Do We Want Barack Obama Or Hillary Clinton In Our Home?

Recently I had the chance to talk with a radio broadcaster from Chicago.  In our conversation I expressed my thanks to him for being the type of radio talk show host that I wanted to invite into my home.  After all, that is the way every radio and TV personality should be evaluated by all Americans.  Are they the type we honor by inviting them through the airwaves into our homes? Are they of the caliber and character to be in our space?

I think that at some level that is also the way we make our choice for President of the United States.  After all the debate about health care and immigration, and the many other vital issues that impact our nation, I think it comes down to who is more likely to be welcome as a long term guest in our home via the television?  Who has the ability to engage us in a long-term conversation as our leader on the evening news, and political shows without us wanting to bar them at the door?

Senator Hillary Clinton surprised me by being so ‘accessible’ when I met and talked with her in Madison the night before the Wisconsin Primary.  On television she has tried to make herself into a tough leader who could make the hard decisions, but by doing so has in effect made herself come across as less friendly and more hard-edged.  So when she walked with calm composure and made herself available with effortless laughter and intelligent conversation at her campaign rally my first thought was how ‘assessible’ as a person she could be.  That side of her is very hard to discern on television. 

Barack Obama has a talent for conversation and thoughtful dialogue that demand we listen and pay attention.  He is well suited for the camera and the television screen.  His calm demeanor and slow delivery enhances the connection with his television audience.  It is due to that type of speech pattern that 63% of the Democratic Primary electorate in the latest CBS/New York Times poll state that Obama cares about them “a lot”.  It is due to that effective use of language and media image that creates a personal feeling for Obama that places him comfortably ahead of Clinton in the nominating process.   We want to like our leaders, and the fact that many already love him is why so many are ready to invite him into their homes for the next four years.

I have met many politicians over the years (that is my thing) and there have been a handful that was so very different in person as opposed to being on television.  Vice-President Al Gore, and former Illinois Senator Paul Simon are two examples of not having a strong television presence, but having warm and remarkable personalities up-close and in person.  On the other hand, I found former Senator Bob Dole, and former Democratic nominee Mike Dukakis as dry as dust when I met them.  Sadly they matched their TV image. 

Would I rather have a substantive candidate with a less than desirable personality elected President in order to have the correct decisions made over the fate of the nation?  Yes.  But that is not how the media driven elections in America work.  After all, President Bush was judged to be the one most Americans would want to have a beer with.  Today we realize that the wooden image of Al Gore on TV would have been far preferable to the former cheerleader from Texas.  But in this media age I do not think it possible to decide our President solely on the merits of the issues, or the leadership strengths of the candidate themselves.  There is that ‘thing’ that the TV lens amplifies in some candidates, and totally misses in others that will be the deciding factor in the Democratic primaries to come, and the general election this fall.

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William F. Buckley, Jr. Was A Joy To Listen To

I would be remiss if I did not mention the death of William F. Buckley, Jr. today.  As a teenager I found myself watching his “Firing Line” program, and was in awe that someone could have such a rich and diverse vocabulary.  And use all the words in such a way that the ordinary sentence was almost poetry.  While listening to his program I would learn new words for my own usage.  When was the last time anyone said that about a television program? 

I know of very few people on television that could ever match his intellectual power.  While his political point of view was often in sharp contrast to mine I was never able to stop listening to the way he spoke.  Even years later, in the occasional interview on televison, I would be drawn to his slightly elitist charm and world-class intelligence.

Many years ago in an interview he commented that he always was writing and working on the issues that confronted the nation, and challenged his mind.  That struck me as a noble way to live part of ones life.  As CNN reports, Buckley died doing what he enjoyed.

Buckley died while at work,” said Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of the National Review Online, in a written statement. “If he had been given a choice on how to depart this world, I suspect that would have been exactly it. At home, still devoted to the war of ideas.”

I guess the best programs he ever did on the air, in my estimation, were the debates that he orchestrated and helped star in.  Powerful thinkers engaged in serious dialogue on issues that mattered.  Sadly, much has passed over the years, including the art of debate without rancor.

We always say when the big names such as William F. Buckley pass away, that we will not see their kind again.

In this case it is true.

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