« Red in Tooth and Claw | Main | The International Comic Arts Festival »

September 02, 2004


Dave Van Domelen

I'll go with "pick and stick" myself. All it takes is being a little reserved once in a while, not using homey dialect in your speeches, and you get tagged with the "wooden" epithet. Neither Kerry nor Gore is particularly stiff, but they got tarred with that brush and nothing they could do would remove the tarring. Even when Kerry does stuff like snowboarding, it's just dismissed as a calculated attempt to shake the image.

Kevin J. Maroney

What DVD said. Al Gore, especially after 1992, was to my eyes and ears a fairly vibrant speaker, not particularly stiff, but he remained The Wooden Man in the eyes of the press even long after it was clear that the public liked his speaking style (as demonstrated by the consistent huge surges in his poll standings whenever his speeches got national coverage).

Back in 2000, the press was whispering the idea that Gore should choose Kerry as his running mate because Kerry would bring charisma and a dynamic style to the campaign. But that was the Storyline for 2000; the Storyline for 2004 is completely different.


And completely the same. At least Kerry chose a running mate who is genuinely charismatic and dynamic - remember the fawning over Lieberman's purported sense of humor?

It's also interesting how, once Gore started criticizing Bush's war in Iraq, the label instantly shifted from "Wooden Al" to "Crazy Al."

As for homey dialect, it's interesting to watch Bush's labored (but effective) hominess fade when he gets worried. The 1992 "60 Minutes" interview Michael Moore used in "Fahrenheit 9-11" and the interview Bush gave last weekend both show him deeply rattled and speaking in the twerpy tones of a rich kid from New England.

And it's scary that any of this might decide an election after four years of war, terrorism, and economic freefall.

Kevin J. Maroney

I read Marc Crispin Miller's The Bush Dyslexicon a year or so back. His premise is that W. Bush speaks freely and easily when he talks about things he geniunely cares about--baseball, war, executing prisoners--and stumbles all over himself when he has to discuss things he doesn't understand or doesn't want to say--expressing compassion for the poor, extending thanks to other nations, that type of thing. While I thought Miller overstated his case, I thought he was on to a nugget of truth. And Charles Pierce, writing on Tapped this morning about last night's speech, points out the pattern again.

John Pistelli

I also saw Kerry in person once and had the same experience you describe. I think some of his stiff image has to do with media idiocy, but he has a genuine warmth and liveliness that just doesn't come across on TV for some reason.

Also, I recommend both The Bush Dyslexicon and Miller's second book, Cruel and Unusual. I wish they weren't marketed as just more Bush-bashing books because they're very intelligent, provocative analyses of the entire far right mentality.

Kan Mattoo

I just wish he wasn't doing everything possible to lose this election.

I'm starting to hate the man.


I'm starting to wonder what Kerry can do to respond to the Republicans' attacks, if the media continues to assume its mission of "objectivity" means reporting even the most blatantly false accusations as if they're true in good old he-said she-said fashion.

Reporting every political story as a process story obliterates any distinctions between true claims and false ones; it also places more attention on the interests of the political class (politics as handicapping and horse-racing) than on the issues at stake in this election - issues on which I think Kerry is generally more in step with the American people.

Kan Mattoo

Well, instead of coming out and railing on the charges against him, he could actually talk about the differences. I've seen a bunch of his speeches, including the midnight one after the RNC, and they are rarely about what he will do differently in particulars.

I'm beyond Nam. I wish Kerry would stop talking about it and allowing himself to get dragged into that argument.

We all know he served and Cheney didn't and Bush was in the National Guard. We got it.

Tell us about your health care idea. Tell us about the tax cuts for corps, small businesses, and how your plan is going to bring back jobs.




To some extent I don't think he can help but talk about his Vietnam record as long as the Swift Boat people are out there spreading blatant lies about it; in fact, a lot of people are saying he should have responded faster.

On the other hand, maybe at some point you have to recognize that the story has saturated as far as it can go, your own response has done the same, and it's time to move on.

I think it's also a question of what gets covered and how people choose to spin it - I mean, it's not like Bush has been dealing in specifics either, and he's had four years to show us how he would (or wouldn't) bring back the jobs he's lost. But "doesn't go into particulars" is another one of those tags that gets hung on Kerry alone.

Kan Mattoo

That's fine, respond faster. That's it. Look at Clinton's advice: talk about the economy, the war in iraq....get away from Vietnam...

Neither candidate is going on issues. That's a big problem...however, Kerry is the challenger...he's got to show why he's beliefs are better for the US.


Absolutely. Running on "character" hands the advantage to the Republicans, even when the Democratic candidate has a better character to run on, as John Kerry certainly does over George W. Bush, because it's Republican voters who most care about "character" and Republican politicians who have most claimed it as their own.

Joan Didion writes brilliantly about how this stalled Al Gore's 2000 campaign in Political Fictions, linked over in the sidebar.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 03/2004