Secret to success in politics: Keep those candidates quiet

By Published on .

Is Mario Cuomo still available?

Just curious, because, as the TV campaigns for Republican presidential hopeful John McCain and Democrat Bill Bradley are launched, we realize that our next president, in all probability, will have the oratorical command of Captain Kangaroo.

No, make that Mr. Moose.

We've already seen Al Gore's stiffness. And Steve Forbes sounds positively prepubescent. Now come the otherwise impressive first TV spots from two bona fide American heroes: the war hero and the Rhodes scholar/basketball star. These are imposing resumes, and everything looks and sounds great until we finally hear the candidates themselves.

Ex-POW McCain is portrayed as a can-do patriot and courageous enemy of the special interests. There's no faulting the stirring sentiment when he promises, "Till the last breath I draw, I will do everything in my power to make you proud of your government." Bravo. But that voice. It's so thin. So conversational. So undramatic.

Bradley's bio wisely keeps his vocal chords out of it. A second spot, however, vowing an issues-oriented campaign, reveals the ugly truth: wimpy talk.

"Sometimes you'll agree with me," he asserts. "Sometimes you won't. But at least you'll know exactly where I stand."

Again, this is an attractive and welcome promise. Alas, the video production is so cheap-and the lighting reflects so weirdly from his left eye-he looks in no way presidential. He looks like an embezzler.

What's the use of being the basketball star Candidate of Ideas if you look suspicious and sound for all the world like Sneezy?

Yes, we know, it's the quality of the vision, not the resonance of their pipes we should be concerned with. But let's be real here. When we take the measure of a man, we estimate his physical presence. And these guys, when we hear them from the podium, don't seem to have any.

How ironic it would be to see these men-well positioned as fresh, fearless voices of American politics-tuned out by the electorate because nobody is inspired to pay attention by the voices themselves.

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