Do the presidential candidates win and lose votes in the big TV debates? Does the Pope wear a ball gown? Sure! And the three of them do what they do for the same three reasons: Image. Image. Image.
The words image and imagine are related, of course. Well, imagine the Pope in shorts and flip-flops? Doesnít work, does it? That is because the visual aspect is so vital to image. (If you Google enough you will find a photo of John Wayne in short shorts and feminine slippers. His fans find it downright disturbing. A Yankee could be batting .600. But if he wears pink shoes tonight heíll be benched. A guyís shoes have nothing to do with baseball, movies and Mother Church. But, then, they have everything to do with them.)
The debates, of course, serve up a number of ingredients. You will select those you want to build images of these men in your mind. Or to re-enforce the images you already have.
After the debates the experts will analyze what the candidates said. This guy overlooked this. He stressed this. He didnít answer this. Blah. Blah.
I say blah blah because next morning you wonít remember what these guys said. But you will remember the impressions they made. You will remember the images they created. With their words. With the timbre of their voices. With their grooming. With their gestures, their laughs, their frowns, their shrugs, their darting eyes.
In debates, Richard Nixon wore makeup that made him look like an unshaven thug. It hurt him. Gerald Ford looked as rigid as a totem pole. George Bush The First sneaked a look at his wrist watch. Jimmy Carter scribbled notes upon notes like the kid who is going to tattle to the teacher.
Ronald Reagan looked so comfy in his debates. You could imagine him cracking jokes at your fireside. A lot of women imagined Clinton at their bedside, so relaxed and comforting was he. What did this have to do with running a country? Nothing. And everything.
Everything, because you cannot get to know these guys, their feelings, their prejudices. They are utterly scripted. (If they slip off script, some bozo will have the remark on YouTube within a minute.) All you have to go with are the occasional slip-up and the scripted ingredients they serve up. The ingredients you ingest. The ingredients you choose to use to fashion the images of them you hold. It is those images that decide your vote.
By the way, the blah blah experts have lately criticized the President for ignoring world leaders at the UN. For paying scant attention to intelligence briefings. The President knew what he was about. He spent time on TV shows very popular with women. He knows women cast the most votes. He knows that sharing a laugh with Barbara Walters does more for his image with women than shaking hands with prime ministers.
After the debates the blah blah guys will pick apart the candidates remarks like crows on a carcass. But they will miss a lot of the ingredients that create the images. The ingredients that makes you feel this guy is the right stuff. Or a wimp. Or whatever.
From Tom ... as in Morgan.
For more columns and for Tomís radio shows and new TV shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.