Giving new meaning to working the polls
By Michael M. Bates
There are more than 200,000 minutes until next year's presidential election. And I'm starting to think I might hate every one of them.
This political junkie is getting burned out early this cycle. If one of the Democratic candidates weren't wearing a black pantsuit most of the time, it would be tough telling them from one another. All want to end the war in Iraq because that's what their base demands.
They all say they're for universal health care, fair immigration policies, more money for education, civil rights for homosexuals, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, ending tax breaks for the rich and keeping sacrosanct the right to abortion.
Every item in the above paragraph was part of the Democratic Party Platform of 1992. It'd be enlightening if one of the questioners at a Democratic debate said: Your party pledged all this before. Bill Clinton had eight years to achieve these goals. He must not have or you wouldn't have to promise them now. Since he couldn't or wouldn't, why should we believe you can? And why do you all cite his administration as a golden age of governance when he failed to adequately deliver on so many issues?
On the other side, the Republicans don't have a candidate electrifying many GOP voters. The man who might be able to do that remains unannounced, which shows he's got some sense. Once he's officially in the race and his views and record more closely examined, his popularity will flag. It always happens that way.
What makes this election cycle stand out is how quickly it's deteriorating. No, I'm not talking here about the jokes about John Edwards' $400 haircuts or the number of times Rudy Giuliani's been married. That's fair game in my book.
Going after candidates' wives generally isn't. One recent Friday on MSNBC former congressman Joe Scarborough spoke with Congressional Quarterly's Craig Crawford. The exchange:
I consider myself pretty hep, but needed help on the pole allusion. A search on the Internet disclosed it probably refers to a dancing pole used on occasion by strip teasers. Maybe I need to get out more.
Mrs. Thompson is decades younger than her husband. She's very attractive, some might say beautiful. That doesn't mean she married her husband because he's a Hollywood actor. It also doesn't mean that Joe Scarborough should utter debasing comments about her. Scarborough is beginning to make the terminally tasteless Don Imus, whose time slot Scarborough was filling, look like Mr. Propriety.
Mrs. Thompson hasn't overtly interjected herself into her husband's potential campaign. She deserves to be left alone.
By the following Monday, MSNBC was in damage control mode. A network spokesman said, according to USA Today, that "A female triathlete had been discussing her exercise routine with Joe" and the regimen included using a stripper's pole. "That is the context in which the issue was discussed. To suggest otherwise is irresponsible."
MSNBC would never want to be irresponsible, which is why it defends Scarborough using suggestive comments about Mrs. Thompson.
Another candidate's wife receiving considerable attention is Elizabeth Kucinich, spouse of Dennis "We become the energy of the stars" Kucinich. Elizabeth is 6-foot-tall, with her husband closer to 5-foot. Mrs. Kucinich is decades younger than her husband. She's very attractive, some might say beautiful.
I'm unaware of any pundit yet suggesting Mrs. Kucinich "works the pole." Her husband's Web site, though, does display a picture of her lovingly gazing at a "peace pole."
I consider myself pretty hep, but needed help on that one, too. A "peace pole" is a large stick with "May Peace Prevail on Earth" displayed on each side. I'm sure those must be extraordinarily effective.
Will there be any raunchy references about Mrs. Kucinich in the mainstream media? Probably. Already, there have been numerous mentions of how she looks. Comely spouses have become suitable political fodder. We've reached a point apparently where poles, not just polls, are relevant.
It could be a very long 200,000 minutes.
This Michael Bates column appeared in the June 7, 2007 Reporter Newspapers.