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Bobbled Presentation

Casey style generates little excitement



Have there ever really been that many great political orators? JFK inspired us to reach for the stars and fly to the moon. Ronald Reagan yelled at that Russian guy with the map of India on his forehead to "tear down this wall." But let's face it: Most politicians are about as entertaining as your high school science teacher.



And I'm worried. See, I'd like more Democrats to get into office. I'm hoping they'll do some good before they become firmly entrenched and start being corrupt again, which seems to be the pattern for either party. And I remember the remarkably uninspiring utterances of the other JFK -- the guy who married that rich chick with the wild hair who used to be married to a Pennsylvania senator. You know the one. I can't remember his name because he bored me to death. But I was so blinded by my "anybody but Bush" mantra that I failed to see how he failed to inspire.


Now I have a new mantra -- "Anybody but Santorum." If, like me, you'd prefer less homophobia, less worrying about the rich, less sucking up to corporations, and fewer stupid statements like blaming Boston liberalism for pedophilia in the Catholic church, you're probably an anybody-but-Santorum person too.


But there's a problem. Rick Santorum may not be JFK, but whatever you want to say about him, he's not boring. And oh my God is his likely Democratic challenger, Bob Casey Jr., boring.


I was the master of ceremonies for a Democratic dinner in Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago. Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana (who is no firecracker either) was keynoting, but the buzz was about Casey. Early polls show him beating tricky Ricky like a rented mule. Maybe even a paid-for mule. After Dubya's victory -- which came despite Western Pennsylvania's strong support for his opponent -- this crowd was hungry for Santorum's head on a stick.


But then Casey approached the podium. He spoke to a room full of folks desperate for inspiration, and I think they clapped once. Mostly, they sat and stared and, from what I could tell, moved their eyes back and forth to watch the words go in one ear and out the other.


On a personal level, everybody loves Bobby. Lt. Governor Catherine Baker Knoll, who appeared to be coherent, was at the dinner, waxing on about how she used to baby-sit little Bobby back in the day. Casey's got that Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington sincere visage. His self-effacing demeanor is rare and refreshing in a world full of political egomaniacs. Even my evil conservative Republican friends don't dislike Bobby Casey.


The problem is, Bob Casey Jr. is the Mr. Rogers of politics. If he were hosting a children's show, he'd be perfect. But when he gives his stump speech, there's more charisma coming from the stump. He often speaks in a monotone, which can be deadly. He also speaks in hushed tones, like he's trying not to wake anyone up. And he appears to be succeeding. Casey spits out Democratic talking points about the secretive, disingenuous, war-mongering Bush administration adequately enough, but his style is killing his substance.


Casey might have deeply held philosophical beliefs, but it's hard to get past the snoozer delivery to discover the answer to that age-old political query: "Where's the beef?" At least when you watch paint dry, you can sniff it and you might get a buzz. 


Santorum ad guru John Brabender says that in GOP political circles, the joke is that Casey has hired one of Bill Clinton's speech coaches, and that he should sue the guy for malpractice.


Dianna Wentz, local Democratic campaign manager and all-around groovy gal, says she has seen definite improvement in the Casey style. Maybe Bobby was just going through the motions at my dinner, she says, because it was an exceedingly friendly crowd. Maybe.


In my world, you'd have to be brain dead to vote for Santorum -- which is ironic, because he's obsessed with the brain dead: Terry Schiavo, George Bush, etc. And it could be he's already dug his own political grave. But if Bobby could just borrow a little adrenalin from Slick Ricky, then we might be able to stay awake at the victory party. Maybe.

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