I’m dismayed by the number of people who seem to think that being “folksy” is a good qualification for a presidential or vice-presidential candidate. Being able to connect with people is one thing. Using slang, bad grammar, and incorrect pronunciations for common words is something altogether different. Comedians and television writers get damned good mileage from it, but do we really want it from our public officials?
Personally, I want someone smart in public office, especially in the office of President of the United States of America. When I say “smart,” I don’t just mean IQ. I mean having enough of an education to know how to speak in public, to use proper grammar, to pronounce common words correctly, to know enough about science to talk intelligently, to process information rationally, to negotiate effectively, to look at evidence objectively, and to know when to ask for help. There’s more to it than that, though. Someone “smart” understands that appearance matters… visually, audibly, and behaviorally.
Folksy appears uneducated. It probably doesn’t appear that way to uneducated people, but to anyone else (who has an ounce of honesty)… it does. However, everyone looks favorably upon well-spoken, even folksy people. Well-spoken doesn’t mean using big words, literary flourishes, clever allusions, and mythological references. It means having the ability to get your point across cleanly and clearly, using proper grammar and a relatively solid grasp of the English language. That doesn’t offend or alienate anyone.
That’s what I want in the office of President. We haven’t had it for 8 years now and, although McCain has it (or used to), his runner-up has precious little of it. Obama has it in abundance. Biden has it, too. When I visualize our president sitting down with other world leaders to discuss matters of global importance, I cringe to think of someone saying “new-cue-luhr” and “you betcha” and winking and stumbling over facts and simple scientific issues. If that happens, it reflects poorly on us as a country. It looks laughable. It looks farcical. It looks sad.