March 15, 2012 in Washington Voices

Front Porch: Andy Rooney’s take on candidates sorely missed

By The Spokesman-Review
 

I really miss Andy Rooney.

Nobody could do curmudgeon as well as he could, and I would so like to hear his crusty but-no-doubt insightful take on the current presidential primary season. I’m sure he’d have something so pungent and revealing to say or write that we’d all be nodding in bemused agreement. Or at least I would.

Usually he tackled the ordinary of our lives. He once wrote that “the tops of jars and bottles are too hard to take off. Stuff that comes packaged in plastic is too hard to open. … How come companies are selling us stuff we can’t get at?”

Many of his observations were short but right to the heart of the matter: “Computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do don’t need to be done.” Or: “A lot of people who know how to drive don’t seem to know how to park.”

I once told my husband that if I ever left him, it would be for Andy Rooney. Or maybe John Glenn.

Andy Rooney died at 92 this past November, just one month after he signed off from CBS’ flagship news program, “60 Minutes,” with his final “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney” segment, which always closed the program. It’s still a good show, but it just doesn’t end right anymore.

So I’ve been thinking of Andy Rooney as I’ve been watching the Republican primary season and the endless debates and seen all but a few of the contenders drop away. I am vaguely discomforted by what’s going on. There’s something with our political parties that doesn’t seem right anymore either.

In 2008, I think the primary process, even though it was contentious, made Barack Obama a stronger candidate after duking it out with Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. And as the Republicans went at it, John McCain, who did not begin as the front-runner, emerged the better for having gone up against Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani and others in the Republican primary. This time, of course, only the Republicans are picking a candidate from among several hopefuls, so their primary gets our (politically) undivided attention.

Oh, I know, this whole process is supposed to separate the weak from the strong, lay out the ideas and visions and help the electorate make informed choices. Is it just me, or does it seem like it’s diminishing everyone involved this time? Each of the four men left standing has accomplishments he can rightly brag about – and weaknesses to deal with, too – but instead of growing in stature as a result, they all seem smaller to me.

Frankly, there’s no one in the GOP field who has made the sale with me, but still I somehow feel bad for what this process is doing to these men – and to the divisiveness it seems to be causing within the Republican Party – not to mention within America as a whole.

Sure, the news media play a role here, but they’re not to blame. With a 24-hour news day now, I suppose the current coverage is inevitable. And with our thirst for reality-show-type entertainment and delight in the minutiae, we seem to lap up every pseudo salacious tidbit we can grab on to. We want it, so it’s served up to us. I wish I could articulate what’s wrong with it all. I know there are people who say this is the way it’s supposed to be, that democracy is messy and that this is democracy doing what it does best. It just feels, I don’t know, unseemly.

And this is exactly why I miss Andy Rooney. Once when speaking of his profession, my guy said this: “Writers don’t often say anything that readers don’t already know, unless it’s a news story. A writer’s greatest pleasure is revealing to people things they knew but did not know they knew. Or did not realize everyone else knew, too. This produces a warm sense of fellow feeling and is the best a writer can do.”

Amen, Brother Andy.

I want his rumpled self back on “60 Minutes” telling me exactly where this political season has gone wrong. It wouldn’t be a grand pronouncement, but it would simply state the way it is. I would slap my forehead in one of those I-could-have-had-a-V8 moments – and I would understand.

In looking through lists of Rooneyisms, I came across one that caught my eye: “Political parties are of little interest to me, and it seems as though they draw lines where lines don’t have to be drawn. … Political parties are important but I think they represent the least enlightened element of our political system.”

That’s good, Andy, but I want to hear more.

Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by email at upwindsailor@ comcast.net.

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