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Send In the Clowns

My fellow Americans,

I don’t need to tell you that political campaigns are built on equal parts mendacity, pandering, and charisma.  But for some reason I’ve always had difficulty with that last bit.  Inexplicably, people just weren’t attracted to the Nixon charm. Children would cry whenever they saw me and my campaign managers would constantly remind me to never smile because of the intense feeling of distaste it caused.  Even Pat said that while she loved me, she really didn’t like me at all. 

This wasn’t a problem at first, because I was able to insinuate myself with the rest of the Orthogonians out there and deflect attention from myself through the use of communist boogeymen.  However, in 1960 it became an issue, and by 1966 it was a crisis.  So I did what so many successful politicians did: I hired a joke-writer. Two years later, I was elected the 37th president of the United States.
Since then, the charisma thing has elected five of the last six presidents: Carter was the naïve aw-shucks innocent, Reagan played the wisecracking game-show host, Clinton was the suave party-guy, W was the folksy dullard, and Obama is the earnest visionary.  So, it’s not really any surprise that potential candidates for 2012 are already honing their acts.  The one who has the biggest head-start has to be Sarah Palin, trying a Reagan-Bush hybrid of mean-spirited folksiness and one-liners. 

Her speeches are nothing more than a collection of sardonic insults and precisely calculated “zingers” designed to create a persona and give the fawning crowds something to wildly applaud.  Oh, there’s no doubting it’s effective, but it’s also very hollow and at the end of the day, unsatisfactory.  One gets the feeling that Sarah Palin will wear out her welcome very quickly  – sort of like that “Wild and Crazy Guys” thing SNL used to do.  Because gags and insults will only get you so far.  At some point you have to serve some meat to go with all the appetizers.  And the danger for her is that Sarah Palin is quickly becoming nothing more than a warm-up act.  A one-dimensional, insult-spouting MC that whips the faithful into a frenzy, but who then cedes the stage for the main attraction.

Look, when I was unveiling the new, likable Nixon I did the whole Bob Hope thing too, shooting one-liners at people like LBJ.  But I also included a lot of self-mocking gags, and in the end I had the gravitas that comes with experience and knowledge behind me.  Sure, people enjoyed my jokes, but they also knew that with Nixon it was all-business.  Palin gives the opposite feeling.  People look at her and just know that there is absolutely nothing behind her makeup.  Take away her joke-writers and all you have is a nasal-voiced, intolerant nincompoop.

That seemed to work okay for Reagan and W, but at least with me you knew there was more than just a friendly face.

Nixon is: Smug


secofstate said...

Palin's clownish character was never more evident than in today's tea party gathering in Boston. Her mantra of "We'll keep clinging to our Constitution and our guns and religion - and you can keep the change" has been her favorite battle cry. Keep up the good work!

The Ghost of Richard Nixon said...

I agree with our Ms Palin's tenacious support of the Constitution. I just fear she has never read beyond "We the People ..."