It’s no longer enough to be a happy warrior; now our candidates must be joyful!
Jeb Bush started the joy bender last week when he told a New Hampshire audience that a conservative could win the White House by “campaigning with his arms wide open, with joy in his heart, speaking about the hopes and aspirations of the people, being on the side of the people that right now don’t see their lives in the future being better than what they have today.”
Next came Hillary Rodham Clinton’s response on Saturday to a reporter’s question about whether she, too, considers herself “joyful”?
“I do,” she said. “Off we go, joyfully,” she added as she stepped away from the podium. Then, turning back to the press gaggle, she snapped her fingers and said, “Let’s get some joy going.”
This is Clinton’s renowned if scantly shared sense of humor. And truth be known, few are better with a withering quip than she. My favorite was during a 2008 appearance with then-Sen. Barack Obama. Clinton was clearly fed up with the media fawning over her opponent. With the feigned sweetness of a Southern debutante, she inquired, “Maybe we should ask Barack if he’s comfortable and needs another pillow.” C’mon, it’s funny.
More humor is always better, I say, and Clinton may lead the pack on this score. Think it through. Bush is a good man and probably really does feel that joy in his heart. I think it has something to do with being Catholic and the confessional.
Donald Trump is so funny at times, he ought to be doing standup. But his humor is mean-spirited and has all the nuance and wit of a prep school bully with a shiny, new lacrosse stick. And the rest? Bernie Sanders? Funny as a socialist. Scott Walker? Hilarious. Marco Rubio? So earnest. Dr. Ben Carson? That giggle box.
Clinton’s humor, which can range from the self-effacing (“The hair is real, the color isn’t”) to the pinioned dart (refer Obama), reveals not so much meanness as contempt. Her final quip to those reporters Saturday wasn’t an invitation to join the joyful fray. It was more like the verbal equivalent of her middle finger.
In a snark-eat-snark world, Hillary Clinton is a Great White. Or, lest the Literals become fretful, a tiger. Tigress. Whatever. Humor is near impossible when outrage, lips pursed, lies ready to pounce on every sentence.
The Clinton people (her sworn loyalists?) understand the value of humor in a candidate and especially in one so scripted and studied, which is to say, not spontaneous and, therefore, not authentic. If you ain’t got that authenticity, honey, you got nothin'. Thus, her campaign is seeking opportunities for Clinton to be funny and to reveal her more-human side.
It isn’t enough, apparently, that she’s a cooing grandmother, or a gal who chokes up when she talks to women about the travails of the trail. Or when she talks to women about being a woman, which is, if you dozed off for a second, very, very hard.
Thus, as this fall season of let’s-torture-the-candidates unfolds, we'll be hearing more laughs, more joking around when appropriate (the Clinton campaign has recognized that joking about the email server isn’t funny anymore), and, yes, more spontaneity – because spontaneity really works best when it’s planned.
However joy trickles down to “everyday Americans” – a phrase the Clinton camp is abandoning because it sounds too much like “everyday low prices” – it’s clear that these new strategic guidelines are mere distractions from the dreadful headlines sure to continue.
A special intelligence review of two emails sent to Clinton on her private server concluded that they were “Top Secret” – contrary to statements of the Clinton campaign. One of the emails concerned North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. Her poll numbers are sliding backward and she continues to suffer a trust deficit.
I concur with those who insist that Clinton can’t do anything right no matter what. Her critics are worse than the Literals. But no matter how warm, friendly, loving, smart, doting or emoting she is, you can’t manufacture trust, which is what elections ultimately come down to. Not whom you’d rather take that 3 a.m. call from, but whom you trust, rephrased by one of Clinton’s people, “to address the problems that keep you up at night.”
This is the crucial question before us – and my money’s on Ambien.
Kathleen Parker, a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group, may be reached via email at email@example.com.