Getting in touch

Your president doesn’t know how to swipe his credit card at a checkout counter. That was the big story out of Washington this week. Chomping to run for the White House, your governor probably doesn’t know how to swipe either.

The PR guys figured it was time to remind us our leader is jus’ like you n’ me, buddy. So they lined up Air Force One. They jetted him to New York. They whipped up a 40-car motorcade. They infiltrated the store with Secret Service guys, collapsible assault weapons strapped to their ribs. They sniffered up the back room for bombs. They deposited a few snipers on roof tops. They hovered a few helicopters. They alerted and organized a battalion of cameras and media types. They cordoned off large swaths of the store.

All this, so your prez could buy a few sweaters for his kids at a Gap store. Action, cameras rolling. You can swipe now, Sir.

And in the process he could show you ‘n me…well, you get the idea.



Problem was, the prez had no idea. He did not know the rest of us have advanced into the age of swiping cards and signing lil’ screens. “Oh, wow, so you can sign the machine?” he asked. And that is what the media pounced upon. At least the media from the vast right-wing conspiracy did.

Not to worry. Those from the vast left-wing conspiracy sunk their teeth into the backside of George Bush the First for a similar goof. His PR guys had him pick up milk and candy at a supermarket. Bush flubbed it by going gaga over the electronic scanner at the checkout.

(President Clinton’s PR guys and doctor got him to make a midnight run to a Rite-Aid for condoms. He invited the checkout girl to check him out, out in his limo.)

Such PR efforts and gaffes are hardly new. Image crafters endlessly suggest forays into saloons and ice cream parlors by presidents and governors. These gestures are the retail version of kissing babies on election campaigns. They suggest them so as to portray the leaders as being in touch with us masses. Because, in truth, they are not. For example, some historians suggest JFK may have never actually touched coins or bills in his life.

The screw-ups by our leaders are hardly new either. Governor Spitzer, as we know, botched up the simple job of procuring a hooker. Many years ago our Governor Rockefeller floated an “in touch” idea for solving our state’s money problems. Every resident could kick in a few thousand bucks. Perfectly reasonable when the bottom line of your net worth has so many zeroes it looks like a parade of Cheerios.

I like the idea that the Pope has his own used car. He does, a gift from fan. He’s not likely to tootle up to Milan to watch a soccer game this weekend. But having his own Reserved For Pontiff sign in the Vatican parking lot impresses a lot of the faithful.

I also like ideas like a law that all presidents, governors and lawmakers be required to do their own tax returns. Members of the tax-writing committees ordered to do them in quadruplicate.

This would not be for punishment. Though punishment they might deserve. It would be for putting our leaders in touch with the every-year headaches suffered by most voters. It follows the same reasoning a lot of moms display. When they wish the pains of childbirth upon their mates.

You must admit the PR guys have their hands full. When it comes to turning our leaders into regular guys. “Attention. Attention. Would the driver of the armored black limo, thirty feet in length, license number Big Boss, please return to the parking lot. You have left your lights on. Along with the lights of forty other vehicles. Also, it has begun to rain and your red carpet is getting wet.”

From Tom...as in Morgan.

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