Leib: Quick! Sign up Katherine Webb!
Posted: 01/13/2013 at 1:15 am
News flash: Political correctness has an age limit for guys who are allowed to comment on the looks of beauty queens. I don’t know what that age limit is, but I suspect anyone older than 50 should be careful.
If you watched the BCS Championship (or as some call it, “Les Miserables”), you undoubtedly saw the camera dwelling on Katherine Webb. For the few of you who don’t know, Miss Webb is the girlfriend of the Alabama quarterback. She’s also Miss Alabama, and, dare I say it, she’s an attractive lass.
The problem is, it seems, that Brent Musburger, the ESPN announcer, had the temerity to comment on her attractiveness as the camera picked her out of the crowd. He said nothing crude mind you; he just said enthusiastically that she was “lovely.” OK, he said it several times.
It didn’t bother Miss Webb. It didn’t bother her parents. It didn’t bother her boyfriend. But ESPN apologized anyway. A source said it was bothered because Brent Musburger is 73, and it’s a bad image to have a grandpa leering at a coed.
Heaven help us.
But I guess this is not the harbinger of an effort to put an age limit on those who would look with admiration upon the visage of the comely. It is just ESPN bodyguarding its image, and I realize that the importance of “image” shouldn’t be underestimated.
That’s true for broadcasting companies, and it’s certainly true in politics. And these days Republicans and conservatives are struggling in the image department.
They are being blamed for every misstep Congress makes. Already, they are taking shots as the ones who are the problem in the budget battles that will be coming up in February.
Columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote recently that Robert Greenstein, the founder and president of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said we could easily bring the national debt down to 73 percent of GDP with one simple $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction package.
And he intimated that it was the Republicans’ fault that this was not being done. Ummm, I beg to differ.
It’s true that we’re not at 73 percent. And it’s true that we’re heading in the wrong direction. In 2010 we were at 92.3 percent; in 2011 it was 102.9 percent, and it is growing. Among the 10 countries with the largest GDPs, the U.S. ranks third in terms of debt as a percentage of GDP. Only Japan and Italy are worse.
But this is not the fault of Republicans. And this is not the fault of ideologues who refuse to compromise. The fault is a pirouette of partisans in a ballet that is meant to fascinate, indoctrinate and obfuscate the public. It is a dance to woo voters. A dance in which image and self-interest are all-important.
Watching this, some will question where the good of the nation lies in the list of priorities of our elected bodies. And yet calling names and pointing fingers does an injustice. We are a voter-based nation and courting voters is a valid exercise.
Public perception is essential in the high-stakes game of governing. In that struggle, what Republicans need, at this time, is not so much to have a great plan as it is to have a way to sell the plan they have. The right side of the aisle needs marketing ideas. With tongue in cheek, I offer a couple:
Maybe Boehner should get brown contact lenses. His gray/blue eyes are wrong for his job. They’re OK for a movie actor or a TV villain, but in pitching a political idea, they make him look insincere.
Or, better yet, maybe the Republicans should sign up Katherine Webb before the Democrats do. Put her in the audience during press conferences, and chances are the cameraman will pay scant attention to Boehner.
Former Elkhart furniture store owner Richard Leib has served on planning committees in several industries. An avid auto fan, he raced in the 1972 coast-to-coast Cannonball Run. He has written on a wide range of subjects.