Cream rises to the top. Many are aware of the saying, often delivered in a smug tone, to explain the inevitable emergence of a person into a position of leadership and power. The words are delivered with an inflection that implies the certainty of the occurrence as well as our daftness for not seeing it coming. Cream DOES rise to the top, you know.
Politics, in the case of the 2012 election, is about to upend another cherished idiom as the field discloses a jug of largely curdling milk.
Beginning in 2008 with the nomination of the Wonder Woman from Wasilla, Americans have embraced personages whose enthusiasm is unquestioned but whose grasp of issues is lacking. Governor Palin’s deft understanding of foreign affairs is best illustrated by her quote, “But obviously, we’ve got to stand with our North Korean allies.” I’ll bet that got their attention in Seoul. John McCain’s aging warrior candidacy faltered partly on the issue of his “embrace” of an attractive, if wacky, teammate. Some choices are inexplicable and not much appears to have been learned in the ensuing years.
And speaking of attractive but wacky, this cycle we have Michele Bachmann, whose serial gaffes make Palin look like a sure-fire Nobel Laureate. Bachmann has blithely mis-spoken about her wealth, the president’s policies and sundry other topics so often that it is amazing she retains a shred of credibility. Here’s Bachmann in New Hampshire speaking on the beginning of the American Revolution: “You’re the state where the shot was heard around the world at Lexington and Concord.” Nice quote, wrong state. Her grasp of contemporary history is every bit as shaky.
Then comes Herman Cain whose agonizing effort to answer the Libya question was reminiscent of a third grader trying to spell “ennui”, an emotion not much in evidence this political season. At one point he said, “I got all this stuff twirling around in my head.” He also did not know that China has had nuclear weapons for decades. So much for the Taiwanese vote, Herman.
Finally, there is Rick Perry, who, while touting himself as everyman’s fiscal conservative, couldn’t even think of three agencies he would ax on taking office. (Since most agencies are three-letters, he failed a nine-letter assignment.) He also coyly sucks up to the birthers by making cagey remarks about Obama’s origin. The squalid swamp of American politics is currently the province of birthers and their ilk affording Perry a comfortable home among those who thrive on innuendo, conspiracy and rumor.
Our only hope is that the electorate, as in 2008, will once again conclude, (this brew of buttermilk in the making notwithstanding), that substance and experience are key requirements for (at least some) public offices.
Only time will tell.