October 5, 2004

Mysterious personal reaction to Dick Cheney.

With the big vice presidential debate tonight, let me say something about the vice presidential debate four years ago. In 2000, I supported Al Gore from the beginning, I voted for him, I stayed up late into the night on election night waiting to hear that he had won, and I monitored each phase of the post election legal battle hoping for Al Gore to find a way to victory. On the Friday when the Florida Supreme Court ordered the full-state recount, I felt stunned by joy. I remember going to see a performance of Handel's oratorio "Israel in Egypt" at the Music School that night and thinking about Al Gore throughout the performance. The whole time I was listening to the story of Exodus, I was also thinking about Al Gore. Lines like "He spake the word, and there came all manner of flies and lice in all quarters" blended in my mind with images of hanging chads and Floridians eyeing punchcards. When the oratorio was over--"Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously"--and we got up to leave, the first thing I said was: "Al Gore!"

In short, I was for Al Gore.

But there was one point when I was surprised by the anomalous thought: maybe I should vote for George Bush. Within the long period of commitment to Al Gore, the contrary thought that Bush might be the right choice flared up briefly, shortly after Dick Cheney began to speak at the vice presidential debate. (Transcript.) Astounding! Why would that be? Lieberman made the first opening statement. It was warm and folksy, thanking "wonderful people," naming his wife, saying that his 85-year-old mom had called him that day to tell him to be positive. How could the charmless Cheney compare? Cheney began with a quick thanks, an agreement about being positive, and an ad lib about Lieberman's singing, then said, in that flat, warmth-free Cheney manner:
I think this is an extraordinarily important decision we're going to make on November 7. We're really going to choose between what I consider to be an old way of governing ourselves of high levels of spending, high taxes, an ever more intrusive bureaucracy, or a new course, a new era, if you will. And Governor Bush and I want to offer that new course of action.
Well, what is the great appeal in that? It's a bit of a mystery to me. Did I find the very flatness refreshing? He was saying: look, there are two ways of doing things, and you people are just going to have to choose. Not: I'm charismatic, love me. Just: here's the deal; decide.

UPDATE: Gerry Daly of Daly Thoughts tries to solve the mystery:
Obviously, I do not know your mind beyond your writing on the blog, so the possibility I am floating here would be offered to anyone saying that the reaction was a mysterious one.

As you probably have guessed from my blog, I am a bit of a poll junkie. Over the years, I have learned a few things following the polls. One thing is that people lie (or maybe it would be better stated that people often answer in ways that cannot be reconciled with reality). An example is this is how often polls show that people are disgusted with the way politics are conducted. They hate the negativity. They hate the pandering. They hate the money. They hate the disingenuousness. Yet time and again, it is proven that the negativity works, that the pandering works, that the money works, that the disingenuousness works, and the way politics are conducted works. The public does not like it, yet the public acts as if they do like it; they are persuaded by it, and when it is not there they complain about how boring and uninspiring the candidates are.

A second thing I have learned is that even when the public lies, there is some truth involved. And I believe that people really do not like the negativity, the pandering, the money, the whole kit and kaboodle. Time and again, the reformist mindset shows polling appeal when it is properly tapped by an aspiring politician. The public just hates when the views they hold lose, more than they hate the crud that goes on. They believe that both sides do it, so why punish the guy they agree with for doing it?

Now, read Lieberman's offering. It was nothing like what Al Gore has become, what Howard Dean is like, or anything of the sort. As you put it, it was "was warm and folksy", and positive. It was prepared. It was political. Not that there is anything wrong with that; the world would be a better place if politics were conducted more like Senator Lieberman approached it that night.

But Cheney's was a little different. It offered a glimpse beyond politics. It provided a glimpse of the world if, instead of us making political decisions, we made decisions on how we wished to be governed.

Sadly, I think that Cheney is gone. I have not seen him since 9/11. It is almost like since then, he has decided that it is just too important to lose, and that he must play the politics game. I am not sure that is what has happened. If it is, I am not sure he is wrong.

But I wish that Cheney was back, and I wish that mindset was the predominant one. Here's how it is. Choose. And then get back to living life rather than playing these silly games.

Well put. We'll see soon enough which Cheney we will get in this year's debate. My new TV is being set up with HDTV reception today, and I will be testing it out tonight with the wonderfully contrasting mugs of Edwards and Cheney. I'm hoping for some high definition in their substantive positions as well.

ADDED: I've got the title ready for my simulblog of the debate: HDVP.

ANOTHER UPDATE: First, thanks to Instapundit for linking to this. Second, I'm told the debates are not shown in HDTV, so that dashes my hope of getting the chance to inspect every well-shampooed strand of John Edwards's hair and to use my planned title. Third, more than one emailer has observed that two out of three of the components of the "old way" have survived in the Bush Administration.

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