The right-wing cranks (of which I am an occasional member) are piling only on Hillary Clinton, but in truth both she and Barack Obama adopted Southern accents for their appearances in Selma (fascinating audio here). I'm inclined to go a little light on the pandering charges and cut the candidates some slack. I moved to Indiana from Kentucky when I was 12 and had a noticeable Appalachian accent. To this day, I am told, when I get excited or agitated or otherwise let my mouth get ahead of my brain, that accent makes an occasional reappearance. And whenever I visit Kentucky, I start sounding like a lifelong native after only a couple of days. It is possible that the stress of courting the black vote in the heart of the South took its toll on the candidates. After all, both have trouble being black -- Hillary is not Bill, the country's first black president, and Barack is still fighting the image of being Halfrican-American. So what's left for them but the accent?
But, seriously, folks.
Some have expressed concerns about the presidential race being so ubiquitous this early in the process. But I see great value in it. For one thing, as much as the campaign is waged in sound bites, it will take us a long time just to discover what the candidates' positions really are. For another, this will help us determine their characters -- how they face adversity, reversals, media scrutiny.
And even more important is the political equivalent of the breakfast-table test. Most of us, at least subconsciously, judge our potential life mates by how well we think we can stand seeing them and talking to them, day after day, year after year, across the breakfast table. We know that our initial passion, however strong it might be, will eventually give way to a calmer relationship of mutual respect and intellectual, emotional and spiritual compatibility. Over the long haul, we will have to simply like each other and enjoy each other's company.
Hillary fails that breakfast-table test. The more we know her, the crankier and more high-maintenance she seems. Barack passes it; he is someone we can imagine hanging out with for more than a date or two. Rudy Giuliani makes the cut, Mitt Romney is a maybe, John McCain not so much.
I'm not saying that's the primary criterion we should have when choosing a president, but it is one factor. Just imagine all those press conferences. Who will command our attention, day after day, year after year, making us at least consider what he or she says? Who will make us snatch up the TV remote and immediately switch to the Cartoon Network?