Due to unexpected family matters, I found myself on a midnight cruise leaving George Bush International (oxymoron) Airport with Juan (not his real name), a Nicaraguan Super Shuttle Driver who was, in his own way, informed about national politics, and an active participant during presidential elections.
“Did you know that Bill Richardson is part Nicaraguan?” he asked me. “I thought he was more experienced and better than both Hillary and Obama.”
I acknowledged that I didn’t know his ethnic heritage in detail and was only aware of his domestic and foreign policy credentials and experience. Since Richardson hadn’t made it, I asked him, who would he be voting for this election.
“You know, I voted in the last three elections Democrat – Clinton, Gore, and Kerry. But this election, I don’t like any of those guys, they’re both crooks, they’re both the same. When I go into the voting booth, I’m just going to flip a coin, that’s it. Seriously.”
He was pretty serious. I prodded a little more, asking why he didn’t like McCain.
“He’s just George Bush all over again.”
Score one for Obama’s political team for making that talking point / sound bite stick. But what about Obama, I asked him, since he had voted consistently the past three elections for a Democrat.
“He needs to stop lying man. He’s lying, and I don’t like it.”
Lying? Don’t all politicians lie? Wasn’t Bill Clinton one of the biggest liars? Lying about what?
“That he’s Muslim. You know, he went to school in Malaysia, he went to a Muslim school in Malaysia, so he’s Muslim, he ought to come out and tell the truth, that he’s Muslim.”
Was there something wrong with being a Muslim I asked, wondering if he realized that I was a Muslim.
“Ain’t nothing wrong with it. You can be anything you want, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, whatever, no problem, but you have to tell the truth about it, and he’s not telling the truth. So this year, in the voting booth, I’m flipping a coin.”
The conversation soon shifted in other directions, but it reminded me of a quote from former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich:
“The job of the candidate is to raise the money to hire the consultants to do the focus groups to figure out the 30-second answers to be memorized by the candidate. This is stunningly dangerous.”
As the old saying goes, heads, I win, tails, you lose.