of his political reforms in the 2005 special election was due in part to his politicizing issues that should have instead been personalized. From attacking “union bosses” instead of standing up for “hardworking union members who should have the right to control their own union dues” to condemning the legislature instead of standing up for neighborhoods and communities, his fall from the polling stratosphere took place be- cause he began to walk and talk like a politician. Celebrities are ex- pected to talk like, well, celebrities. Politicians can’t. Still, that first year of the Schwarzenegger administration was unlike any other—anywhere. In addition to the physical strength and relent- less energy of his on-screen persona, Arnold brought to Sacramento that infectious and insistent optimism best captured by that favorite word of his: fantastic. His unrelenting optimism was one of the most appealing, endearing, and politically helpful characteristics that an American political leader can have. And as a direct result, he scored fa- vorability numbers higher than any other California Republican in de- cades.
92 Words That Work Senator John McCain is the third great contemporary example of a politician whose character is his message. McCain’s fans revere him be- cause of who he is, because of his compelling and undeniably heroic per- sonal story, because he’s the driver of the Straight Talk Express —and not, primarily, because of his position on Issue A or Policy B. In fact, many Democrats love the guy even though he has a voting record well to the right of George W. Bush. Why? Because of his independent streak and willingness to criticize other Republicans—and because some of his strange political bedfellows never took the time to learn his record. The mainstream media gives McCain a pass on things they would excoriate another politician for simply because they like him and because he makes such damn good copy. If McCain is elected president in 2008, you can bet that only a handful of his supporters will be with him be- cause of his position on telecommunications regulation, even though he had significant inﬂuence there for six years. They’ll be with him because of his persona as a man of integrity, a straight shooter, and a courageous war veteran who says what he means and means what he says. AUTHENTICITY Messengers who are their own best message are always true to them- selves. You cannot get away with acting in politics for long. As soon as an audience catches a politician performing rather than living the role, he is on the road to ruin. President Kennedy “performed” the role of family man, but voters did not know the truth about his private behavior until long after he had died. Ronald Reagan embodied family values, even if it only extended to his wife and not his own children. Yes, Bill Clinton was a performer, but he really was that good that even when he got caught, it didn’t matter. Hillary Clinton certainly won’t be as lucky. Authenticity isn’t easy. The best theater and film actors strive their entire careers for
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