Bob Dole may be the greatest ex-politician alive. Not for his politics (I absolutely abhor those), but for his actions after he left politics.
Wonderful Dole action #1: Bob Dole did some ads for Dunkin Donuts and received donuts every day afterwards for a certain amount of time. Dole lived in the infamous Watergate complex across from the beloved Monica Lewinsky (whose apartment, incidentally, he later bought in order to expand his own) during the scandal. Every day, Dole would take his donuts and give them to the starving reporters on one of the most hated beats around (actually true: reporters hated the Monica story as much as we did).
Not good enough? Wonderful Dole moment #2: Viagra. If you need any more clarification, the man has an amazing sense of humor, enough that he could give Viagra a serious advertisement.
OK, that wasn’t so amazing. How about Wonderful Dole #3: He told reporters, while his wife was considering running for president, that he wanted to send a donation to McCain’s campaign. Honesty is quite the virtue.
Bob Dole #4: That Visa Check Card ad. Only a confidant role model could make fun of losing to one of the most scandal-ridden presidents ever. What a man.
And finally (drum roll), Bob Dole #5: in a new cheese advertisement, a fictional candidate refuses to eat cheese and therefore loses the election. Dole then appears and calls said candidate “a doofus.” The man who fell off of a platform is calling another candidate “a doofus.” Inspiring.
Bob Dole has single-handedly discovered the key to reviving interest in politics. Bradley’s “exciting” and (supposedly, but I won’t get into that) visionary politics has only helped Gore, while Bush’s attempt to meld conservative with moderate has failed him and his party (but not us Democrats!). McCain seems to have adopted part of Dole’s message and is now succeeding like few expected only a couple months ago. So what is this awe-inspiring, presidential primary shaking, Dole-discovered magic potion for politics? Pay close attention, folks, because for any politician, and most future politicians, this method seems paradoxical.
Common political sense dictates that a politician must seem intelligent and impeccable. A candidate must, in other words, become the bookish policy-wonk who went to bed at 10 every night throughout college, never drank, never did drugs (or did not inhale), never had fun. He was the loser who called in noise complaints while the others were just watching a movie. Why would average Americans want to vote for the person who went state witness on their recreation?
Instead, we are pulled toward interesting and charismatic stories that have little to no actual use in most of government. The average American voter secretly wants somebody to make politics both fun and understandable. Bob Dole discovered this about one year too late. John McCain, it seems, discovered it at the perfect time.
That’s his secret weapon. As recent polls show, Bradley’s visionary insurgency works only among fellow “visionaries,” but lags far behind in reaching towards the average, uninterested voter. John McCain’s insurgency is working like a charm because he makes watching his campaign fun. He jokes with reporters, he admits to quite a number of indiscretions (and, in fact, occasionally looks like he misses those good old days) and sounds like an average person, even though he has had a most exceptional life.
McCain’s sound bites can rarely be described as, “blah blah blah, my opponent is wrong, blah blah blah.” There’s always a joke or an unexpected (and many times, mistaken) point. The response is one of the most impressive political mutinies ever. As he put it himself, “Every day is do-or-die, that’s why it’s so much fun.” Fun. Never expected to hear that word come out of a presidential candidate, at least not without an opinion poll first.
So, to all those future politicians at Williams, some advice in that strain: Be human. Make mistakes. Laugh at them. Fall off a podium. Take endorsement offers. Admit to your past (remember, fellow Williams students will be glad to share that one story about that one day when you had a little too much of something and acted a little too much like…well…heh), and enjoy it. Be proud of your role as enforcer in high school, or nearly dropping out of the Naval Academy. It’s your life; accept it; enjoy it and, maybe, get elected. At least, if you don’t get elected, you can always do cheese ads.