Former Senator Fred Thompson, in what is being billed as the political faux pas of the straw poll season, was reportedly seen wearing (gasp!) a pair of Gucci loafers during his recent visit to Iowa. Citing his shoes as perhaps the sole piece of evidence that Thompson is out of touch with middle America voters, political pundits are having a field day with his footwear. Following the firestorm of debate about Senator Hillary Clinton's cleavage, and John Edwards's $400 haircut, the Thompson fiasco may finally prove that haute isn't hot in the heartland. But what the anti-couture crowd has really managed to do is put personal style ahead of political substance. We should be concerned about getting boots off the ground in Iraq, not Gucci off the ground in Des Moines.
After the jump, a look at what all this fancy footwork might mean.
The real travesty here is not that Fred Thompson's belt didn't match his shoes. It's the pundits' assumption that Americans will vote (again) based on a candidate's style, rather than their policies. Back in 2004, we heard again and again that voters in the heartland favored George W. Bush over Senator John Kerry because Bush was a person "they'd like to have a beer with." Presuming that having an alcoholic in the Oval Office would make for a better party than one thrown by a Vietnam War hero, voters managed to re-elect a seemingly unelectable incumbent. Along the way, they ensured a continued fiasco in Iraq; a mounting federal deficit; and a federal court system stacked with political hacks to carry out the will of the party - not the people. All, it seems, because we'd like a beer with Bush far more than we'd like previewing the Spring Prada collection with Thompson and Anna Wintour. (Though Ms. Wintour would, no doubt, remind the Law & Order man that his toes owe their comfort to thousands of Gucci gays to whom the Senator would refuse the right to marry.)
Americans pay no attention to political detail anymore. But the devil is in the details . . . and in this case it might wear Prada.
We ended up with the President we have by casting our votes based on drinking games, and now our country is playing Russian Roulette with service members' lives. Americans are becoming so obsessed with the politically irrelevant - religion, wives and loafers - that we are destroying any hope of sensible government because we refuse to cast a vote for someone who doesn't 'look the part.'
The people of Chile recently elected an agnostic single mother to run their government. By all accounts, she's intensely smart, competent and qualified. But that could never happen here. If a candidate isn't married (multiple times), religious and decked out in Nine West clearance heels, they're just not going to make the cut. And that should embarrass us all much more than our leaders' views about the 'surging' debate over Manolo Blahnik vs. Jimmy Choo.