Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Charming the Reporters

With a 64 percent disapproval rating on how President Bush is handling his job as president (American Research Group, Inc.), it is rare to find an enthusiastic Bush supporter nowadays especially in the liberal loving city of San Francisco. But in Journeys with George, a 2002 documentary about Bush and his gang of reporters on the campaign trail, it is hard not to find President Bush (Governor, at the time)…as hard as it is to admit…likable.

Pushing all bad Bush politics aside, I found myself laughing at the boloney loving Bush, and thinking he’d be a fun guy to throw a beer back with. Throughout the documentary it is clear that the filmmaker, Alexandra Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, likes Bush too, as she falls under the charming spell of the relaxed cowboy from time to time. But in the end, despite Bush’s best rhetoric, Pelosi still ends up voting democratically (good girl). Pelosi didn’t allow her vote to sway from politics to personality, but it makes me wonder, how much a good joke or a friendly smile figures at the ballot box? According to Max Brantley, editor of the Arkansas Times, the charm factor is dishearteningly significant as a slew of national journalists find it more relevant to report on personality rather than policies.

“I’ve really been surprised at the utter absence of reporting that’s been done on Mike Huckabee,” said Brantley in an On the Media interview last week. “There are very legitimate issues on the national stage, whether it’s his fair tax proposal or his stance on some social issues, that deserve some examination, but they’re been put to the side to focus on his jokes and his charming manner and his pardoning of a Rolling Stones guitar player.”

Brantley has reason to be concerned, as he feels that his former Arkansas Governor and current red-hot Republican Presidential candidate is unfairly avoiding national criticism due to his likability factor. In the interview with Brantley, Bob Garfield host of On the Media, summed up Brantley’s complaint by saying, “Huckabee, he says (Brantley), has become the newest darling of the National media without any due diligence. He (Brantley) cites, for instance, a laundry list of Huckabee’s brushes with the Arkansas Ethics Commission, something he wishes those national columnists would take the time to learn about.”

These national columnists include the New York Time’s David Brooks who called Huckabee “funny and engaging,” while New Yorker magazine’s Hendrick Hertzberg finds Huckabee’s rhetoric, “almost impossible not to like.” Brantley finds the lack of actual reporting on Huckabee, a politician he is all too familiar with, to be a disservice to the public. After all, shouldn’t we, as the potential voters, be more concerned with Huckabee’s past mishaps (i.e. using his mansion operating account as a personal expense account when he first become Governor) rather than if he is funny or not? “I think the Bush record didn’t get fully and completely reported until his second term,” said Brantley, who is hoping that history doesn't repeat itself. The last thing the United States needs is to vote for another “funny” president who would be fun to have a beer with…look how well that turned out.