The Corner

Faux Folksiness

A post the other day on the faux folksiness of today’s politicians (triggered by all those shirtsleeves on display during the Democrats’ debate in Arizona) produced this entertaining rant from a reader in Indiana:

“You struck a nerve on my pet peeve of modern Presidential campaigning: the “regular guy” photo op, where the candidate drives a fork lift truck at the factory five feet for the cameras in shirtsleeves to prove he’s just a regular Joe, despite the fact that he was National Merit Scholar, Ivy League graduate, Rhodes Scholar, Fulbright Scholar, blah blah blah seriatim. Although he reads Plutarch in the original for recreation, he feels obliged to quote Toby Keith on the campaign trail. And oh God, the “what is your favorite rock ballad” question…

” My absolute favorite piece of Presidential photo journalism is the one of John F. Kennedy at an Indian reservation in 1960. He holds a war bonnet by the fingertips, as if the headpiece is coated with powdered sarin. He is looking daggers of high dudgeon off camera, undoubtedly at the advance man who set up this photo op. He does not put on the bonnet…

“And don’t get me started on the obligatory Barbara Walters/Katie Couric crying jag interview (with the camera lens fogged up to imply softness), where the candidate must relive a traumatic moment from the past so he can tear up on camera, to prove what I don’t know: Sensitivity? Depth? Courage? Courage today would see a candidate at a fundraiser, at a table, with a cigar in one hand, a bottle of champagne at the elbow, and a plate of veal parmigiana in front. JFK would do it and tell detractors to go to hell…”

That’s very well said, although I do seem to recall a photo of Calvin Coolidge, wonderfully gloomy in an Indian war bonnet. And as for today’s politicians, there’s one who would, I reckon, be more than happy to be photographed with a cigar, champagne and a veal cutlet.

Californians voted for him a few days ago.

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