May 20, 2004

Something in the way

he speaks, attracts Ralph Nader like no other candidate:
Mr. Nader said what struck him about Mr. Kerry was not so much what he said but "the way he says it," adding: "That's important. You don't want to have someone with a squeaky voice."

That's a bit odd but there are several ways to interpret it.

Theory 1: Nader really does enjoy the deep, sonorous voice. In this theory, he's also impervious to tedium and doesn't mind a heaping dose of verbosity. (Bonus feminist analysis: "Squeaky voice" is code for female. Those who go for authoritative-sounding voices are, intentionally or not, going to discriminate against women.)

Theory 2: Nader caught Kerry's "way" meme. Kerry is forever explaining what he would do as President by saying he'll do things in a different way. What will he do in Iraq? Maybe the same thing as Bush, but the way he will do it will be much better. Ask him for substance, and after some distracting introductory verbiage, he'll move toward what looks like an answer and it turns out to be another abstract reference to his way. So Kerry has a way about him, a way to make you think you know what he's planning to do and to believe he's competent by repeatedly saying the word way. Now, he's got Nader saying it.

Theory 3: In meeting with Kerry, Nader got a sense that Kerry was going to work with him and adopt some of Nader's positions. Kerry didn't say so, but Nader could just somehow tell. Other Nader statements support this theory: he said that Kerry was "much more open" to meeting with Nader than Gore had been. Nader joked that "[The difference between Mr. Kerry and Mr. Gore] is the difference between a spruce tree and petrified wood... Gore was petrified wood. He was stiff as a board, he didn't want to have these kinds of meetings." In this theory, the "squeaky voice" add-on is another Nader-style witticism, and the real message is that Nader came out of the meeting believing Kerry was pliable and would yield to the influence of Nader. Here's more along those lines:
"[W]hen people in town halls applauded him talking about getting tough with corporate power, he responded .... Gephardt didn't ...The more he cuts the reins of his advisers, the better he's going to do ... His own instincts are less cautious than Bob Shrum's. And after a while, you should be able to follow your own compass."

This means Kerry has leftward leanings that show in private but that his aides are suppressing. But we can't trust Nader's compass readings. Theory 3 is what I think Nader meant, but maybe he is wrong to think that Kerry's wooing him really means that Kerry actually believes in Nader's positions, when in fact Kerry has plenty of other motivation to humor Nader. Nader's statement is mostly just more evidence of his own narcissism. Working with Nader, which Kerry seems to want or need to do, is going to be a bit tricky.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kerry seems to be a bit tricky, and perhaps a little shrewd in dealing with Nader. I never saw Gore as being that bad, but put him next to to George W, whose gameface was that of a pesky, happy little joker, and anyone would seem like petrified wood. Nader has little power, but he does have the power to attempt to define Kerry and give the media something to talk about. That focus on personality and stiffness killed Gore. Kerry would be wise to make nice with Nader at this point in the season.