Politician is Phony

In “The Politics of Personality Destruction,” Jennifer Senior talks about the front stage and backstage persona of politicians, and how YouTube plays an important role in exposing the latter:

When television came along, politics may have become a scripted teleplay. But with YouTube, it’s a reality show, where the audience gets to see not only the final, blow-dried product, but the blow-drying itself (John Edwards, predictably, is the poster boy for this effect), as it happens in real time. This is a very profound change. YouTube has the power to expose the lies that make political theater possible. It has the power to show how backstage versions of our politicians can, at times, not just be unlovely but directly contradict the image of the person we see on television. If this new world of amateur surveillance makes candidates paranoid and self-censoring, their speech really could be like something out of 1984—measured, state-approved, one size fits all.

In order to become a president, a candidate must pass the stage of phoniness. While Bill Clinton was a master at it, Michael Dukakis failed badly:

During the second presidential debate, CNN’s Bernard Shaw famously asked Dukakis whether the death penalty would be appropriate if a stranger raped and killed his wife. He gave a characteristically unemotional answer: No, I don’t, Bernard. And I think you know that I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life … People say it cost him the election. Kitty [his wife] herself was stunned. (“Afterwards, I turned to him in the car and said, ‘What were you thinking?’ ” she says.)