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It’s time to stop judging politicians by what they say. Clearly, these people will say whatever’s necessary to garner support and win elections. Instead, I suggest that we start paying attention to how they say it; their word-choice, pronunciation and inflection. Obama, for example, has pronounced “Pakistan” with a long-sounding first “a” (ahh), “i” (eee), and ended it with “stun” since his 2008 election. What’s wrong with the traditional “pack” pronunciation favored by the rest of us? Perhaps it’s a reflexive reaction to the grating, nasal inflection used by many in his home base of Chicago. He also prefers “ISIL” over “ISIS” in speaking about the fun-loving jihadis making so many headlines these days. It may be a more technically accurate label, but in differing from the favored choice of most media outlets it can also sound elitist or snooty. “We discovered today that a faction of ISIL has been hiding out in Pah-kee-stahn ..” Does he not realize that there are legions of knuckleheads out there assuming we’re fighting a brand-new enemy in some newly-discovered country? This is America — keep it simple. Which, coincidentally, is the unofficial campaign slogan of Donald Trump. Here’s a guy who doesn’t mince words. Unfortunately he doesn’t possess a particularly wide range of them, either. When Trump locks into a word at one of his rallies, he really sticks with it. It’s typically an adjective like “huge” (pronounced “huuuuge”) or “tremendous.” “There was this general, see? .. and he was a rough guy .. rough guy. He was fighting this tremendous battle .. had just a tremendous problem with terrorism. Let me tell you folks, we’re going to win this thing and it’s going to be huuuge ..” Interestingly, “folks” is a term that has made its way back into political discourse on both sides of the aisle. Obama uses it frequently .. “now, some folks have more money than others ..” but Trump likes it, too. I find it too homey for my tastes and never trust a word used by all politicians.

Policy aside, Bernie Sanders seems the best orator on the circuit now. It helps that his primary competition, Hillary Clinton, is prone to coughing fits. But mostly it’s because Bernie is unhampered and untempered in his remarks. His entire thrust is that he can’t be bought and isn’t beholden to special interests. Every time he wants to re-align the topic in a debate, it’s with a refreshing kind of “I can’t believe we’re talking about this shit” quality. Bernie’s message, that the entire system is corrupt, isn’t a new one. But the longer things go on, the more the message seems relevant. He’s also got a slightly over-the-top mad professor quality to him which can be effective while stumping but risks crossing over to Howard Dean territory. Bernie’s pissed, and while there’s just cause for it, it doesn’t always jibe with those favoring the Cool Hand Luke presidential approach of Obama. He’s also got the most disheveled appearance of any current candidate, which I respect. Heck, look at Albert Einstein .. the guy couldn’t iron a shirt to save his life but was a real all-star when it came to putting on his thinkin’ cap. Unfortunately, superficiality counts, and while enlightenment might extend to electing a black man, woman, or Jew, many can’t see clear to someone who doesn’t tuck his shirt in. We’ll put an idiot in there before someone who looks like Michael Moore or Jim Tomsula.

Personal grooming isn’t the only superficial element to a candidate’s appeal. Physicality plays an unfortunate role as well. Chris Christie was facing an uphill battle from the beginning, and not just because his name sounds like somebody stuttering. While obviously unfair, there is perhaps some basis for such prejudice. Woody Allen, as Cliff Stern, had this advice for his niece in “Crimes and Misdemeanors”: “While we’re waiting for a cab I’ll give you your lesson for today. Don’t listen to what your teachers tell ya, you know. Don’t pay attention. Just, just see what they look like and that’s how you’ll know what life is really gonna be like.” If you take this entire snippet and substitute “a Trump presidency” for “life,” I think you’d have an effective counter to any platform he might run on in a national debate. Seriously .. if Trump has gotten this far with the electorate, how far-fetched is it that some of them could be swayed by simply pointing out what the guy looks like? As reviled as Bush and Obama are from opposite ends of the political spectrum, at least these guys clean up well. What’s going to happen the first time Trump exits Air Force One in a wind-swept country? And those eyebrows and the way his lower teeth expose when he talks. This is one crazy-looking dude. Actually, on this basis, none of the front-runners hold much appeal. Hillary counters Sanders’ nutty professor look with a kind of permanently-constipated expression to compliment her pantsuit ensembles. The charge of “sexism” will undoubtedly be leveled for any comment on her appearance but this is the highest office in the land. And Ted Cruz .. an apparent intellectual giant, but thankfully with a mug that betrays much of what others who have crossed paths with him have said. God (if Ted can invoke the Deity’s name then it’s good enough for me) works in mysterious ways.

While the above may read as tongue-in-cheek to most, it isn’t an entirely inaccurate depiction of some aspects of political appeal and mechanism. The divide in this country is huge, to put it in Trumpian terms, and widening by the day. Opposing views within like political affiliation — say, those debating Sanders vs Clinton on Facebook — are the modern equivalent of what one used to see in the general election. By the time the Big Vote arrives, it’s more like each side is fighting an outside force .. an invader. The only thing that seems to bring us together is a genuine outside attack, and that common good will vanishes as soon as policy is instated. How pathetic is that? We need someone to take a big swing at us from somewhere else in order to achieve a very temporary sense of all being in this together. It’s enough to make someone vote for any of them.

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