Oh, if I were only as funny as I wished I was! Maybe then I could land my dream job, writing for The Onion. The satirical entertainment publication, self appointed as “America’s Finest News Source,” clearly loves the material our presidential candidates are supplying these days.
My headline today is borrowed directly from The Onion, in reference to presidential hopeful, Ben Carson. Not only are there many who question Dr. Carson’s sanity, I personally have begun questioning his credentials as a neurosurgeon. At a minimum, I am committed to abandoning my long overused sarcastic quip “well, it isn’t brain surgery” that I once used to describe things as not difficult. Watching Carson these past months has killed that expression for me forever.
Then there was The Onion guest commentary by Hillary Clinton, simply titled “I Am Fun.” After laughing at the headline, I went on to read satirical evidence leading me to my response: “No You’re Not.” Many of you may not know this about me, but I am often the person in the crowded room that is laughing by himself about something in which no other human would find humor, or even notice. Hillary is the only one in the room that isn’t laughing at the funniest thing that anyone may have ever seen.
Of all the things that make me hesitate about her candidacy, this is it. We haven’t had a president since the Nixon/Ford term that was as humorless. I admire her tenacity at the Benghazi hearing, but it worries me a little that in ten hours of often epic stupidity, she had plenty of opportunity to diffuse some tension with levity and didn’t.
Finally, The Onion brought us another classic this week with this one: “Carly Fiorina Promises To Fight For Whoever Everyday Americans Are.” I am not sure why they singled her out on this one, but there aren’t many candidates in this field who were ever “everyday” in their life situation. And when it comes to this designation, it really does take one to know one.
I don’t know why Americans, and political parties insist on looking to CEOs, Ivy Leaguers, doctors, lawyers (?!), and legacy politicians for government leadership. Is there anything less “everyday” than that list? Why do those among us who are civically engaged speak in our neighborhoods so passionately and specifically about what we want, and then insist on looking to someone so different from ourselves to deliver it?
Americans really need to stop doing that.
So let me start over from the top.
Ben Carson has so many problems as a candidate, it is nothing shy of a miracle that he is still in the race. His medical resume is certainly impressive. His against the odds rise from inner city Detroit, to Yale, then the University of Michigan Medical School and finally Johns Hopkins, is hard to match. But when it comes to government and politics, he just says too many ignorant, impossible to prove, and outright stupid things for him to be electable. An example: “A lot of people go into prison straight, and when they come out, they’re gay.” That alone disqualifies him.
Next up, former Arkansas First Lady, First Lady of the United States, U.S. Senator from New York, and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Clinton has been in the public eye a long, long time. She grew up a Republican in Chicago before going to Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and Yale Law School where she apparently became a Democrat. Look up Wellesley College. I did. Wow. I tend to agree with her policy positions. I also think she convinced many people who were on the fence about her character that she has what it takes during her performance at the Benghazi hearing last week. I wonder if she ever sent that thank you fruit basket to the House Republicans for that one. But if she doesn’t find a way to connect with people, everyday people, she becomes uninspiring fast. It’s not just that she’s not funny, I worry she doesn’t know how to relax at all. This is a skill a president needs, and her apparent lack of it, should trouble all of us.
Carly Fiorina sports college degrees from Stanford, Maryland and MIT. She climbed the corporate ladder at AT&T and its spinoff, Lucent Technologies, almost entirely before the Telecommunications Act of 1996. That means it was before competition. She then went to Hewlett Packard, oversaw a giant merger as the CEO in a market that was shrinking, and lost 30,000 jobs. Other than her compensation and her corporate rise as a woman in what once was a man’s world, I am unimpressed with her career. Many agree with me. Great college credentials. Made a pile of money for herself. But there is no “wow” moment in her bio.
So what’s my point?
The roster of candidates we have right now don’t have much in common with voters. And I crack up when I hear people get all riled up about any of them. I am an educated man and am successful professionally, and I don’t know anyone like any of these people. Neither do very many of you.
The Onion is accidentally doing us a public service. The candidates need to pay attention. Follow its clues. Carson, be more sane if you can. Clinton, have some fun. Fiorina, spend some time with everyday people, every day.
If America is making fun of a candidate now, then we aren’t ready to elect and support them as president. And more importantly, if The Onion thinks a candidate’s flaws are entertaining enough to mock, that candidate needs to address them.
A political expert friend once told me that the candidate who makes us feel best is usually the one who wins. Right now, the bad news is they are all losing this battle with satire. The good news is that they are all really funny.