call in the Department of Chicken Security? Does she go on The View and kvetch? Does she go before the nation on TV and scare everybody? Not our Dora. She’s prepared. First, she reaches into her backpack and pulls out a map. Or, rather, Map (I don’t know if this is a last or first name), one of her chief aides. Map shows the way to the chick’s home. First you go through the Magic Forest, then you cross the Crocodile River, and then you arrive at the Chicken Coop Hill.
And this is why Dora can help you. She has a system of problem solving. She knows where to go to find out things. Once Map has shown the way, Dora, always inclusive, always a big-tent kind of leader, enlists the aid of a lot friends, often including her cousin Diego and a lot of jungle animals (maybe this isn’t Florida, you think?) who help her get through the Magic Forest and across Crocodile River. On the way she throws in a few Spanish words, just to let you know she’s read the polling data. In her ever-present backpack she has tons of stuff she can use to meets challenges. Need a hammer? Backpack has one. A mirror? Here it is. We’re talking leadership here: planning, not mere reaction, problem-solving, not rhetoric, private sector initiatives, not big government schemes.
#more#Sure, there are setbacks along the way. There’s always an appearance by a fox named Swiper, who likes to, well, swipe things. In order to thwart Swiper’s schemes, Dora not only enlists the help of her animal and human friends, but, facing the camera, asks viewers to help her by yelling, “Swiper, no swiping!” (And by the way, when Swiper is defeated, Dora is magnanimous and doesn’t hold a grudge, a quality you might imitate.) This reaching out to an audience and asking them to help is exactly what a candidate needs, giving voters a chance to feel part of the team. In your acceptance speech you can say that the federal government is just like Swiper the Fox, and then lead the crowd in Tampa in a chant of “Swiper, no swiping,” the kind of catchy slogan that the Tea Party will love.
When the problem is solved, and the little chick is safely home with her mother, does Dora boast? Does Dora go on TV and say, “Under my leadership, this chick is home again”? Does she introduce the chick at a State of the Union Address?
No. Dora and Boots dance in glee, and then sing “We did it! We did it!” Get that, Mitt? We did it, and “we” involves everyone on the show (except Swiper) and everyone in the audience. Am I talking sense here? Am I getting across to you that no matter what your business background may be (and to be frank, pal, that is getting a little old), you need a map (call it a plan) to show the voters where you and they have to go. Sometimes in politics you have to ask, not tell. But in order to credibly ask for help, you have to show voters how you are going to improve things, a plan not a promise. People want to know how you are going get us through the various Magic Forests and cross the Crocodile Rivers you will meet as president.
The Dora method isn’t the dreaded “state planning” that all good conservatives fear. It is, instead, something we haven’t seen in Washington in decades: a systematic approach to problem-solving involving a leader who shares the credit, a plan that is well thought out, and, especially, a goal that is worth all the trouble. Don’t give us — you should excuse the expression — grandiose visions. Just show us how to get through the Magic Forest. Most politicians tell us what they want. But Dora reminds us that every leader has to have his or her own backpack out of which he can pull the tools he needs.
Sure, there’s a few problems. I’m not sure if the kid is a citizen, and she looks kind of young. I don’t know her last name, unless it is “Explorer,” and I’m not sure what demographic that fits. But you or your handlers can think of ways around little things like that. Think big. Dora’s audience may be little kids, but their parents vote and they all love Dora as much as I do. And when you win in November, remember: the first thing you do is dance with a monkey and lead the crowd in election headquarters in singing, “We did it! We did it!” I’d love to see how MSNBC covers that story.
— William F. Gavin is author of Speechwright and a former assistant to Senator James L. Buckley.