The Myth of The Straight Talking Pol

Booman writes:

Which gets straight to the problem with so many Democratic nominees. Was Michael Dukakis a tough guy? Could you believe Bill Clinton? Which Al Gore was going to show up to which debate? Where did John Kerry stand on the war? As Terence Samuel notes, this is not the kind of image that we need in our next nominee. Hillary has worked hard to project an image of toughness, but she hasn't mastered it at all, the art of creating trust. . . . [S]he isn't really all that tough and, more importantly, she isn't trustworthy. She doesn't project trustworthiness. . . .

What nonsense. There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton is perceived as tough. Indeed, that is one thing the "castrating bitch" GOP meme has accomplished. But she has been attacked as untrustworthy. The funny thing is Booman notes that no Dem GE Presidential candidate seems to have figured out how to be viewed as trustworthy. But he thinks Clinton is the problem. What myopia! Bob Somerby has covered this extensively and it is amazing that Booman does not seem to know about it:

P]onder this statement by the New York Post’s Charlie Hurt. The boys were discussing Saint Rudy: HURT (11/6/07): You know, because [Giuliani] is such a gun-slinger, and because he is such a straight-talker, people believe him . . .
Giuliani’s endless, howling misstatements are becoming the stuff of legend—but to Hurt, he’s still a “straight-talker.” But then, Time’s Mike Allen had stated this view roughly one minute before:

ALLEN: . . . It turns out they like his gun-slinging, straight-shooting swagger, that he comes across—he will answer a question, he will say, “No way, no how.” People like that.
To Allen, he’s a “straight-shooter.” . . .

All week, Clinton’s “evasiveness” and “double-talk” have been trashed on Hardball—like Gore’s lies and Kerry’s flip-flops before her. But Giuliani is still a “straight-talker!” There is absolutely nothing on earth that will keep these lads from their Group Tales.

Apparently, Booman knows nothing of this. And let me be clear about something, there are no straight talking pols. Never have been, never will be. Not George Washington. Not Abraham Lincoln. Not FDR. My gawd, are we so far gone in our naivete about this? Don't believe me. Well, watch this:

We need to stop putting these folks on pedestals. and uderstand that pols are vessels for political interests. Best fight for your own political views to be adopted by the pols you can choose from. For pols, it's hard to be a saint in the city.

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    agreed. (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 10:09:43 AM EST
    it's one thing for pols to be less than completely candid, doing so in a democracy would almost guarantee a loss at the polls. the problem is that the media has been outright making up lies about (drumroll please) only democrats;from whitewater to gore's invention of the internet to hillary's plots to kill everyone in sight.

    somerby has covered this, for years now. however, it's not something you're going to hear from the MSM.

    Absolutely (none / 0) (#3)
    by Plutonium Page on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 11:02:47 AM EST
    And let me be clear about something, there are no straight talking pols. Never have been, never will be. Not George Washington. Not Abraham Lincoln. Not FDR. My gawd, are we so far gone in our naivete about this?

    I completely agree.  "Straight-talking" is campaign rhetoric, not reality.

    Now, what matters is how successful the campaign is at pushing that crap.  If people fall for it (like they did in 2000 and 2004), it's a sign of skillful manipulation of the electorate.

    I also think the "I'm a populist" message/image is crap, but that's another topic.

    This is why I'm afraid Guiliani may be (none / 0) (#5)
    by oculus on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 11:46:56 AM EST
    our next President.

    I worry about Huckabee (none / 0) (#6)
    by Plutonium Page on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 11:56:48 AM EST
    He's Mr. "Hey, let's go grab a beer" Nice Smile... he seems perfectly harmless, just the down-home-feelgood (faux) Southern populist.  He's engaging, funny, and calm.

    If people fall for that, and he wins, we've got Dobson in the Oval Office again.


    True (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 12:01:28 PM EST
    But I tell you what, if Thompson was not such a lazy person, he would be a real problem.

    Rigor mortis (none / 0) (#20)
    by jondee on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 03:29:03 PM EST
    often effects people that way.

    Which would be worse in the Oval Office, (none / 0) (#9)
    by oculus on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 12:03:02 PM EST
    Dobson or Robertson.

    Prefer the new smears to come? (none / 0) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 11:20:33 AM EST
    See, this is my point.

    Clinton, Gore, Kerry whomever all faced smears.

    Obama needs to come ready to fight and he seems to think he will be immune from GOP smears.

    Worse than that, while Booman criticizes Clinton for being perceived as untrustworthy, he feeds the system that creates that.

    Foolish people blinded by Clinton hate.

    I have no idea if BooMan (none / 0) (#7)
    by Maryb2004 on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 11:58:06 AM EST
    is blinded by Clinton hate.  Maybe he's perfectly clear headed but frustrated.  

    But in making a decision about who will be the party's nominee it seems completely reasonable to me to take into account the fact that some candidates are going to be subjected to certain types of smears - not just that ALL candidates will be subjected to smears.  Smears are part of life in politics as you say.  But you should certainly evaluate the smear-effect on your candidate if you are able to; and we're able to do that with Clinton to a better degree than any other candidate.

    With Clinton you have to take into account that there are going to be over-the-top smears and you have to take into account that she's got a long history of dealing with them and will presumably be tough in response. And you have to take into account that this will go on throughout her presidencey if she wins.  And you have to take into account that it's all happened before and factor in smear-fatigue.  You have to ask yourself do I want to go through THAT again. You have to ask what she brings to the table to balance out any special negatives you perceive that she has with respect to smears because of the history she has.

    You don't have that with Edwards or Obama - we haven't gone through it with either of them before.  And, if I may expand your point, no one should be deluded into thinking that there isn't a smear factor for each of them just because it's easier to see with Clinton.

    And how does each candidate balance out his or her smear factor - BooMan is saying, I think, with the trust factor.   A factor that's hard to weigh.  

    That's where Clinton has a problem. I take your point that all politicians are untrustworthy if we base our trust on their discussion of the issues during a campaign.  But Clinton had a pre-existing problem on the trust issue that didn't come out of the campaign and her responses and that's the perception that she and Bill triangulate on everything.  Fair?  I don't know, but it's there, it's an issue.  It isn't going to go away.  She hasn't figured out a way yet to make it go away.  Maybe she can't.

    BooMan isn't saying anything that Obama didn't say in coded speech in Iowa when he said that we didn't need triangulation.   Obama's whole campaign is a "trust me" campaign.  Now he's in the "trust me, don't trust her" phase of the campaign.  It might work.  On the other hand we've never seen Obama up against a smear campaign and he doesn't have a lot of history to back up his "trust me" factor.  

    BooMan is saying the trust factor for Hillary isn't enough for him and shouldn't be for anyone.  He didn't say it as nicely as Obama.  So what?


    If I follow you (none / 0) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 12:04:05 PM EST
    you are saying that the fact that Hillary has been through it and has already been hit with the kitchen sink - hence her polling on "trustworthiness" - is a PLUS. Not a minus as Booman says.

    Maybe. I could see an argument that the others could protect themselves better.

    My point is that we are ignoring the problem - the Media - when we decide to criticize Clinton on this.


    I thought she was saying she doesn't want (none / 0) (#11)
    by oculus on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 12:10:29 PM EST
    to hear the same-oh, same-oh stuff about Clinton; so let's nominate Obama or Edwards so we get to hear something new.    

    I said both (none / 0) (#13)
    by Maryb2004 on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 12:22:06 PM EST
    I should run for office.

    Triangulator! (none / 0) (#14)
    by oculus on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 12:25:13 PM EST
    But (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Maryb2004 on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 12:30:59 PM EST
    if I hadn't pointed it out both of you might have gone on thinking I said what you each wanted to hear and my trustworthy factor might not have been diminished.  

    What part of the media (none / 0) (#12)
    by Maryb2004 on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 12:20:03 PM EST
    am I ignoring?   When I say smear I mean from the media.  Nobody cares if you or BooMan smear a candidate.  

    ok, I'll give you this (none / 0) (#17)
    by Maryb2004 on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 01:04:05 PM EST
    The Hillary story isn't being driven right now, and won't be driven for the next 6 weeks, by the reality of Hillary's stand or lack of stand on the issues.  It will be driven by the story that the media wants to tell.  And ultimately if there is a downturn in her trust factor from her perceived lack of stance on the issues, it won't be because she has less of a stand than the other candidates it will be because the media has decided to make her perceived lack of stand on the issues the story.  

    BooMan wants to point to RFK.  Well, you can't discount the media story that went along with him.

    He is, though, a good example of a politician that took a characteristic that had previously been portrayed as a character flaw (ruthless Bobby) and turned it into a positive for the media to sell (determined, strong, etc.).  

    It remains to be seen if Hillary can do the same thing with her flaws.  


    The MSM is celebrity driven (none / 0) (#16)
    by Dadler on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 12:34:41 PM EST
    And I don't mean by shallow celebrity news, but by the cult of celebrity "journalists" populating the landscape, most of whom are as wealthy and disconnected and egomaniacal as the DC power brokers they are supposed to be objectively reporting on.

    What you don't take account of (none / 0) (#18)
    by Alien Abductee on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 01:52:51 PM EST
    is that there's a wide range and combination of positions any politician can adopt to get elected, and a wide range of ways to present those positions. The pols who come through as having integrity and "trustworthiness" are the ones who manage to put together a winning set of positions and frames of those positions that don't conflict with their own principles. Any person, politicians included, who will do or say whatever others want simply in order to advance his/her own interests, and has no apparent internal compass guiding his/her actions, is rightly reviled as a flip-flopper and an unprincipled opportunist unworthy of any level of trust by anyone.

    The fact that some politicians - e.g., Feingold - manage to act in a principled fashion and get reelected shows it can be done.

    This is not to say that media attacks on this are fairly doled out - they aren't. R's are consistently given a pass where D's wouldn't be. But that doesn't mean it's a good thing for any of them to pander for votes when it means overriding the principles they and their party are supposed to stand for. Abraham Lincoln and FDR may not have been "straight talking pols" but in a different sense - they were both pretty persuasive orators - they fought for their own strongly held agendas with every slippery rhetorical trick they could muster. That's leadership on the basis of issues. They didn't just say anything simply in order to get themselves elected the way you seem to keep advocating to be seen as acceptable from them. Jeez.