Rhetoric as Turnoff

It's interesting to watch the candidates in both parties lash at each other, especially this long before even a primary election, since nothing will be the same next year with respect to the war, the economy, abortion, and the degree of Mike Gravel's mental shortcomings. Policies, stances, opinions, degradations of opponents, advertisements…everything will have to be changed by the time of the primaries as the candidates rearrange their positions to allow them to convince the electorate that they're ready and smart enough to save the country.

Just as interesting as watching the candidates try to impress the voters is the manner(s) in which they turn off the voters. The "elite three" of the "elite eight" among the democrats form a case in point. As Clinton, Obama and Edwards chop away at each other, they also chop away at a lot of support, but perhaps in their internecine exercises actually pick up a bit of support – okay, from the loonies. Hillary will turn off the men, notwithstanding anything the pundits think or the constant drive among a handful of desperate, democrat men to push her in the hope of attracting the largest segment of the population, the women.

No matter whether a "debate" speechette [purposeful sic] or a rousing stump exercise, Hillary succumbs to the John Kerry syndrome to "speak from the mountain" and mimic his stentorian delivery…sort of like Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai with the Tablets of Ten under his arm. The average guy listens to this and he's reminded of the "brassy broad" who tells off everybody, starting with the old man and taking in everybody else from the newspaper carrier to the bagger at the supermarket to the girls at the office. On the basis of her speaking qualities, she's the latter-day equivalent of the recently departed "Queen of Mean," rest her soul. She's the incarnation of the proverbial loud-mouthed fishwife…men just can't stand that.

John Edwards is too glib by half and turns off everyone – man and woman – who sees beyond the "slick speech" of the defense lawyer trying to con a jury into either believing his client is innocent or not bad enough to go to jail…or entitled to millions of bucks because someone made the coffee too hot to balance in the crotch. One can imagine Joe Blow working at the foundry in 100-degree heat and considering a $400-haircut as he listens to Edwards' syrupy pandering to the homosexuals while at the same time he's worrying about his kids' college bills. That mansion that covers nearly two-thirds of an acre under roof in North Carolina (although Edwards claims New Orleans as home-base) is more than old Joe can stomach as he listens to the rich "operator" next to the brassy broad and wonders where these cats came from.

Barack Obama was the subject of a teeny-bopper's YouTube extravaganza, or some such thing, giving rise to the natural wonderment on the part of old folks when he talks about…well, anything. His delivery is quite good, in fact, too good, and, like that of Edwards, too glib. When he boasts that he wasn't for the war the listeners know he didn't even have a vote, so his implication that Hillary and Edwards voted for it falls on deaf ears. All three yammer about covering every citizen cradle-to-the-grave – making death appear too intrusive for words – but make no mention of the national bankruptcy in store if Hillary's health-care bill had even been seriously considered in 1994.

Okay…I haven't watched all that much – all the way through on only one "debate," euphemism for "sound-bite circus." These opportunities for network anchors/pundits/hangers-on/columnists/gofers to grab their 15 minutes of fame are deadly dull, everyone knowing that their game is "gotcha," and that the candidates' remarks are profoundly predictable. So, the participation of these media celebs is about as obnoxious as that of the candidates. Remember Chris Matthews' walk up and down the stage as he went eye-to-eye with candidates who didn't have enough moxie to tell him to get out of their faces. He was Forester's Horatio Hornblower on the poop-deck…preaching to the choir, of course.

Hillary and Barack addressed the VFW the other day, talking "military" before grizzled old warriors, though neither had the slightest clue as to what he/she was talking about. The old guys had to be turned off by their intolerably bland performances and had to wonder why they didn't just stay away. Fred Thompson, on the other side, has no military experience, either, so they probably didn't think much of his speech.

Perhaps the most nagging thing is not what a couple of the "elite three" are saying to turn off the voters, but what they're having their wives say. Edwards and Obama would do well to ask Elizabeth and Michelle to truck on home and – if not take care of the kids – go to the office. Maybe these guys think their wives can get away with picking on Hillary better than they can, adding a bit of cat-fighting to mudslinging. It stinks and makes the Edwardses and Obamas look silly, besides turning off the voters, especially men. Voters aren't electing wives, contrary to what Hillary thought in 1992. She shows she's learned the "spouse-mouthing" lesson by keeping hubby Bill well out of sight 99% of the time.

And then there's Gravel (EGAD!) and the other four. There's plenty of time to evaluate how they turn off voters when they speak or – in Gravels's case – snarl. Gravel is the champ, but Biden is a world-class snarler, too, such as when he snarled that anything Edwards had to say was "fluffernutter." Snarling a word with that many soft sounds is no easy accomplishment.