It's an irony of our language that while "candid" and "candidate" are
cheek by jowl in the dictionary, hardly anyone would ever think to put
the two words together in any other context. We've grown to expect our
politicians to rank somewhere between used car salesmen and television
evangelists in letting it all hang out.
They'd be a lot more appealingand interestingif they'd follow
the example set by our national fountainhead of intuitive wisdom, Mark
Twain, back in 1879 when he decided to run for president. But first he
set out to "own up in advance to all the wickedness I have done" so that
voters wouldn't be shocked when his opposition pointed it out.
He admitted that "I treed a rheumatic grandfather of mine in the
winter of 1850. He was old and inexpert in climbing trees, but with the
heartless brutality that is characteristic of me, I ran him out of the
front door in his nightshirt at the point of a shotgun, and caused him
to bowl up a maple tree, where he remained all night
.I will do it
again if I ever have another grandfather."
And there was more:
"I ran away at the battle of Gettysburg
because I was scared. I
wanted my country saved, but I preferred to have someone else save it.
I entertain that preference yet."
And still more:
"The rumor that I buried a dead aunt under my grapevine was
correct. The vine needed fertilizing, my aunt had to be buried, and I
dedicated her to this high purpose."
A few more admissions and Twain sat back to await the call of the
people. It didn't come in his lifetime, but his tactic might have more
appeal today. If we're serious when we say we've had enough of what
we've got, we might vote for the absolutely candid candidate just
because he'd be such a novelty.
Bill Clinton's history is pretty well known by now, thanks to the
gumshoes who've been out raking his muck. Think how much more
attractive his wicked past would be had he been the first to tell us
"I'm Bill Clinton," we can imagine him saying back in December,
"and I avoided the draft, smoked pot, appointed friends to high office,
and played a little hanky-panky. I'd like your vote."
Could you resist that?
It's probably too late for Clinton to get full benefit from his
wickednessunless there's something the gumshoes haven't revealed yet.
If there is, he should come out with it quick.
"I'm Bill Clinton," he could say, "and you already know about the
draft, the pot, the favoritism, and the hanky-panky. But did you know I
wear a wig? Did you know when Hillary's not home, I watch 'Hee Haw'
reruns? I need your help."
The Truth, Mainly
Quick study that he is, George Bush would see voters being turned
on by such revelations and he'd jump right in. There'd be a competitive
frenzy of self-incrimination.
"Me?" the president might say conspiratorially. "Total depravity."
Sensing voter approval, he'd get into serious confession.
"No new taxes? Always knew there would be. Changed stance on
abortion? Wherever the votes are. No center. No core. Sons rich by
own merit? Own effort? Not old dad's position? Reality check."
Barbara would be giving him a look by now, but he wouldn't notice.
"Panama? Iraq? Freedom? Democracy?" he'd ask, sticking out his
chin and shifting into his no-wimp voice. "Vendetta! Personal!
Noriega, Saddambig doublecross! Big payback!"
Marlin Fitzwater would edge toward the President. Secretary of
State Baker would look concerned. Danny Quayle would stop grinning.
The President would flail on, his voice loud and shrill now.
"Candor? Honesty? Hate it! Can't stand it! Whatever's needed for
re-election! Anything! Even truth!"
The Secret Service agents would close in.
"One more thing!" he'd yell just before they grabbed him.
"Clinton's wig bad? Hair dye, face lift here!"
One of them would put his hand over the President's mouth. But not
before he got it all out: "Girdle! Fanny tuck!"
They'd take him away then. Just in time too. Maybe, on second
thought, the nation isn't ready for George Bush to let it all hang out.
Too scary. Too many secrets. Too few verbs.
Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.