Bob Franken

Fry By

September 17, 2007
The Fry-By (Bob Franken)
@ 11:19 am

My father used to tell me a joke about Harry Truman.

It seems President Truman was making a speech in a pasture on an Indian reservation. As he made his first political promise, the audience loudly responded, “OOMPAH OOMPAH!!”

Revved up by the enthusiastic Native American chanting, the president made still another promise. “OOMPAH,” yelled the crowd, “OOMPAH!”

On it went till the end of the speech. And then it was time to leave. Truman started to walk off the platform.

“Watch out, Mr. President,” said the tribal chief. “Don’t walk in any oompah.”

I thought of that story as I pondered Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) annual steak fry outside Indianola, Iowa yesterday. Don’t ask me why.

There they were, six of the Democratic candidates, in that field of presidential dreams, as they made their political pitches, flipped steaks, mingled and otherwise watched their step as they pretended they really were at home there.

Tom Harkin’s steak fry is not rated in Zagat’s, but it has become a can’t-miss stop for Democrats who are trying to win the hearts and minds of Iowans. And votes. One can only assume that similar Republican events are catered.

But let’s see what we learned at the Harkin picnic: Obama favors healthcare, just like Clinton. Biden is touting experience. Edwards? A president “who is honest, who’s sincere, who has integrity and who has principle —” Anybody here who is AGAINST honesty, sincerity, integrity and principle?

What really surprises me about these events is that people actually attend. Thousands showed up, willing to endure traffic jams to get there.

I am also never-endingly amazed that such rituals are given such significance.

Which is to say nothing of the debates and TV ads and websites, poll-driven position statements along with the other empty promises. Add to all that the often-suspect fundraising and we have our grand national campaign contrivance.

This is all a useful process, we are told, the best way to choose our leaders. You can guess what I will say to that.


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