Will the REAL candidates please step forward
Commentary By PAT MURPHY
Suddenly, in the past week or so, reporters tracking John McCains
presidential hopes have called asking whether the McCain whos become the lovable
maverick on the "Straight Talk Express" is the real John McCain that I and other
present and former Arizonans know.
The reporter from the Boston Globe wanted to know. So, too, the
reporter from the New York Times. Bright and early Monday, a young woman from a
magazine, "World," called, too.
Nope, the McCain whos regaling reporters on the "Straight Talk
Express" definitely is not the McCain best known in Arizona.
But then Molly Ivins, the edgy Fort Worth newspaper columnist, says the
George W. Bush on the campaign trail definitely is not the Bush that she and other Texans
Would it be cantankerous and cynical to question aloud whether Vice
President Gore and Bill Bradley on the campaign trail are the authentic Gore and Bradley?
Is it possible, then, that our presidential candidates are pandering to
what we want to hear and see, not what they really are?
Are the candidates and their clever strategists retiring to their rooms at
night and clucking and chuckling about how a nifty line in a speech or a fist shaken into
the camera at the appropriate moment has stirred the sapser, the votersinto
But is it also possible that, with the Democratic and Republican campaigns
getting more mean-spirited, media lap dogs are finally turning into watchdogs and putting
some effort into peeling back the veneer of the candidates?
The surrealism in this years presidential performance has become
unimaginable. Forget about "issues," which have been carefully picked and
crafted after months and months of polling to determine what wins votes, not shapes the
The other day, while network cameras focused on candidate Bush, the TV
screen was filled with waving flags, shouting and cheering supporters in the foreground,
suggesting a mob scene. The lens on C-SPANs camera, however, took a long, wide shot
at the same moment of the same setting, and revealed a half-empty room, and the shouting
"mob" was really just a cluster of supporters arranged in front of a stage.
And then on Sunday, Vice President Gorea man who all his life has
been known for his stiffness and stone facestood in the pulpit of a largely African
American church, castigating Bush and McCain for refusing to denounce the Confederate Flag
atop the South Carolina state capitol.
As his arms swept through the air in appeal to the Holy Almighty, and his
body undulated with each stirring phrase, Gores voice took on the faintly familiar
dialectic intonations of the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Surely, the sapser, the voterswatching this dramatic rendition
on TV knew this wasnt the real Al Gore, but merely an incarnation for the purpose of
Or did they?
Pat Murphy is the retired publisher of the Arizona Republic and a
former radio commentator.