I have done some things that I have decided to preemptively tell my future constituents right now, just in case I ever want to run for a political office. This is just so nobody can say I tried to hide things later on.
There are, for example, photos like the ones that surfaced of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. I guess I will never be able to run for a political office because I stood next to alleged-terrorist Sami Al-Arian on more than one occasion. Of course, I could always say that I was at the events for The Oracle, but would such a true and logical explanation really work?
In Kerry’s case, a photo that showed him on the same stage with Jane Fonda, an outspoken critic of the war in Vietnam, was featured on several Web sites during the last week. It later turned to be doctored because Jane Fonda never even attended the event at which the photo was supposedly taken.
“I’m horrified. I think this kind of alteration is probably one of the scariest forms of trickery, particularly when it’s done against a political candidate,” said Ken Light, who took the original photo according to Newsday. Ironically, Light is now in charge of the graduate photojournalism program at the University of California at Berkeley, so the photo was debunked rather fast. The photo, nevertheless, did some damage to Kerry’s campaign before it was discredited, and as campaign spokesman Dag Vega said, “The smear tactics have started already.”
Speaking about Kerry and obscure claims on Web sites, there is also the alleged “infidelity” between him and an intern. Kerry has already stated “there is nothing there,” but, for many, if you mention “Democrat” and “intern” in the same sentence, you lost their vote.
So in the interest of full disclosure: I shared a room in Las Vegas with two female friends of mine when some of The Oracle’s staffers took a trip there last year (non-business related). Nothing was going on, as we were just good friends sharing a room, but it would no doubt be easy to spin a shocking tale out of this.
Such allegations and “hot stories” sell papers and get high ratings. So in order to feed the beast that is the mass media, some stories are overplayed, be it consciously or not.
The New Hampshire “speech” of Howard Dean for example was played so often that it hurt his campaign quite substantially. CNN even apologized later and acknowledged they probably hyped it too much, but who can blame them? It was a good story and got ratings, so they played it.
I never served any military service, so I guess there cannot be any uncertainty about that, which could come back to haunt me. President George W. Bush is currently having trouble proving that he indeed served the full time he said he did in the National Guard. Meanwhile Kerry (See a pattern emerging? Are there really so many bad things about Kerry, or is he just the front-runner and an easy target?) is under fire because some claim he did not deserve the decorations he received for serving in Vietnam.
But do we want charismatic leaders or squeaky-clean cardboard characters that offer sound-bytes and platitudes rather than actual content? I often hear politicians speak and am amazed by the rhetorical roller-coaster rides with which they try to make a point, that most of the time, is not a point worth making. But if you can lose a presidential candidacy based on a scream, they can hardly be blamed when they play it safe.
The era of statesmen like Sir Winston Churchill — famous for being outright rude — seems to be over. Instead we cast political versions of supermodels to play leader.
I guess any campaign of mine would be doomed from the get go. And even though I know not to wear black shoes with blue socks, I probably already have too much baggage to run. Too bad, though. We’ll never know if someone like me would be exactly the change our political system needs if they don’t even make it past the first hurdle.
Sebastian Meyer is a junior majoring in environmental science and an Oracle opinion editor. firstname.lastname@example.org