The Nature of Things: No MVP for political grandstanders

The Nature of Things: American courage spans the centuries

In sports, when a professional basketball player makes a breakaway, spinning dunk shot and lets his body swing on the rim, they call it "hot-dogging." In other words, he's playing to the cameras because he wants to see himself replayed as a highlight on the postgame TV news.

In today's politics, we have way too many politicians who love to perform for the cameras. But I'm going to call it grandstanding, instead of hot-dogging, because most of them do not have the talent to be a "hot dog."

In my opinion, almost all politicians, at least at the national level, are ego-driven. I'm going to qualify that statement by saying that every successful person has to have enough ego in order to have the self-confidence to get ahead in our competitive society. But there's a big difference between self-confidence and having an overly inflated ego.

When certain politicians see themselves as celebrities instead of servants of the people, that's when you get the kind of grandstanding we are seeing on the tube today. And even out-of-office politicians and high-level bureaucrats never miss an opportunity to be on talk shows or serve on commissions, as long as the cameras are rolling.

Celebrity politicians don't have enough humility to serve their constituents -- they want to perform for them on the evening news.

To be fair, I have to acknowledge that there are many politicians of both parties who are not prima donnas and are willing to work behind the scenes to try to solve problems.

Those out of powerThose aren't the ones I'm writing about. And I don't want to be a Molly Ivins, for whom all the bad guys are anyone who is not in her party. But I do see more grandstanders on the left than on the right. That is understandable, not just because I'm a conservative, but because the liberals are the ones who are out of power, hence, they are the ones clamoring to be heard.

Let me use a cowboy analogy here. When ranchers wean their calves in the fall, those calves bawl and bellow for three straight days and nights. The only way to shut them up would be to put them back with their mothers. The only difference between these calves and the party out of power is that calves quit bawling after three days and accept the fact that they are no longer on their mother's teat.

All have bellyachedThe liberals in Washington D.C. have been screaming and whining for almost five years and seem to be unable to accept that they are no longer in power. Conservatives did their share of bellyaching when they were on the outside looking in, but they spent more years out of power than the liberals, so they came to realize they had to try to win the hearts and minds of the voters instead of just whining.

The top liberal grandstanders on my list are these: Howard Dean, Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. Hilary Clinton, Sen. Charles Schumer, Sen. Robert Byrd, Sen. Barbara Boxer, and Rep. Charlie Rangel. Sen. Biden has a smugness about himself that is insufferable, whereas Chairman Dean is almost a nut case.

The biggest grandstanders of the conservatives, in my opinion, are Sen. John McCain, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pat Buchanan. At No. 1, Sen. McCain's face is all over TV and he especially plays to the media. They love him, but he is somewhat of a maverick in his own party. At No. 2, Gov. Schwarzenegger of "Cally-fornya" maybe inherited such a mess that only a flamboyant celebrity can ever hope to succeed. At No. 3 on the list, Buchanan seems out of step with almost everyone else.

Two others who have egos the size of the Eiffel Tower are both independents. Ross Perot's nasal-twanging metaphors siphoned off just enough votes to put Bill Clinton in the White House. Perot has few equals among grandstanding candidates.

The other one that leaps out of the crowd is the former governor of the State of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura, even though this guy was quite likable. One would have thought that since he was a professional wrestler, he would have been able to twist enough arms to bring some reforms to that state, but his celebrity soon wore off.

I'll end it there, before I get accused of grandstanding.

E.H. VanBlaricom is a longtime columnist for the Chieftain. He can be reached in care of this newspaper.

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