Lessons from Iowa


There were several lessons learned in Iowa last night. If decisive wins by Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama over establishment rivals Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton can be considered a litmus test for the rest of the country, voters are fed up with the banality of business as usual in Washington and itching for change.

But there were also a few less weighty lessons to take away from the first caucus of this our longest political campaign in memory.

Do not share the dais with celebrities or people from previous administrations who are not Bill Clinton.

Huckabee supporter Chuck Norris and his wife Gena O’Kelley certainly mean well. Norris is a frequent Republican campaigner and from all accounts contributes a meaningful amount of his time to charitable causes. 

But perhaps he should have made his tan visage scarcer during what should have been Huckabee’s moment of glory in Iowa. As Huckabee addressed a packed hotel ballroom in Des Moines, Norris and his blond wife stood close behind on either side of him. 

But their grinning Hollywood faces, framing fluorescently white teeth, sucked the camera’s focus away from Huckabee, turning the candidates close up into a peculiar study on the power of laser whitening and Hollywood mannerisms.

And then there was the Clinton camp. Hillary Clinton, her voice hoarse from a cold or talking too much, delivered a dour speech to chanting supporters. She was flanked by her husband Bill and a less welcome ghost from Clinton past: former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

A red-faced Bill looked as if we were in the midst of a coronary event. And while pundits have pointed out that a vote for Hillary in some cases amounts to a nostalgic desire to put Bill back in the White House, Albright is certainly a liability. 

The quintessential academic who became an ineffectual head of state, Albright was an unwelcome blast from the past (she made a mess of the Balkans), who surely reminded voters of all that was moribund about the Clinton administration.

Barack Obama, was wisely not flanked by anyone, not even his wife Michelle or his two adorable daughters. 

He stood at the podium alone, the madding crowd in soft focus an appropriate distance behind him. And as his victory speech crescendoed with an impassioned declaration of unity, he seemed for all the world to be channeling Bobby Kennedy.