The Handlers

Will we ever dispose of the plastic that shields our top political figures? This came to mind when President Obama appeared on The View television program.

His handlers read the polls that show he has lost the support of millions of women. And so they did the natural thing. They booked him on a show that is watched by millions of women. Later that day he ate at a sub shop. This was because the polls also showed that too many folks figure he is not “one of us.” That he comes across as regal, aloof, elitist.

This is what was behind his quaffing a beer with the cop he maligned in the racial incident. All within camera view, of course. This is what is behind his eating burgers at a fast food place with the Russian leader, their sleeves rolled up.

The night after The View he dined with a lot of rich and sophisticated types. But the handlers prohibited all cameras at that fancy dinner. This is because he has been seen, on camera, at too many posh events lately. The polls tell the handlers ...

Now, I am not criticizing the president over this. Various of our leaders do the same thing. They do what their handlers tell them to do. And the handlers decide what they should do based on what the polls tell them. This is why John Kerry was suddenly wind surfing. The polls must have told the handlers a lot of folks saw him as a wimp.



It is why Joe Biden told us to check things out the way he did all the time at his local diner. (Which had been closed for several years – something Joe did not check out.) It is why handlers got the first President Bush into a supermarket. He flubbed it by asking what the scanner was. You would too if you had never been in a supermarket before.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a leader decide what to do for an unusual reason: He damned well wants to?

That in itself would catch everybody’s attention. The handlers would wet themselves over this. “You’ll never guess what he is planning. He is telling us he actually wants to do what HE wants to do. Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous?”

Our top leaders cannot wear clothes they prefer. They cannot eat where they want. This president cannot smoke in public. Clinton got bad press when he chowed down on fried chicken. His handlers put an end to that.

The result of all this is that we rarely get a glimpse of the person who is protected within the plastic. We see only what the handlers decide we should see. And they base their decisions on whoever they feel needs to be wooed.

The handlers have such control that the leaders rarely speak their mind. They are coached on the questions they will get at the press conference. They practice answers the handlers tell them they need to make. It would be sweet to – just once – hear a president say “Beats the hell out of me. I’ll have somebody get back to you on that.”

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear a spouse disagree with the leader?  “Well he may believe that, but I don’t. It’s one of those things we agree to disagree about.” Harry Truman’s mother-in-law voted for his opponent. If that happened today the handlers would make sure you never heard about it.    

I suppose this is too much to ask for or dream of. After all, ‘tis the polls and handlers that got them to where they are.

It all reminds me of a Jimmy Carter press conference, when he was president. He answered questions like a puppet. He mouthed the answers he had been taught to use. He sounded cold, brittle, and utterly businesslike. 

When the conference ended he caught sight of some plain looking old friends who sat against a wall behind him. He joined them for a chat. They were probably friends from Georgia, not press types. One of the tv guys pointed one of those 15-ft mikes in his direction. The kind that can pick up the sound of a zipper at 30 paces. It allowed those of us watching at home to hear our president talk like a regular guy, with warmth in his voice. He even laughed. I’m sure millions of viewers said “Can you believe that? He sounds almost human!”

I imagine his handlers banned those mikes at future press conferences.

From Tom ... as in Morgan.                  

For more columns, for Tom’s radio shows and new TV show (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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