Monday night provided a window to much of what is wrong with presidential politics and what we should — but currently don’t — expect from those seeking the highest office in the land.
President Bush made a taped appearance on the TV game show “Deal Or No Deal,” primarily to acknowledge the service of a contestant who had done three tours of duty in Iraq. Praising those who have served our nation is certainly something we can expect from our president, but doing it on a game show and adding in a few cheesy one-liners about using the show’s cash prize to help balance the federal budget just seemed so, well, unpresidential.
Then there were the recorded pieces that Democratic candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, and Republican nominee-to-be John McCain provided for World Wrestling Entertainment’s “Raw” program.
The spots were cringingly over-the-top pandering of the worst kind, with each candidate throwing in catch phrases from current or former pro wrestlers in lame attempts to cozy up to the audience. Obama has been roundly criticized for being an “elitist” for comments he made about “bitter” voters in rural areas, but there is very little more elitist than the privileged class thinking they can win over those they see as commoners by briefly embracing their pastimes.
Pandering to the electorate has been around since a candidate was the first to kiss a baby in public. We’ve seen Richard Nixon on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” Michael Dukakis in a tank, George H.W. Bush’s amazement at grocery store price scanners, Bill Clinton playing his saxophone — and more recently, McCain’s wife posting “favorite” recipes — lifted from the Food Network — on his Web site, Hillary Clinton’s shot-and-a-beer stop in Indiana and Obama’s bowling debacle.
The presidency is a complicated, difficult job. While what Mom told us remains true, that “anyone can grow up to be president,” we don’t want just anyone to have the job. We should expect more from a president than we do from ourselves. We want them to be better than we are — more polished, professional and intelligent — because the job is arguably the most demanding one on the planet.
We all would be better served if those seeking the highest office in the land would stop trying to prove they live like they are part of the lowest common denominator.