Yesterday, at a fundraiser, Joe Biden emphasized a psychological current that seems to be running more shallow than ever: "Every presidential race always comes down to who the American people think possesses the character and conviction."
In other words, even those voters unfamiliar with the likes of a newspaper's front page are generally able to wisely assess the candidates' "right stuff," so to speak, thus subordinating the criticality of knowledge and elevating the intangibility of sound judgment.
After all, the American voter never fell for Dick Nixon's obvious slime, right?
Perhaps we should choose another example.
Say, how about Mitt Romney? Now there's a paragon of straight-shooting Americanism; a solid family man, a faithful servant of his church, a brilliant capitalist--and the most conspicuously mendacious varmint in modern political history, which includes, from start to finish, the breathtaking shiftiness of Richard Milhous.
It's a myth, Mr. Biden, this feel-good celebration of American republicanism and civic virtue, both of which divinely combine to form the electorate's almost magical ability to look into the soulful character of the American politician and pronounce a fair judgment thereof. If it actually existed, Mitt Romney would be scoring a statistically insignificant popularity rating, because rarely, if ever, has an American politician been so obvious in his utter lack of good character.
"He'll say anything" was once a kind of innocuous cliche to describe raw political ambition; Romney has converted it into a precise and unimpeachable analysis.
That doesn't mean he'll win, but it does depress--to come face to face, again, with the bracing reality of so many judgmentally feckless Americans.