Jan 212004
Authors: Joe Marshall

For anyone interested in politics, Monday’s Iowa caucus had all

the ingredients of a Hollywood blockbuster. Just like a Hollywood

star, the public image of a presidential candidate is what makes or

breaks their efforts to win the people over.

Presidential elections are by their very nature melodramatic

affairs. This caucus, because of its high number of viable

contenders, proved to be no exception.

The drama was mellow until the underdogs entered the foray. When

this happened, the momentum of the perceived leaders evaporated

and, going into the night of the caucus, the race was a statistical

dead heat. After the dust cleared, one candidate found himself

ruined, another ruined himself and the two champions were left

basking in limelight sweetened with the blood of their rivals.

The candidates in Iowa provide us with three different extremes

of cool. Sen. John Kerry and Sen. John Edwards, the two winners,

with Kerry finishing first and Edwards placing second, both

exemplify a significant degree of affability. Howard Dean, the

third place finisher, tried in his campaign to peddle a

fa�ade of patience. The real Howard Dean unveiled himself

for all to see in a speech after learning the results.

After his now-infamous tirade naming of all 93 states in

alphabetical order followed by a “Yeeeaaaaa(crap),” his critics who

labeled him as an angry, angry man were drowned out by the masses

who now joined in their disquieting opinion. Dean’s public meltdown

in the wake of his upset is almost unprecedented in American

politics and will almost certainly define and demolish the rest of

his campaign.

Edwards and Kerry, both warmhearted and likable, won votes in

the caucus because of their human appeal. Edwards plays the

easy-going southern gentleman role well, as Kerry play the role of

patriotic veteran. They won Iowa not because of their message or

their organization or their funding. Kerry and Edwards won Iowa

because in an open ballot election such as a caucus, voters felt no

shame standing up and voting for them in front of their friends and


Kerry and Edwards are cool guys. So, while Dean is behind closed

doors beating his head against a wall and yelling “SERENITY NOW!”,

Kerry and Edwards have achieved serenity and built momentum simply

by being personable.

Howard Dean is cool, too, and so is brushing your teeth with

Preparation-H. When the two jovial Johns usurped the tyrannical

pack leader, he tried to appear un-phased by his defeat and instead

came across as borderline psychotic.

Rep. Dick Gephardt brings up the rear of the pack. An anomaly

only because of his astonishingly ordinary nature, I feel bad for

Dick because I think he was probably the nicest and most genuine

candidate in the race. Unfortunately, Gephadt might be the most

boring man ever elected to public office, not to mention to run for


Even Al Gore, who is as charismatic as a bologna sandwich, made

out with his wife at the Democratic National Convention during his

run in 2000. While as disgusting a display as it was, the indecent

incident humanized Gore and made him more than the political robot

his critics contended he was. If Gephardt could have brought the

same passion to his campaign that he displayed in Tuesday’s

concession speech, I think he would have been unbeatable.

An important life lesson can be learned from this spectacle:

congeniality is the most important ingredient one can possess in

any situation where character comes into play. Be it applying for a

job, confronting a problem or meeting a lover’s parents, the

endeavor is always more successful when approached and navigated

with a calm and collected composure. At the same time a little

flare is also important, but a visible fire is too often too


Joe is a senior majoring in history. His column runs weekly on


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