The other day I was driving in my car listening to NPR. I happen to like NPR because they do longform news stories as opposed to just quick hit news that gets repeated every 15 minutes. (I also like listening to their reporters' voices; they have some people with good pipes. It's a weird thing of mine. Sue me.) As I was listening, I heard a story on a deal that President Obama's campaign has offered to the Romney campaign.
Release the past five years of your tax returns, and we won't ask for any more.
That was it. That was the deal. And the more I listened to the story (and it's commentary), the more I thought: this is stupid. On multiple levels.
I'll leave it for you to parse out just how asinine this "deal" is, but I want to move on to my gut reaction. I posted this on Facebook and it turned into a very long comment thread. After hearing this story, my first thought was simply:
I wish Romney would just come out and say, "You know what? I have exploited every loophole in the tax code in order to pay as little tax as possible, because it's good business and perfectly legal. If you don't like it, then let's light a fire under Congress' butt and get the tax code changed to something that makes sense for everybody."
I said it then, and I'll say it now: if Romney came out with that kind of honesty, I'd vote for the man just on the strength of that statement alone. Because instead of playing to perceptions, the man would be dealing in facts. And that's the kind of president I want.
Heck, I'd take that level of honesty from any politician, regardless of party affiliation.
Unfortunately, this will never happen. Politics has become marketing and nothing more. Spin. Damage control. Attack ads. Response to attack ads. What does your running mate say about you? Does charcoal gray make you look official or does it make you look stuffy? How many likes can your Facebook page get?
I laughed when I read the slew of articles suggesting that the selection of Paul Ryan made this a campaign about substance over style. Really? The fact that the main point of the articles was that picking Ryan "said" this was a substantive campaign merely illustrates my point.
Bring me the politician crazy enough to lay everything on the table and say, "Go ahead. Look around. Tell me what you like and what you don't like. Pick away at my past, my mistakes, my faults, my fears. Because when you do that, you'll get to the core of who I am as a person, and that will tell you far more about how I will govern than any stump speech ever will."
How refreshing would that be? Imagine a candidate on one of the talking head shows, sitting there with nothing to hide, answering tough questions instead of obfuscating and spinning?
Talking Head: I see that when you were in college you smoked weed. Is that true?
Honest Politician: Yes.
TH: Uh, did you like it?
HP: At the time.
TH: Do you still smoke weed?
TH: Uh...um... (pause) Okay. Next question. You made a lot of money. Did you pay taxes on it?
TH: Did you pay a lot of taxes on it?
HP: No, because the tax code sucks.
And so on. Perhaps I'm just weird, but I would find that scintillating to watch simply because it would actually matter. It would tell me something about the person running for office, something I could hang my hat on.
Instead, I get stories about deals over issues that don't tell me anything. Sure, Romney's tax records may reveal that he didn't pay taxes and got away with it, but other than stoking the fires of jealousy among folks who paid taxes and wish they didn't or didn't pay taxes but got caught, what's the point of that information? That he's filthy rich? Didn't I already know that? And isn't just about everyone who runs for office at that level of government?
We're a nation in need of leaders who can offer solutions, not just soundbites. Who can bring leadership and common sense to bear on the challenges that face us. We are in desperate need of someone who can look at both sides of the aisle, call them on their ideological manure and inspire them to do what is right for the majority of Americans. Someone who can speak with honesty and clarity about the issues we face and the necessary changes we would all have to make in order to make this nation truly united.
Give me one honest politician. Just one. That's all I ask.
Too bad Abe Lincoln is off hunting vampires. We could use him in the White House again.