Monday, December 12, 2005

Warner is Just Instinctively likeable

There are some themes that I am continuing to hear about Warner in the blogosphere. People just love his self-effacing humor and plain speaking manner. He has a genuineness not evident in most politicians. Even Grouchy over at Liberaltopia seems dangerously temped to fall "in love."

The Tattlesnake could go on, but what’s the point; yes, most politicians are lily-livered scoundrels — it seems to accompany the territory — and they are notorious, artful and ardent prevaricators, compared to the rest of the population, who only lie a little occasionally to get by.

Taking all this into account, Tattlesnake was impressed yesterday listening to a speech by outgoing Virginia Gov. Mark Warner on C-Span.

He exudes a quiet charisma that is a meld of RFK and Jimmy Stewart’s Jefferson Smith; he has an array of funny self-deprecating anecdotes, and the blue-collar offering that he is the first to graduate from college in his family, a claim one hopes is more accurate than Joe Biden’s 1988 campaign trail fraud with the same rose-from-the-working-class ornament that Biden stole from a successful British Labour Party politician. Warner also jokes about the mistakes he made in business before striking gold with Nextel, a refreshing change from the standard neo-Republican denial of all human error, past, present or future.

Encouraging as well is that he can speak plain English, unlike the finely-diced phrases of the Gore of 2000, or the verbal tossed salad of George W. Bush; and he can explain such things as the successes of his education program in a few concise paragraphs, mercifully free of the ponderous and soporific Washingtonese of John Kerry. In a debate with Hillary, Warner would be the honest Common Man to Sen. Clinton’s cunning and calculating pol.

As he pointed out in his C-Span speech to a South Carolina Democratic group, when he was elected governor of Virginia, the state was staggering under billions of dollars in GOP debt. In four years, he managed to balance the budget through surgical cuts, while paying bonuses to teachers, improving the educational system, and bringing good-paying jobs to rural areas of the state. He even made some friends among Virginia Republicans along the way. All of these talents will be needed in the next president, and no other Dem currently in the running (officially or not) possesses them, although New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson would be a close second to Warner in these qualities, but Richardson doesn’t have the photogenic appeal.

A close female friend who watched Warner’s speech mentioned his lanky handsomeness and energizing straightforwardness, with just enough friendly salesmanship to win an election without the off-putting hard sell; she said she would find it very easy to vote for him for president. He’s also smart enough to do what Howard Dean was ridiculed for suggesting in 2004; he took his gubernatorial campaign right into the heart of Red State country in southern Virginia, advertised at NASCAR rallies, and spoke to rural audiences, but not down to them, and they listened. He didn’t concede any voting bloc to the Republicans and he won. In a national campaign, vital tier GOP states like Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Missouri and his home state of Virginia would fall easily to Warner’s mid-southern charm; even Deep South states might not drop automatically into the R column, especially in the wake of Republican bungling of post-hurricane disaster relief. And, like Bill Clinton, northern, midwestern and coastal states would not be put off by his hint-of-Dixie likeability, fused as it is to a can-do progressive sensibility and a track record of competent accomplishment.

If Tattlesnake were a Republican, he’d be shaking in his tasseled loafers over a Dem ‘Dream Team’ of Warner for President and Wes Clark for Veep. Hillary may worry the GOP; Warner and Clark would be their cold screaming nightmare.

Qualifier: Of course, Warner may turn out to be the emptiest suit in presidential history, but he sure as hell looks promising, and electable, at the moment.

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