by | Aug 6, 2000 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Normally, I am depressed by America’s fascination with TV ratings. But in the case of the now completed Republican convention, the ratings were instructive.

Because they stank.

Few people cared. Few people watched. Ratings plummeted when the convention came on. People turned to reruns of “Third Watch” rather than see the live
“drama” of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

In a few weeks, Al Gore and the Democrats will also drop the thermometer to near-comatose.

There’s a reason for this. Americans know fiction when they see it. And as long as they’re going to watch fiction, they might as well see car chases.

Does anyone really believe anything a politician says at a convention anymore? Did anyone really believe that throwing Colin Powell onstage Monday night and putting J.C. Watts, a black congressman from Oklahoma, out there every chance they got really made the Republicans a party of inclusion?

Did anyone really believe Cheney’s declaration: “They will make accusations, we will make proposals” — when he made no real proposals and, later in that same speech, made all kinds of accusations?

Did anyone really buy George W. Bush when he accused Clinton of “so much promise, to no great purpose” when Bush himself has been characterized as a rich-kid slacker who got into politics only 6 years ago?

A frequent pause for applause

Americans are not dumb. They smell a snow job. Yet politicians continue to believe in the art of the possible, that anything can be done if you spin it right.

“It is time for a change! America deserves the best! Let’s get back to the values we’ve forgotten!”

Does all that sound familiar? That’s because we hear it, from both sides, every 4 years. It’s to the point where you could literally exchange speeches
— switch Democrats and Republicans — and hardly tell one from the other.

To prove this, I went back to Bill Clinton’s speech from the 1992 Democratic convention and compared it to the one Bush made Thursday.

Notice any similarities? …

Thanks, Mom and Dad

CLINTON, ’92: “It all started with my mother. Thank you, Mother. I love you.”

BUSH, ’00: “And I want to thank my father, the most decent man I have ever known…. “

CLINTON, ’92: “George Bush, if you won’t use your power to help America, step aside. I will.”

BUSH, ’00: “This administration had its chance. They have not led. We will.”

CLINTON, ’92: “This week, at a town meeting, a young man said, ‘Bill, why should I trust you?’ “

BUSH, ’00: “A couple of years ago, I visited a juvenile jail…. A 15-year-old said, ‘What do you think of me?’ “

CLINTON, ’92: ” In Arkansas …our schools are better, our wages are higher, our factories are busier and our budget is balanced.”

BUSH, ’00: In Texas, “we improved our schools …we moved people from welfare to work …our budgets have been balanced…. “

CLINTON, ’92: “The night our daughter Chelsea was born …I was overcome with the thought that God had given me a blessing…. “

BUSH, ’00: “So many of us have held our first child and saw a better self reflected in her eyes…. “

CLINTON, ’92: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

BUSH, ’00: “Our nation today needs vision.”

CLINTON, ’92: “We offer our people a new choice.”

BUSH, ’00: “America is ready for a new beginning.”

Eerie, isn’t it? But not surprising. The fact is, politics today is less about leadership than it is about winning — and then paying back those you owe. And even the best-intentioned presidents are often thwarted by a bitterly divided Congress.

So once every 4 years, we are told it’s time for new ideals, new values, new vision.

No wonder people watch reruns. All that new stuff can get pretty old.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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