How often have you heard someone say “I don’t see color” when they are trying to prove that they are not racists? “I only see people” usually follows. Unless that person is colorblind or actually blind, he or she is an idiot. Observing that someone is black or white or somewhere in between does not make someone a racist. It merely demonstrates that they are using one of the many tools that God gave them to help make sense the world around them. It is what they do with that information that determines if they are in fact racist or not.
Skin color is but one characteristic we see when we observe people. Whatever the physical characteristics a person has, the reality of the world is that they are going to be judged in part by those characteristics, particularly at the beginning, as in the form of first impressions. Physical characteristics are not the last word however and first impressions can be wrong, and often are. It is understanding that first impressions may be wrong that give us the capability to use some of those other senses to get a deeper picture of someone. Today we have living proof that first impressions can be wrong and recognizing that proof will be very important in the next election.
Barack Obama is from start to finish a great political package. He’s tall, good looking, confident, athletic and has a great smile. If he were not a politician he could be a cover model for GQ. Indeed, his attributes were not lost on Joe Biden during the 2008 election cycle: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy, I mean, that’s a storybook, man.” Biden is right, Obama had it all. Thanks to the left leaning media in the United States, this idol-like first impression of Obama is about all many Americans saw. (There were other perspectives out there however, if they had bothered to look…)
We’ve now had two full years to see if that first impression of the Solomon / Moses like leader we were shown was backed up by substance. Sadly for America, not so much. He doesn’t think very well on his feet and he has a difficult time completing a coherent thought without his teleprompter. Most importantly however, he’s proven that he’s wedded to a leftist philosophy that has failed everywhere it’s been tried. From spending trillions of dollars we don’t have to socializing 1/7th of the economy to nationalizing the US auto industry, he has demonstrated he clearly has no clue about how the United States became a successful nation.
On the other end of the first impression spectrum you have New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He’s fat. (as John Corzine highlighted during his campaign to retain the Governor’s mansion) He’s acerbic. You probably won’t find any women fainting at his rallies and if he was a doctor no one would ever say he has a good bed side manner.
We’ve now had a full year to see if his less than striking image is backed up by anything of substance. Here, he is nothing short of breathtaking. In a little less than one year he proposed a cap on local property taxes, vetoed countless bills that sought to increase a variety of special interest programs and feckless agency budgets, and he signed a 2011 budget that closed an $11 billion deficit without raising taxes.
Despite physical characteristics that might lead someone to be less than open to Christie initially, he has quickly won over significant portions of the GOP and has many people talking about him as a 2012 presidential candidate. Hmm… To imagine what an Obama / Christie campaign might look like, compare how each performed when talking to citizens at two different events.
Obama took questions from the audience at an event in Charlotte last April. A woman in asked: “In the economy times (sic) we have now, is it a wise decision to add more taxes to us with the healthcare (bill)?” In attempting to answer Obama rambled all over the map for 17 minutes but never actually gave an answer to the question itself. He went from “We have up until last week been the only advanced country that allows 50 million of its citizens to not have health insurance, and the vast majority of those folks work…” in the first minute of the answer to “We had to spend $787 Billion on the Recovery Act to all the things like unemployment insurance, COBRA, what’s called F-Mat – which is essentially helping states keep their budgets afloat…” near the 15th minute. All together Obama spoke 2,500 words but said almost nothing of substance.
Compare that to Christie as he participated in a town hall meeting last month in Middletown, NJ. A policeman upset about Christie’s proposal that government employees be forced to pay up to 1/3 of their healthcare premiums asked the following: “With a 2% cap on a raise per year, how am I going to afford to pay $8,000 for medical benefits?” Christie’s answer: “You’re not. You’re not going to afford it.” He went on: “What’s going to happen is you’re going to have to make choices amongst medical plans, and have more choices than just three choices which you have now, and only the Cadillac plan. You’re going to have to make choices. Like everybody else is going to have to make choices in this economy. Everyone’s having to make those choices.” When the questioner asks how he’s supposed to live in the state with a paycheck that increased by $4, Christie responds “Here’s the difference… You’re getting a paycheck, and there are 9% of the people in the state of New Jersey who are not… And if their property taxes continue to go up to pay higher and higher salaries in the public sector, they will lose their homes… I have to tell you, I understand your frustration about not getting a higher raise, but you go around this room and talk to people in the private sector who haven’t gotten raises for years, if they’ve been able to keep their job at all. So this is the economic reality we live in today. I wish it were different, but it isn’t.”
Christie’s answer took less than seven minutes and when he was done every single person in that room understood what he was saying and knew that his logic was unassailable. Such clarity and substance are foreign concepts to Barack Obama.
While many conservative political junkies know and love Chris Christie, he is far from a household name to most potential voters. Given his girth and his propensity to speak his mind, the mainstream press in the United States will likely paint a less than flattering picture of him if he chooses to pursue the White House. Thankfully however, as Peggy Noonan points out in the WSJ this weekend, the Internet has freed Americans from the tyranny of the sound bite and the leftist media. As we move closer to the 2012 election cycle we can expect that there will be many more videos that highlight exactly why first impressions can be wrong. Maybe in 2012 we can get back to substance over style.