03 November 2011


by Andy Weddington
Friday, 04 November 2011

"In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed." Ralph Waldo Emerson 

It's been bothering me for weeks.

That is, whom the candidates, at least some of them, running for the GOP presidential nomination remind me of--seem to parallel--when it comes to interpersonal dynamics.

Following debates and interviews I'd give it some dedicated thought. And mull it over whenever the topic struck. Nothing. But there was definitely something about the manner in which they, mainly the top contenders, presented themselves--their naturalness, or lack thereof, and likability, or lack thereof, that rang familiar, but I could not figure what.

Then last weekend while studying paintings, and thinking about simplicity, that phenomenon known as the 'ah ha' moment struck. Hard. Ton of bricks hard. Was it the paintings that triggered the revelation? No idea. Might I have just as easily been wandering grocery store aisles mulling over commentary (as I often do), weeding with the hula hoe, or in the garage waxing a car? Probably.

Oksana and Nancy first came to mind. Then Tanya.

They were good, really good, at spinning. Remember them?

How about if adding surnames Baiul and Kerrigan? And Harding? Ring familiar now?

Think back to the 1994 winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, and the Ladies Singles Figure Skating competition. Baiul skated for Ukraine and Kerrigan and Harding for the United States.

Just like the top tier of the GOP candidates, the three skaters competitors in an elite field.

The drama between Kerrigan and Harding months earlier at the U. S. Figure Skating Championships is another commentary, but one I'll not write because I don't care. The short of it was Harding being party to a physical assault on Kerrigan to prevent her from competing. The brazen attack, carried out in public by Harding's boyfriend and a few other thugs and seemingly meant to break a leg (though it did not), was successful. Kerrigan, banged up--physically and emotionally, did not compete. Those responsible, including Harding, were eventually found guilty and punished. Harding won the competition but Kerrigan was awarded a slot on the Olympic team anyway.

It's not the antics of Harding that first came to mind. It was the competition between Baiul and Kerrigan. The skating between them intense--scores close--and the free skate to determine who'd take home gold.

Their performances, technically speaking, were comparable. Aesthetically, they were not.

Kerrigan, the seasoned veteran, was competent. She was technically sound but she and her presentation seemed plastic--rehearsed over and over and over in the hopes muscle memory would mask a lack of natural athletic gracefulness. It didn't work. She looked mechanical, like a windup doll, and appeared to be counting in her head '1, 2, 3 spin; 1, 2, 3 squat; 1, 2, 3 raise leg; 1, 2, 3 turn head; 1, 2, 3 jump; 1, 2, 3 smile; etc.' The result was a decent but simply unremarkable skate. She was sort of clunky. Ho hum.

To the contrary, Baiul, all of 16 at the time and a newcomer, skated with poise and grace. She appeared one with the ice (though she, like Kerrigan, surely rehearsed over and over and over), carefree, and was clearly the better skater--a more gifted athlete. Her performance was beautiful. Flawless. The gold hers.

Then Mitt and Herman came to mind. Then Rick (and Newt, Michele, Ron, et. al.). They, too, spin. Some better than others.

Mitt, Romney that is, a man with Olympics experience (leading not competing), is Kerrigan-like. Though blessed with good looks and he looks good technically, he seems plastic. One, two, three; one two three; one, two, three. He and his operation have ample experience spinning, and the feel of orchestration and rehearsal resonates. Clunky. Though no idea what, something's broken. Repairable? Maybe. Maybe not. Kerrigan took silver. So might be Romney's destiny?

Rick, Perry that is, is not doing so well. At all. Mindful of most of Harding's skating, his debate performances awful. A recent speaking engagement peculiar--some believe he was under the influence; of something. I share that opinion. He, too, comes across as plastic and rehearsed. And clunkier than clunky. Can't you just hear well-wishers moments before he took the ice, debate stage(s), "Break a leg!" Of course they meant his--not Mitt's, Herman's, Newt's, or Michele's. His chief problem is being a career politician--an experienced spinner--of which America is tired. Exhausted. Fed up. Like Tanya, he'll compete but won't medal. No way. She finished 8th. That sounds about right.

Herman, Cain that is, has something in common with Baiul. A newcomer, a stranger, to the politics arena. His naivete, complemented with smarts, a refreshing edge. Not plastic, but he lacks some polish. Common sense, understandable ideas, and an ability to effectively articulate, with five-cent words from the heart, not a teleprompter, is, not surprisingly, endearing him to the people. He tops poll after poll--a recent one in Iowa hints he just may win the caucuses. Annoying "experts," ever telling us--the intellectually inferior--what to think and whom to support, are bewildered and getting angry. How dare we not embrace their selects. Mr. Cain's attackers cite no political seasoning and, among other petty shortcomings, no foreign policy experience. So what. It's time to rethink our international interests and responsibilities anyway.

Mr. Cain, a human, has and will make mistakes. His manner, his makeup, is to admit such--'humaness,' like common sense, a desired quality in an American president. Three years of godliness--claimed and bestowed--has not worked in the real world. Look around. And check your pockets--wallets and pocketbooks, that is.

Mr. Cain is scaring the you know what out of you know who--all with eyes on the White House--and for good reason, he's real; so say the folks. And, one more thing, though there's denial and casual dismissal across the board--from principal to peon, he's the assumed democrat candidate's worst nightmare. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why.

Scott Hamilton, Olympic champion figure skater, said, "Half of figure skating is opinion, convincing judges." Accordingly, opinion is at least half of politics, convincing people. Mr. Cain is convincing a growing cohort--and their opinions will be counted in a year or so. Come January 2013 America will have a 45th president. Who knows, it may be Mr. Cain. Stranger things have happened.

So until November next we watch to see the guys and at least one gal skate, and slip and slide and stumble and some fall, and, of course, spin, on the icy path to the Oval Office. We'll see who has the mettle. Plastic cracks and breaks.

Simplicity, whether applied to painting, figure skating, or politics, is beautiful. Simplify color, shape, line, and design--the message--in whatever discipline. Ever strive to simplify. People understand and respond to simplicity--the late Steve Jobs understood completely. He made simple machines that were simply beautiful--inside and out. Leonardo da Vinci, a remarkable artist and inventor, had it right, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." No question the Italian genius influenced Jobs. No question. And in all probability both have influenced Mr. Cain--running a simple campaign unlike anything seen before; a sign of a leader.

In closing...

Figure skating. Politics. There's an edge in both. And when you stop and think about it there's plenty of crossover too--particularly when it comes to spin.

Spin, on skates, awes and wows.

Spin, in politics, is a purposeful distractor to mislead. Bluntly, it's a damn lie. It's awful and woeful.

Up to now Mr. Cain has run a no spin, simple campaign. Along with a hefty resume of success in a tough arena and that he's a standup guy of sound character, principles, and values understood and shared by much of America, is why he enjoys an edge.

Spin it however you want, but it's as simple as that.

Post Script 

While writing this commentary an attack on Mr. Cain, based on allegations of sexual harrassment (some 15 years ago), hit the airways. On it goes. And so goes the stinky, nostril-pinching game of politics. Good grief. No more proof of his legitimacy necessary. Mr. Cain denies inappropriate conduct. Plenty of spin--left and right--to come. Ignore it. The matter will get sorted out. To comment at the moment would be irresponsible. But note a Rasmussen poll taken Wednesday, 02 November, has Mr. Cain at the top. Perhaps an indicator the folks are full and aren't going to take the bait. Bravo!

Author's Endnote

Skaters take to Olympic ice in 2014--to jump, skate backwards, and spin. Most of those who will compete weren't even born when the 1994 games were played. The newcomers will make their own drama. And they'll spin and spin it.

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