Daze of My Life/Conventional Wisdom

by Kenneth B. Lourie

So what am I supposed to think? Having witnessed, in part, on television (thankfully I have cable) and heard from sound bites, on radio, the love fest the Democratic Convention was no doubt orchestrated to be, I can’t help wondering if there’s truth in advertising. Not so much in retail because we all know, or should know, about caveat emptor - thanks to Judge Learned Hand - but rather about politics, instead. Historically we have been told what strange bedfellows, or more recently what Oval Office assignations, such lust for power can create.
As such, do I totally discount the Convention’s good vibrations, teleprompted speeches and catch phrases as merely old-fashioned public relations or were they in fact a new-fashioned way to unite and relate publicly to the silent unpersuadeds?
Of course there’s no way for an outsider-looking-in-type voter like you and me to know whether the candidate’s words were truly meaningful or merely meant to be truthful. So much of what politicians read aloud, especially during a campaign for public office, is written in private by others - not exactly puppeteers, but campaign strategists, spin masters, speechwriters, etc., all of whom have a hand in the process. They may indeed provide the prose, but it’s up to the candidate to provide the passion.
Rarely are speeches written anymore by the candidates themselves - unlike the Gettysburg Address, which President Lincoln wrote on the back of an envelope while en route by train - there’s simply no time. Now it seems the emphasis is on appearance and appearances, and communication, connection and, dare I say, consistency. The question that voters have to answer, however, remains sincerity. Can we trust a candidate to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help him God or whatever legal advice he’s receiving?
I understand that running for president of the United States is a marathon, and unlike any other race that any candidate or athlete has ever run before, not only in its length of pursuit - years - but in its demand on your life and on your family.
During a presidential campaign, there is hardly any rest for the weary. And with hordes of media covering, recording, videotaping, televising and computerizing the candidate’s every word and gesture even, the pressure to maintain your disposition and be true to your beliefs must be excrutiating. Moreover, the voters are provided every opportunity to examine, sometimes microscopically, the candidates’ lives, achievements and health and fitness - for office.
The pursuit of the presidency is, if I may extrapolate a quote my mother attributes to the actress Bette Davis, characterizing old age, “It’s not for sissies.” And so every effort is made I’m sure to select serious candidates who can be trusted to go the distance just like Kevin Costner as Ray Kinsella, did in the movie, “Field of Dreams.” Politics is no game. So when I hear voices from the podium at the Democratic, and next month at the Republican, Convention, it doesn’t make me want to drive across country to meet James Earl Jones, although I would love to go back to Fenway Park. But I do wonder if what I will have seen and heard is the truth, and if it wasn’t, then what will the future consequences be to our country?
Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.