Friday, July 11, 2008

Presidential candidates used to be humble

A trivia question: What would happen if a person who would have been one of the most qualified presidents hated the idea of campaigning?

Answer: he would not become president.

I good example of this came in 1996, when Colon Powel decided he did not want his humble throat slashed by the media. Another example is Fred Thompson's lackadaisical 2008 bid for the presidency.

When asked about his paltry campaign, Thompson said, "If people really want in their president a super type-A personality, someone who has gotten up every morning and gone to bed every night thinking for years about how they could achieve the presidency of the United States, someone who could look you straight in the eye and say they enjoy every minute of campaigning -- I aint that guy."
The charge against Thompson, according to Andrew Ferguson of the Weekly Standard, was that "he didn't get out enough on the campaign trail, and, when he did, he didn't hold enough events."

So, did you know, that presidential presidential presidents did not campaign until very recently.

George Washington did not campaign. He was nominated because he was a superior General. The same can be said of every other General who ran for president up to Dwight David Eisenhower.

Despite the history books portraying Teddy Roosevelt as kissing baby's at train stations, Teddy hardly left the train station of his home town. In fact, up until the recent run of presidential candidates, presidential candidates did not leave their home towns.

How is that for a cool fact. Historically speaking, the first candidate to get off the couch and spread the word of his "paper thin" record of William Henry Harrison when he showed up in Columbus, Ohio, to give a speech in 1840.

Of course we all know his presidency lasted way less than a year as he died of pneumonia.

For the most part, according to Ferguson, until the late 1970s, presidential "candidates stayed home, receiving visitors and maintaining a quiet dignity while occasionally uncorking a speech in the neighborhood so the newspapers had something to report. Meanwhile, surrogates scattered around the country, leading parades, holding rallies, and telling lies for which the candidates themselves couldn't be held responsible."

There were a few exceptions to this rule, like in 1948 when Harry S. Truman was so far behind in the polls that "he could risk looking desperate and undignified." In that year, he left his home town on a major barnstorming mission. He beat Dewey in a very tight race.

Why were traditional candidates so restrained? Well, there was no way to travel for one thing. But even after cars were invented, candidates still maintained "restraint." Ferguson writes that the reason for this campaigning restraint "wasn't arrogance and sanctimoniousness."

In fact, there was a basic theme of presidential candidates going all the way back to George Washington, who not only did not seek public office, he stepped down voluntarily. The theme was this:

By not seeming overeager -- no matter how eager they were -- candidates paid tribute to the democratic idea that political power is best sought, taken on, and used reluctantly."

Al Gore spent his entire life pursuing the presidency. So too did John F. Kerry. I'm certain that George W. Bush started dreaming of it the day he quit drinking. And John McCain decided to run the moment he became Senator, as becoming president is probably the long term dream of most Senators.

Obama decided he was not going to run for president before he decided to run. Actually, I think Obama was the grassroots leader of a movement, as he was chosen by this movement to run for president, as opposed to deciding on his own. I remember two years ago a friend of mine saying he'd vote for Obama, when Obama was just elected to the Senate.

I would never make a good candidate. I might make a good one (yeah right), but I certainly wouldn't want to poke my head out every door smiling brightly when it would just be a superficial smile indeed. I hate the idea of being fake.

Sure I have a sense of humor and I smile on occasion, but nobody smiles all day long like Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama and John McCain. I'm tired of seeing them smile. I'd rather see a leader on the campaign trail. Where's our version of Abraham Lincoln. He was a tall, skinny, ugly man who became the first republican president. He was a true, great president.

Yet, Abraham Lincoln would not qualify as president by 2008 standards, where it's more important to be fake than real.

Okay, so I better stop there. Did you know, that Abraham Lincoln was traveling by train to make some speeches to which his "surrogates" were to listen and travel the state for him. And of which the media was going to listen to and write articles of in the media to spread the word of this candidate.

As he stopped at one of the train stations, a little girl was there. Lincoln stopped to talk with this little girl. The little girl said, "Mr. Lincoln, I think you should grow a beard. If you grow a beard, I think you will win the election."

Yep, Mr. Lincoln, cover up that ugly face. Of course we all know that not only did Lincoln get elected, he became the 2nd best president ever, according to most polls. But who cares about the polls: Abraham Lincoln was the 2nd best president ever, second only to the first president ever.

I have written about this before (click here) that we may never have a great General as president ever again because of the head chopping by the media, the constant demand for fake smiles, and the never ending traveling.

So, there you have it. Before the trash talking, enemy stomping, negative ads, head chopping, name calling, world traveling, baby kissing, lying, word twisting, flip-flopping, denying, great looking, fake smiling of today's political candidates, there were humble people running for president.

And if the candidate wasn't humble, then he portrayed himself as a log cabin candidate, as even William Henry Harrison did, even though he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

That, my political friends, is the political history of the day.


Khaki Elephant said...

Now that makes you long for the "good ole days"

Anthony Palmer said...

I think one other point you should mention is the intersection of politics and technology.

Roosevelt, Lincoln, and Washington didn't have to worry about robocalls, direct mail, Facebook communities, and YouTube. The advent of new technology has forced politicians to be more adept at using different kinds of media.

Good thoughts overall. I think you have a broken link in there though. Check the (click here) nonlink in the post.

Freadom said...

Yeah, I'm aware of the broken link. For the life of me I couldn't find that post.

Anthony, that would make for another intersting post: how modern technology has changed politics. For one thing, the advent of TV makes sure our candidates are shaved, not sweaty, and relatively good looking at the expense of... (fill in blank)