We US citizens prefer warm, at-ease, smiling, sparkly-eyed presidents to stiff, ill-at-ease socially awkward ones. Look at the slack the nation granted Reagan and Clinton, the former so hen-pecked that he allowed his wife to schedule his travel plans according to the prognostications of an astrologer, the later so randy that he conducted official business on the phone in the Oval Office while being fellated by a woman young enough to be his daughter.
No big deal, we the people, proclaimed.
We dumped awkward mealy-mouthed, well-meaning Jimmy Carter and awkward preppy well-qualified GHW Bush after one term. Okay, I admit things weren’t going all that smoothly during their presidencies economically, but I bet neither would have ever been elected in the first place if they’d had an opponent in the general who possessed even a scintilla of personality, Carter facing stolid cabbage-faced Gerald Ford and Bush Michael Dukakis, who possessed all of the charisma of a sack of charcoal.
Although Obama can be charismatic in a speech, he’s not smooth in a sit-down interview, um-erring a bit too much and emanating a vibe of really not liking people all that much, which I can certainly understand but which isn’t going to endear him to most folk. Given how the economy has turned around during his administration and the disastrous performance of his predecessor, you wouldn’t think he’d be showing up near the top on any the-worst-president-in-history polls, but he is.
Of course, his being bi-racial doesn’t endear him to a large swath of people, especially where I live, in South Carolina, the home of Strom Thurmond, father of four – make that five – children and the creator of the Southern strategy that flipped the South from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican because whites down here have a historical enmity to blacks.
At any rate, Obama’s term is three-quarters done, and the 2016 race is starting, so I thought I’d do an early, completely nonpartisan [cue ironic cough] survey of the likability/charisma indexes of the major candidates aspiring to become the most important powerful person on the third planet from the sun.
We’ll start with the thin (as in numbers) Democratic Field:
I like Jim Webb. He once had this exchange with President W Bush when Bush asked about Webb’s son, who was fighting in Iraq at the time.
Bush: How’s your boy?
Webb: I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President.
Bush: That’s not what I asked you. How’s your boy?
Webb: That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President.
Webb later said that he got so angry that he wanted to “slug” Bush, which would have been so wonderful, but he didn’t, and I’m afraid this exchange doesn’t reflect all that well on Webb’s social intelligence. For example, he could have answered more deftly.
Bush: How’s your boy?
Webb: Having the time of his life risking it in a godforsaken hellhole, the worst foreign policy debacle in the history of the Republic. By the way, what club are your girls going to tonight?
Bush: Fuck you.
Webb [slugging him] asshole!
Let’s face it, Hillary’s not likable, the female equivalent of Al Gore. She brays when she laughs, dresses in odd anatomy concealing eye-singing pants suits. She lacks the common touch. She’ll try to overcome these problems by reminding people she’s a grandmother. Good look with that.
Okay, now for the Republicans
Ted Cruz looks way too much like Grandpa Munster ever to be elected President. I admit Lincoln wasn’t what you would call a pretty boy, but he had kind eyes. Cruz needs to hire some trainer/consultant to erase that self-satisfied contemptuous look off his mug. But then he’d still look like Grandfather Munster, only less of an ass-holey one.
I like Paul’s hair but he seems a bit too prickly, too thin-skinned, which most people find off-putting, but I can imagine having a beer with him and not wanting to take my own life during the encounter.
Yawn. He’s ditching the sweater vests. I’d suggest he try on one of Hillary’s pantsuits, though by his reckoning, that might lead to bestiality.
By my standards, he’s more likable than his brother, but by my standards, so is Justin Bieber. It’s good that he doesn’t affect that Texan drawl and that his family is multicultural and that he speaks Spanish, but he seems arrogant (like Obama) and has that simian Bushgene that screams oh-here-we-go-again stamped on his features.
Of course, I don’t like Scott Walker, but given he’s won three elections in four years, he must come off as an okay guy, And I like that he’s a college dropout. Lots of people can relate to that. Then again, my having a beer with him personally seems about as much fun as having a
beer lemonade with Mitt Romney
I read that he’s charismatic, but I’m immune. He looks too cherubic, like a Hispanic cupid.
Too soft-spoken, too captious. Imagine him with Frank Underwood’s accent. He’d have a shot. Graham versus Hillary is my dream contest. Foreign policy mana y mano.
* * *
I’m probably leaving someone important out, but this exercise has depressed me, on this of all days, the day of Folly Beach’s Sea and Sand Festival, so I’m checking out with the observation that none of these candidates seem like a “people person.”
My friend Tom Horton, a lifelong Republican, told me when he briefly met Bill Clinton that he, Tom, felt as if he were the most important in the world.
Too bad Slick Willie can’t bottle that and offer Hillary a swig.