...and it's guaranteed to wear your nerves to shreds:
Closure of Border Patrol stations across four states triggers alarm
Dems push hot-button social issues in campaign attack ads
Holder tells NAACP Texas voter ID law "harmful to minorities"
Rep. West: Government handouts world's "most insidious form of slavery"
House GOP poised to hold vote on repeal of ObamaCare after Supreme Court ruling
Romney: Obama tax plan adding "insult to injury" after weak jobs report
Yes, Gentle Readers, it's all-politics-all-the-time season here in the United States of America. Every move made by anyone in office, anyone campaigning for office, and any partisan figure with a soapbox to stand on will be more a maneuver than a substantive statement of principles or policy. Neither of the contenders for the presidency will so much as belch without having the utterance "vetted" by his chief strategists and poll-watchers.
The candidates and spokesmen will be groomed for maximum appeal to their audiences.
The audiences will be carefully seined and post-polled for their reactions.
The rhetoric will be dialed to 11.
The media will be ubiquitous.
Your television will be inundated by it.
And it will not stop until the morning of Wednesday, November 7.
Doesn't it make you all warm and fuzzy inside?
For me, the worst aspect is something I've already written about. (It's not exclusively a sin of the Democrats'; but among Democrats it's prescribed behavior -- and quite possibly enforced under pain of expulsion from the ranks.) In particular, whenever a candidate is asked a question about a topic he disfavors, he'll change the subject so fast it'll give you whiplash.
I yearn for a candidate who speaks candidly of himself, his principles, and his intentions, and who never departs from the truth in even the slightest degree. Better still would be a candidate who meets all those requirements and treats Americans as intelligent enough to grasp the difference between law and a ruler's whim. But such men seldom go into politics. It's "a dirty game," and men of high standards veer away from it automatically. Which explains quite a bit about the political deterioration of the United States, doesn't it?
But wouldn't you like to greet a candidate of that sort?
Lean close; I'll show you one -- then it will be up to you to find his like.
The Sumner for President campaign was in Albuquerque, New Mexico when the Republican National Convention voted to nominate Charles Lowry, United States Senator from Texas, as its standard-bearer. He immediately announced that his running mate would be Congressman Allan Lorimer of Massachusetts, as he'd decreed several weeks previously. The news blanketed the nation within minutes of the announcements, but other than in Texas and the Sun Belt states, the reaction was considerably more muted than Lowry and the GOP would have liked.
Sumner was in the lobby of the Albuquerque Crown Royal hotel, fielding questions from a gathering of New Mexicans. So many had followed him from his open-air appearance that a sizable fraction had to stand outside the hotel entrance and prop the doors open to hear the exchanges. A young man in a chambray work shirt and jeans, a radio earpiece conspicuous in his ear, shouted the news over a woman of late middle age who'd asked for Sumner's views on Social Security and had gotten them, to her intense consternation. The questioner immediately changed her tack.
"Mr. Sumner," she said, "will the GOP's nomination of Senator Lowry cause you to change your style of campaigning or any of the positions you've taken so far?"
Sumner frowned. "Why should it?"
The lobby of the hotel had gone impressively silent.
"Well," she said, "he's pretty popular around here."
"Should a presidential campaign be a popularity contest?" Sumner said. "Strike that, I just said something foolish, didn't I?"
The crowd tittered.
"In some sense," Sumner said as he rose to his feet, "any election, for any office, is a popularity contest. We all know that. I suppose the question I was thinking of is why one candidate is more popular than another." He gestured at the campaign bus, visible through the lobby doors. "I wasn't terribly well known beyond the Northeast before I boarded that bus and started touring the country, was I? So in that sense, we'd have to say that at that time I wasn't yet popular."
There were a few scattered murmurs, to no particular effect.
"I'd like to think I've changed that. But I don't think I did it with my witty routines, or by handing out free ice cream. And I'm sure I didn't do it with my dashing good looks."
That drew general laughter and smiles.
"I've allowed myself to assume," he said, "that you, and those before you, have rallied to my campaign because you like what you've heard and are inclined to believe that I mean it. As it happens, I do mean it. I was ready to retire from public life before Senator Lowry's representatives approached me about becoming his running mate. It was that visit that put the bug in my ear. So now you know who to blame.
"Now as it happens, Senator Lowry and I agree on a number of things. However, we're pretty far apart on a key principle. Senator Lowry believes we should quietly retain certain extra-Constitutional features of the status quo and not say anything more about them. He has a fairly long list of features he thinks are too popular to be called into question. I believe otherwise. I believe that what matters most is a return to the principle that if the Constitution doesn't authorize it, then the federal government can't do it, even if it's already been doing it for a long time.
"I'm willing to go this far: if a given extra-Constitutional activity is popular enough to be approved by the legislatures of three-quarters of the states within one year of my inauguration, then I'll agree to a declaration of nunc pro tunc -- that means now for then -- that would retroactively amend the Constitution to authorize the activity from its inception. And I think we can be pretty sure that the Hoover Dam, the Air Force, and the space program will win the required number of assents.
"But a difference on principle is much more important than any other sort. To me, at least. And so that's what I want to emphasize to you. Do you want a president who says that the Constitution is all very well in theory, but we've got to be practical, or do you want one who says, the supreme law is the supreme law and there shall be no exceptions to it?" He crossed his arms over his chest and panned the crowd. Hundreds of pairs of eyes were rapt upon him.
"Sir," another New Mexican woman said, "what will your...companion's role be?"
All eyes, Sumner's included, immediately settled on Christine. She stood perfectly still, hands clasped behind her.
Sumner nodded. "I wondered how long it would take for someone to ask about her. Christine, would you come over here, please?"
The young woman moved to stand beside Sumner, looking at him with a puzzled frown.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like you all to meet Christine D'Alessandro. She's been with me since the start of the campaign. She's my personal bodyguard, nothing else. In fact, she's the reason I'm alive today. There was an attack on us in New York City, an attack that we believe was meant to kill me. Christine defeated it single-handedly. You might want to tell her how you feel about that." Before anyone could respond, he added, "If you think she did a good thing, that is."
Applause rocked the lobby. Those who'd been sitting had risen; all were clapping and cheering loudly. It went on for a full minute before Sumner raised a hand to halt it.
"In political jargon, a revelation such as that is called waving the bloody shirt," Sumner said. "It's a proven tactic for eliciting sympathy from a crowd. I wouldn't have told you, or anyone, if you hadn't asked about my companion. I'd rather you evaluated me on my positions, and on how sincere you think I am about them. But you asked, and I have to admit, I'm glad you gave me the excuse. I think it's only right that you know how deep I am in Christine's debt."
"She's not your mistress?" someone shouted from the rear of the crowd.
Sumner snorted and shook his head. He turned to face Christine, beautifully garbed as usual in a closely tailored beige skirt suit and matching high-heeled pumps. The young woman was blushing brightly. "Look at her and look at me, and tell me how anyone could possibly think that!"
The applause and cheers broke forth again. They seemed twice as loud.
"Before we leave this subject," Sumner said as the clapping died down, "I'd like to mention one other thing. Christine is with me by courtesy of Integral Security Services of Onteora, New York. The owner-operator of that company, Kevin Conway, is a friend of mine, so when I decided to do this, I went to him to ask about protection for myself and my wife Adrienne, who chose to remain in Onteora. Adrienne's currently living at Integral headquarters, in Kevin's own apartment. That's at my request; I wanted her to have Integral's trained, heavily armed staff around her at all times. Would you like to know what Kevin is charging me for these services?"
All eyes were fixed upon Christine, who remained still and silent. No one spoke.
"Nothing," Sumner said. "Kevin Conway has assigned his best operative to me gratis, full time, for the duration of the campaign. The same is true for Adrienne's protection. You see, Kevin feels as strongly about my message as I do. So he's made me a gift of security services worth more than a quarter of a million dollars, without asking a thing for himself or his company.
"As much as I appreciate that gift," he said, "it's pained me ever since that a good man, a man who works hard for his living and employs a lot of others as well, has put himself to such great expense for my sake. But over the seven weeks behind us, you good people and others like you have responded beyond all expectation. You've justified my faith, and Kevin's faith, in Americans everywhere. So when all this is behind us, I intend to pay Kevin what he's declined to charge me -- what this ought to have cost me -- and not from your contributions, but from my own pocket.
"I pledge this today before you so you'll remember it, and hold it against me should I renege or forget. Consider it one more item of evidence you can use to make up your minds about whether I can be trusted...whether I mean what I say and have said." He paused and breathed deeply. "If only there were a yardstick like that to hold against every politician. The country would be far better off for it."
He swept the gathering with his gaze, smiling gently.
"If there are no further questions, may I and my bodyguard go upstairs and catch a few hours' sleep before we have to depart for Phoenix?"
The third explosion of applause threatened to burst the hotel at the seams. It rattled ashtrays against the tables and wobbled the many standing pots of flowers. Even the bellmen and the clerks at the convenience counters joined in. It had come near to shattering Sumner's eardrums when the clapping converged on a rhythm and the chant swelled above it:
"Sumner! Sumner! Sumner! Sumner! Sumner!..."
[From Shadow Of A Sword]
Stephen Graham Sumner is a fictional character. I wrote him because he's the sort of man I'd want in the Oval Office, and to show my readers what sort of man they should be alert for in their travels. Getting him to run for high office is, of course, a separate and very challenging undertaking.
Such a candidate would not change the subject when asked a hostile question.
He would be unflinching about his own conduct, whether private or public.
His ads, in whatever medium, would be entirely consistent with his spoken and written positions and statements of intention.
He would refrain from vilifying his opponents, and would speak of them only with reference to their actions in office.
And he would give you yardsticks by which to judge whether it would be wise to trust him.
A season of campaigning from such a candidate would be a refreshment for the American spirit. But I doubt we'll find him in office today -- or, for that matter, as a partisan of either of the two major parties.
We should be searching for him.
The search should have started long ago.
For now, it's back to "the season."