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Dumpster Bust Keeping It Real Politik: Five Minutes After the Speech

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I’ll admit it: occasionally I watch C-SPAN. Indeed, sometimes I use it as a cure for insomnia, but every now and then there’s a good program or series on, such as the ’04 presidential campaign’s Road to the White House, where party hopefuls made their cases in relatively intimate surroundings.

One of the best parts of these speeches or town hall meetings are the five or so minutes after it’s ostensibly over. C-SPAN has a tendency to let the cameras roll as the candidate or speaker meets and greets supporters. One on level, it’s hardly newsworthy and largely banal: kind words thrown out by star-struck supporters, photos and autographs flashed and slashed, invitations of support “down the road.” On another, it’s a fascinating insight into what it takes to be a big-time politician in the United States.

John Edwards gave a very good speech last night (I had C-SPAN on in the background as I did some work – a cool-down from the frenzy of the Super Bowl if you will) that updated and amplified his Two Americas stump speech. As I watched the post-speech five minutes, I noticed how poised, how energetic, how on Edwards was. He radiated political stardom, and everyone in the room wanted to gather round him for but a small moment to bask in his warm light.

It made me realize that to be very successful in the politics game – particularly on the national level – you have to have a genuine affection for people. On top of that, you need burning ambition, lights out smarts, a need for the spotlight, and, just maybe, a desire for public service.

I started thinking about movies that expertly look at the political process, such as The Candidate, with Robert Redford, and Primary Colors, with John Travolta. They’re really a look beyond the five minutes, after the cameras are turned off, and the candidates “start getting real,” as the saying goes.

There’s a lot to be learned from those five minutes, though. The look of the eyes, the grasp of the handshake, the eagerness to stand in for one more picture.

Edwards had it, had it all last night. His speech was successful, but he sealed the evening with his performance during the five minutes after.

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  • dietdoc

    E3ric writes:

    “you have to have a genuine affection for people. On top of that, you need burning ambition, lights out smarts, a need for the spotlight, and, just maybe, a desire for public service.”

    Reply:

    In light of all that has been said of George Bush, do you really believe this? Are there different kinds of “smarts.” Book smart vs. politically smart?

    I would like your opinion.

    Cheers,

    Ron

  • Eric Olsen

    great post, unique angle – I’d like to hear thoughts on how this applies to Bush also – thanks!

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    I’ll preface what I’m about to say about Bush by saying (if everyone doesn’t know already) that I disagree with a majority of his policies and find his cavalier regard toward information and his incurious outlook upon the world to be disturbing in my nation’s leader and commander-in-chief.

    Now: George W. Bush is an enormously gifted and shrewd politician. He has benefited time and again from being ‘misunderestimated,’ knows how to develop a tightly knit and loyal group of smart and talented operatives, and connects with people one-on-one on a world-class level.

    So in his own unique way (and I say this in a not condescending way) Bush is lights out smart.

    George W. Bush, leader of the free world, is also the most influential and transformative President since Reagan (thus far: he’s got plenty of time to go further).

    Thanks for the kind words, by the way, E!

  • Eric Olsen

    excellent answer and I agree with your assessment – I would add that he is terribly inarticulate when unprepared and seems genuinely dumb as a rock on more than one topic

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Perhaps we’re better off with presidents who are smart and ‘play dumb’ than with presidents who everyone knows are smart and try to live up to the reputation and prove it with their ‘innovative’ policies.

    I mean, look at our ‘smart’ presidents:

    Thomas Jefferson
    Didn’t believe in purchasing territory to expand the US, but presided over the largest land purchase in US History. Was morally opposed to war, yet was the first American president to invade a foreign country. Had a foreign policy in his second term which was so disastrous that it resulted in a completely unnecessary war with England. Was apparently the ONLY American leader of the era who couldn’t outwit Talleyrand de Perigord when it came to negotiating treaties.

    John Qunicy Adams
    Basically destroyed his own political party and only managed to get 1 major bill passed through Congress and it was a disaster. Yet in every other aspect of his career besides his one term as president he was brilliant.

    Woodrow Wilson
    Totally paralyzed by the conflict between his pacifism and anglophilia and thus let WWI escalate out of control. Managed to re-introduce racial segregation into the federal workplace after Roosevelt got rid of it. Botched the League of Nations and reconstruction of Europe so badly that it took another World War and endless small conflicts to eventually sort the disaster out. Thought it was a really great idea to force Serbs, Croats and Bosnians to all live in the same country.

    Jimmy Carter
    Repeatedly politically outmaneuvered by anyone in a turban and a beard. Presideded over the worst non-wartime inflation in history. Got attacked by a rabbit when he was in a boat ferchrissakes, and managed to do it on video.

    But compare them with your equally smart but down home, aw-shucksy kinds of leaders – Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Bill Clinton. I won’t go into all the details on these ones, but which group of 4 would you pick?

    Dave

  • Eric Olsen

    interesting analysis Dave, but most everyone also knew Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar and brilliant policy wonk besides the horny hillbilly shit

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Well sure, and everyone knew Teddy Roosevelt was a Harvard grad and a pulitzer prize winner, etc. But I think the point is perhaps that these guys were willing to step in and get their hands dirty and do some real work, while the less successful smart presidents tried to get by mostly on brainpower and it just isn’t enough.

    Dave

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Dave – I’m sorry, but that kind of anti-intellectualism makes no sense to me: the brainy types don’t know how to get their hands dirty, etc.

    Clinton was up to his ass in policy details (and yes, other things as well most likely) and managed to pull off lasting peace (we hope) in Northern Ireland and came within reach of the holy grail: peace between the Palestinians and Israelis.

  • http://www.landofthefreehomeofthebrave.org Margaret Romao Toigo

    Perhaps it is not so much a matter of intellect as it is one of charisma. Some intellectuals just have more charm than other intellectuals.

    Perhaps this is because they understand this concept: “It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help.” –Judith Martin (a.k.a. Miss Manners).

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    You’re not reading me very closely here, Eric. I was also using Clinton as a positive example. I referenced two groups of smart presidents, one which tried to rely solely on intellect and failed and one which tempered intellect with pragmatism and succeeded. Clinton was one I included in that second group.

    Dave

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Yes, he came not to bury Clinton, but to praise him…

    (For Dave Nalle is an honorable man.)

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    GW Bush has two degrees (one of them post-grad) from Ivy League schools.

    He was elected governor of a major state. Twice.

    He was elected President of the most powerful nation in the world. Twice.

    Those few remaining people who still think he’s an idiot are…idiots.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    Well good, clearly then, as you say, ALL American presidents are smart and you’ve liked them all. Except the ones without education who are .. um, help me out here.

    A degree isn’t worth much if you don’t learn from it. Would your typical MBA be proposing any of these great budget ideas for a business or individual?

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Temple Stark:
    Well good, clearly then, as you say, ALL American presidents are smart and you’ve liked them all. Except the ones without education who are .. um, help me out here.

    Most notably Warren G. Harding, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. But while Harding was pretty dumb, Jackson was smart in his unique way and Lincoln had little choice but to educate himself. Then there are plenty of presidents who went to second rate schools and don’t seem to have suffered for it. For example, Harry Truman and Gerald Ford. Then there are those who went to the best schools who just basically partied through school on family money, like John Tyler.

    I guess the point is that while most Presidents went to pretty good schools, it’s not an absolute requirement, and didn’t guarantee their competence. They’re as much of a mixed bag as the rest of the population.

    Dave

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Temple – If you’ll notice, I didn’t mention book learnin’ in any of my comments.

    Example: Anyone watching the latest season of The Apprentice knows that Street Smarts are perhaps more important than the schoolin’ kind.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    I was referring to RJ’s comments when he listed George Bush’s academic credentials. I agree with most of what’s being said here, but just noticing that if you like the guy, you’ll find a way to say he’s smart no matter the evidence to the contrary.

    Truman was the best as far as “street smarts.” And pretty well loved for being “a man of the common people.”

    I want a woman for president (not Hillary or Condoleezza). Except, she’ll be seen as smart and not much else. “Pushy” and “bossy” are words that will be used, however, instead of steely and determined. That’s slightly off-topic though isn’ty it? Sorry.

    Work beckons.

  • Eric Olsen

    “bitch” is a word that will be much used as well

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Temple – I know you didn’t, was just trying to point out that university training is only one indicator of smarts, both book and street.

    I’d like to see a female Prez as well. If she’s plagued with terms like “bossy,”… well, that’s better than the norm nowadays, isn’t it?

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Well, that would just be inevitable from the ignorant fucks that would be anti-anything different.

    It would be a sign of progress really, don’t you think?

  • Eric Olsen

    I wnat to see two women run against each other for pres: “our bitch is better than your bitch”

    Reelection: “the bitch is back”

    On truthfulness: “bitch has word” – oh wait, that’s been taken.

  • JR

    RJ: GW Bush has two degrees (one of them post-grad) from Ivy League schools.

    He was elected governor of a major state. Twice.

    He was elected President of the most powerful nation in the world. Twice.

    Those few remaining people who still think he’s an idiot are…idiots.

    If some of those people have advanced degrees and are very successful in their careers, what does that imply about someone who thinks they are idiots?