Regardless of what anybody on either side of the aisle may think of them otherwise, no one can deny that, in at least one amazing way, Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin are two of the most unique and remarkable politicians of our time.
When somebody asks them a question, they actually answer it!
They don’t answer some other question that they might like better, or that might make them look or sound better, or give them a better opportunity to work in or repeat more of their talking points; they don’t, like our President, give an answer that’s so long and so abstruse that either no one can understand it or, by the time it’s finished, no one can remember what the question was. They just answer the question, and they do it in the way and in the spirit in which it was asked and in a manner that people can believe to express their real thoughts and feelings.
How many other politicians can you think of who do that? Everybody else in politics seems to be playing some kind of a game where if anybody can figure out what they actually mean when they say something, they lose.
Part of the reason for that may simply be that they’re afraid to say anything substantive at all. In this age of ubiquitous recording devices and absolute and instantaneous information retrieval, the old cop show hack phrase of “Whatever you say can and will be used against you” has come true, and few are the politicians who dare to openly make any kind of a statement about practically anything at all, for fear that, as all too many have found, it may, no matter how seemingly innocuous at the time, come back to become the opposing candidate’s weapon to destroy their ambitions in some future election or some Senator’s reason for denying confirmation of their appointment to whatever post.
Part of it may be that they’re “vamping” – trying to fake an answer to a question that they haven’t prepared for — in hopes that it will give them the appearance of having knowledge or information they don’t really have and keep them from looking like a Joe Biden impersonator. Better to say nothing at all than to open your mouth and make a fool of yourself, but politicians can’t be silent silently, so they say nothing in lots of words, with lots of talking points and lots of subject-changing and mis-direction. It’s all still nothing, though, and a growing number of the American people are coming to recognize it for what it is.
Part of it may simply be that far too few politicians understand that it’s okay to disagree with people, and that, if you do disagree, it’s okay to say so clearly and openly. Getting people to understand your position is a first step to getting them to accept it and to follow you. That’s called “leadership”, and, while party hacks may be able to attain office and even survive in it by simply hewing to the party line, without the ability to lead, their success can never truly be their own and any tenure in office they may enjoy will depend more on the whim of their party bosses than on any real accomplishment of their own or any real support by their constituents.
That, of course leads to still another part of why politicians on both sides of the aisle steadfastly refuse to answer questions and tell the truth: Calling it “party loyalty” might be too gentle a term, but you get the idea. There’s a reason why that guy in each party is called the “Whip.”
One last — but this time even reasonable — part of the game of never actually answering questions from voters or the media has to do with self-fulfilling prophesies: If a candidate or a party strategist is asked a specific question – “Do you expect to win this coming election (or the vote on this upcoming bill)”, for example − they don’t dare to tell the truth!
If they say they WILL win, it might lead to over-confidence and the assumption of a fait accompli which could actually reduce voter turnout and result in a loss at the polls. If, on the other hand, they say they WON’T win, it will certainly cause voters to lose confidence and expect failure, and that kind of expectation is always correct.
The real problem with politicians and questions is that all politicians have to sell is themselves, their party, and — if they have any — their goals and principles. And, to make it even more difficult, all they have to sell with is words and the impression that they create as they deliver them. For some very special leaders, an interview, a “Town Hall”, or a public appearance of any other kind is an opportunity to let the American people see who they are, what they stand for, and what they’re made of. For the rest — for those who really have nothing to say and nothing to back it up with; who think that politics is just a game of poker, where whoever has the biggest bankroll wins, or a popularity contest, where all you have to do is smile a lot, get in your talking points, and not offend anyone, it’s different.
When you ask them a question, what you’ll get is an untruth, a non-truth, a mis-direction, or some focus-group-tested nonsense designed to say nothing at all, but to do it innocuously and in the “most-likely-to-be-acceptable” way.
Whatever else that may be, it’s all lies.
Roger E. Skoff