Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Kucinich on the
Radar Screen

Radar Magazine, the on-again/off-again pub whose founder labored as the #2 editor under buzz diva Tina Brown at the late and mostly unlamented Talk Magazine, seems to be hitting its stride of late. It recently published
this interesting take on Dennis Kucinich, the peevish congressman who has imagined himself as president since he was a boy mayor. The mag rightly notes that "at five feet seven inches and 140 pounds, he looks more like a jockey than a head of state," and absolutely nails his quixotic political style, calling it "a mix of '60s-style pacifism and Depression-era populism."

You may have noticed I'm not a fan of Kucinich. While I respect the take of people like Bill Callahan, who recently offered
this spirited contrarian defense of the guy, I've also been turned off for years by Kucinich's humorless, self-righteous, hyper-argumentative style. It was on display again in mid-December, shortly after he announced his latest presidential campaign, when he was being interviewed by WCPN's Dan Moulthroup, who's not exactly the most aggressive inquisitor in the media. Nevertheless, Kucinich managed to ignore the fact that he was being served up mostly softball questions and instead proceeded to argumentatively nitpick them, making an enemy out of Moulthroup (you could hear the rising anger in his voice), and propably winning few friends among listeners. Not exactly a recipe for winning the White House, I'd say.


At 2:27 PM, Anonymous Roldo Bartimole said...

John: Just want to say that Dennis has had the presidency in mind
long before he became mayor. Indeed, he told me as I followed him campaigning on his very first run - he was not yet old enough to vote at the time - that if he won that election, he could "go all the way." He meant be president.

By the way, he was defeated in that first run by the incumbent, John Bilinski, if I remember the name correctly. He then defeated him in the next election

Kucinich has the right message on the war but he remains the wrong messenger. That's almost as bad as having the wrong message.

At 2:45 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That last part is particularly well said. I was going to point out that I happen to agree with him on the war, but decided it would be pretty obvious to anyone who's been reading this blog.

At 2:47 PM, Anonymous m. hynson said...

If Dennis did have a sense of humor and wasn't so self righteous, I wonder if detractors would still focus on his stature. Certainly having more of it is no indication of superior leadership or common sense, as too many recent--and current--Presidents have demonstrated. I also wonder if only big women, as opposed to jockey-sized women, will have a shot at the Presidency? Or will voters be too frightened of them?

By the way, great assessment in those last two lines, Mr. RB.

At 3:49 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Okay, you've rightly called me out on my unfair "heightism." As a 6'-2" person myself, I have a regrettable tendancy to be unconsciously arrogant about height. But my allusion to his size is anchored in a more serious point, which went unspoken in the original entry. So let me make it explicit: short men (perhaps especially in America) sometimes have a tendency to react with anger over perceived slights arising from their height. That's often the source of their drive as well as of the chip on their shoulder, as I think it is with Kucinich (though in his case he also seems to have plenty of residual anger over his poor childhood).

The other point to which I'm alluding, I suppose, is the sad but nevertheless true fact that in the television age, it's almost impossible for a short person to effectively compete in national politics. That was partially true even before TV (historians have documented how rarely the shorter candidate won the presidency) but all the more true now. That's why handlers for shorter presidential candidates spend hour after hour negotiating seemingly obscure details like camera angles during presidential debates. They know that the shorter a person seems, the less likely they are to draw the most votes.

At 4:28 PM, Anonymous m. hynson said...

You actually sound angry yourself. Perhaps you have a chip on your shoulder. Or maybe you just get angry about this issue. Your premise about short men, and their short temperaments, is no doubt based on reputable research, rather than, say, completely anecdotal evidence, or, no evidence at all? Maybe short men have lower thresholds (so to speak) for inane arm-chair psychoanalyzing and ludicrous theories. I'm with you, however, on the height factor with regard to national politics. Whether it's some subconscious force or just media socialization, most of us gravitate to candidates we can look up to, or eye to eye with. I still wonder if height will come into play with women candidates running for president. Actually, with them, it will probably be breast size that carries the day. Which means that implants could possibly tip the balance.

At 5:00 PM, Anonymous shakerscribe said...

Maybe height is only a big deal in size-obsessed America. Remember Mikhail Gorbachev, despite being small, round and bald, he soared to great heights as the leader of world's only other (late) superpower? Margaret Thatcher, shortish (but she could wear high heels) and remembered for her politics rather than her breasts, thank God. If Americans remain so superficial in presidential candidate requirements, we're destined for an eternity of dingbats like Bill Clinton with their tall stories and heightened sexuality. A chiselled jaw goes a long way, too, as FDR could attest.

At 5:18 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Wow, Shakerscribe, I couldn't have said it better myself. All dead on observations. If we'd listen to and read a little more closely what our candidates said, we'd be a lot better off. Honest Abe, after all, won the Lincoln-Douglas debates (at least in the eyes of historians, if not in the opinion of his contemporaries) by the power of his arguments, not because he towered over his opponent. But television has ruined just about everything it's touched, including electoral politics.

And M. Hynson, thanks for picking up on my own anger. It's actually the fuel of choice (though often unacknowledged) behind most serious writing. One must just take care to point it in the right direction, and hope to harness it rather than be consumed by it.

At 10:35 AM, Anonymous oddjobbs said...

Good point about gorbachov. reminds me---my brother used to joke that he had the map of europe on his head...

At 4:42 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That reddish birthmark on Gorby's head was indeed impressive. I've always thought that in a strange way, it might have played at least a small part in ending the Cold War (no small thing for a birthmark to pull off). I have a theory that, in part because of his birthmark, which must have caused him much pain and anguish as a kid, Gorby was a little more willing to see the other person's point of view than was your standard-issue Soviet leader. That probably helped him find the courage to move toward perestroika and a lessening of tensions with the U.S.

The right in America likes to pretend that the Cold War ended and Communism collapsed solely because we pushed the arms race beyond the Soviet Union's ability to keep pace, but the truth is it was a lot more complicated than that. Much of it happened simply because Gorbachev and Reagan each had the ability to imagine a future very different than their respective country's past, and the right blend of stubborness and naivete to ignore naysayers in their own governments.

Thinking about all of that makes one downright wistful in these days of Putin's grim, ruthless restoration of at least parts of the old Soviet system. And that, in turn, makes George Bush's comment that he could look inside Putin's soul and see a good man look all the more disastrously naive. Putin's an unimaginative, authoritarian KGB agent at heart, and I'd wager a second mortgage on my house that he's personally given the green light to having all of those enemies of his regime murdered.

At 9:43 PM, Blogger Chris McVetta said...

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