Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Politics and family...do they mix? Lately there have been a few rumblings in the 2008 Presidential contest and this seems to boil down to that ever present question: Is a candidate's personal life of concern to voters? We saw it a bit in 2000, when George Bush sternly warned reporters to keep their mitts off his daughters, and for the most part they have. So it's no surprise to see similar things with the latest candidates.

First, we have Michelle Obama, who has come out of her shell lately, talking about how much they value traditional family values and how much emphasis she and her husband place on their family. She added: "if you can't run your own house, you can't run the White House." Take that Hillary. Or was she jabbing at Guiliani?

Speaking of Rudy, at the latest GOP debate he got a little miffed when a voter asked how he'd expect the American people to give him loyal fellowship if he was having a hard time getting it from his own family. Guiliani's response sounded like a schoolyard bully who'd just been punched in the stomach: "The best thing I can say is kind of leave my family alone, just like I'll leave your family alone." Wow. I think someone just struck a nerve with Rudy.

So is a candidate's family off-limits? To a certain extent, yes. Sometimes being decent means leaving them alone. Take Al Gore's son, for example. He is struggling with addiction and severe legal problems. Let the family deal with it. No need to smear. No need to ask questions. This kid has problems, what else is there to report?

But, do the voters have a right to know what's going on with Rudy and his kids? And why did Hillary not leave Bill? The latter brings in a question of character. Did she stay with him because she adamantly opposes divorce? Or to spare Chelsea? Or, did she stick with him because it would help her White House chances in the long run? I think these are legitimate questions and perhaps Hillary would be better served to answer them.

As for Rudy, all this secrecy is hurting him. What's going on with his kids? His former wives? I don't think people are out of line asking. And why can't Rudy give at least something resembling an explanation. "My kids and I often don't see eye to eye, and divorces hardly help."

That's it. Would anyone have trouble understanding that? No, of course not. We all have interesting family dynamics we deal with. Rudy's mysterious secrecy is hurting him in the eyes of the conservative base, and don't think for a second the Dems (especially Hillary) aren't itching to exploit that as much as the GOP is chomping at the bit to get at Hillary. It should be an interesting campaign.

1 comment:

The Loop Garoo Kid said...

As I was getting ready for work this morning, there was a piece on the Today Show to which, I confess, I did not pay complete attention. The gist of it was that Michelle Obama's remark was taken out of context and that one viewed a tape of her entire remark, it was apparent that she was not casting aspersions against any individual candidate.

The remark out of context, I think, is now making the rounds on U Tube.

During my drive to work, I heard a piece on NPR's Morning Edition about New Hampshire's town hall meetings which have become, in the words of the reporter "magnets for provocateurs everywhere" hoping that they can confront a candidate and instigate a "Macaca moment" such as the one that helped destroy Sen. George Allen's political career. The report is available on NPR.org.

For the last several national elections, I have been disturbed by what I call sound bite politics.
Complex issues are reduced to a sound bite which conditions short attention spans among the electorate and reduces the opportunity for any meaningful political discourse.

One of the points that I have heard over the past several months is that the 2008 election will be the U Tube election. Unfortunately, it is now possible not only to take remarks out of context and broadcast them but also to manipulate the actual text of the comment.

I suppose the caveat is that like any information one obtains from the internet, one needs to determine its provenance. My experience, howwver, is that most people do not take the time to do so butinstead press the forward key. This accounts for the vast body of information in cyberspace that is simply false.

This issue of family is an interesting one. Quite frankly, I think the issue of "family values" is one which should be relegated to the back burner in terms of importance but I recognize that unfortunately many Americans think it is of primary importance.

I think the issue needs to be divided into personal conduct and conduct of family members. It was OK for George Bush to tell the press to leave his daughters alone. They weren't running for president. Al Gore is not a candidate but if he were, should his candidacy be affected by his son's personal problems? I think not.

I agree, however, that personal conduct is an appropriate subject for inquiry. I look at Rudy Giuliani's personal life and OI think to myself: "There is a fair bit of chaos there" and it has a spillover effect w/ me.

The same is true w/ Hillary Clinton's personal decsions regarding her marriage but again, given the frenzy that results when candidates personal lives are made the subject of any type of inquiry, maybe we are better off not asking.

I confess I have already decided that Hillary Clinton's decisions regarding her marriage were entirely politically motivated w/ respect to both her husband's and her political career. It is her ambition that renders it impossible for me to support her in the primary.