The “Robe and Slippers” Candidate
“Image is everything,” the great sage of superficiality Andre Agassi once advised our parents, prancing about the TV screen with a camera the size of a MacBook. Today, during the first election not to feature an incumbent in most of our lifetimes, and one where the wannabe successors have to cite such unutterable failures to compare themselves to as lower taxes and the arrests and/or executions of Saddam Hussein, Jaber Elbaneh, and Abu Anas Al-Liby, among others, it appears there’s nothing better than image to fall back on as reason enough to merit a stay in the Oval Office. There’s just one problem: in a fashion faux pas that rivals wearing the same dress as your worst enemy to the Grammys, it seems everyone from John Edwards to Mitt Romney has been sporting the “used car salesman” look. And everyone that has done so has also met with the distaste of the American public, leaving us with a messy array of harpies, hopefuls, and has-beens to choose from this November.
Most notable in the pack for being a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant male, of all things, is serial Presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ). McCain, the Senator behind such legendary legislation as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (the reason candidates have to say “I’m so-and-so and I approve this message” in their ads), has definitely opted out of the lemon vendor look, going for a more traditional, stately, almost corpse-like demeanor. At 71, should McCain assume the presidency and win a second term, he will surpass Ronald Reagan as the oldest President in history. Chuck Norris has already predicted his imminent death in one of his WorldNetDaily articles. This is not a youthful, ebullient man.
Voices from both sides of the aisle (the misguided on the right who approve of him and the malicious on the left who want to exalt the weakest opponent) would argue that Reagan himself is an example of why, as the R&B star Aaliyah once sang, “Age ain’t nothin’ but a number.” And I would agree, save for the fact that McCain’s age is independent of his life experiences, which are much more than a number. McCain has had a very difficult life, serving in the Vietnam War, surviving as a prisoner of war, and surpassing his horrid military experiences to serve 26 years in Congress. While he should be praised as the hero and freedom fighter he is, one does not live a rough life in vain; these experiences take a toll on one’s ability to rationalize events and act quickly and, often coldly, against the enemies of America. Perhaps McCain would have made a great president twenty years ago, with his mind clear and the Iraq war off of the agenda. Reagan, in contrast, was soft yet firm to his allies, stern and menacing to his enemies. He lived such an easy-going life in his youth—acting in C-list movies and schmoozing with the Hollywood elite both in private and on Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts—that it almost seemed as if he had saved all his energy up just to destroy communism in his golden age. With such comparatively tender experiences, Reagan was clearer, less roughed up, and removed enough from the experience of war to not fear it when inevitable.
As my father often likes to quip, McCain is a very “robe and slippers” kind of candidate—he is in no rush, he has little energy, and attempts to turn all his elderly sloth into a very approachable brand of savoir-faire. This is not a Harrison Ford-esque President, jumping over desks and running into the situation room armed and ready to save the day. Nor is he a Martin Sheen—annoyingly witty and sharp as a knife. And yet, despite the fact that our wartime situation requires the President to be nimble in body and spirit, everyone and their dog are claiming McCain is the most electable Republican. Only in the most narrow, bigoted sense is this true; McCain is not Mormon, Italian, Libertarian, or fat. Yet what else does he have going for him?
His website gives us little on the matter except something about keeping the Reagan coalition together—does he mean the highly-contested over-90 demographic?— and an endorsement from the totally unbiased ex-President Bill Clinton (I have a strange feeling I’ve seen the name “Clinton” elsewhere in this election, but I can’t quite put my finger on it…). There are no issues or relevant experiences on his home page, only a pie chart with his and Hillary Clinton’s faces on it. Yet this is to be expected, as none of the other candidates have too many issues either, and when image is all we can vote for, we can’t expect Mr. “Straight Talk” to limp to far ahead.