john spurlock 2004

the charisma gap

Would you like soup or soup with that?

Why do the two major american political parties consistently nominate charismatic duds for president?

I watched the entire debate last week - with my eyes pried open clockwork-orange-style for the last 45 minutes or so. And it wasn't because of the draconian debate restrictions (cspan at least had the split-screen for the whole thing) or the content (lehrer's questions actually distilled the current debate fairly well).

Both of these guys seem to be missing something basic and fundamental. I can't put my finger on it - maybe energy, personality, maybe charisma.

When they open their mouths, I have this uncontrollable urge to grab the remote, but different reasons for each candidate: for the vietnam vet it's the condescending tone and the uncanny ability to somehow say nothing in any given length of time ("" - with the thumbs-up fist-thing) and for our fearless leader it's watching that familiar train wreck in slow motion, with a nagging fear that he'll say something weird or uncomfortable ("I know bin laden attacked us, I know that").

These two are the best of the best? Doesn't one of them become the leader of the free world in a month or so?

At this point, I don't think Bush nor Kerry pass a basic charisma threshold. Just look at the headliners they had to trot out at the conventions - Kindergarten Cop got ten times the crowd reaction of the wartime commander-in-chief.

On the substance, I thought GWB actually won the first thirty minutes or so, defending the Iraq situation with his best cards. Then, of course, he went to his broken-record-using-soundbytes-that-aren't-even-very-good-soundbytes strategy.

Also, the discussion that JK started about nuclear proliferation near the end seemed refreshingly genuine, and it's pretty clear that Mr. Kim Jong Il will be in the hot seat no matter who wins in November.

All in all, I want my ninety minutes back - how about Powell-Holbrooke for the next debate? Or why not just cut to the chase and have Karl Rove and Joe Lockhart square off?