The regular-guy factor

It seems Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has suffered a serious setback in efforts to establish his regular-guy credentials. Kerry committed at least two faux pas when it came to eating a cheesesteak sandwich in the birthplace of cheesesteak, Philadelphia. First Kerry ordered his sandwich with Swiss cheese instead of the more traditional Cheez Wiz. And then he compounded that mistake by eating it with excessive daintiness. Of course if he had used the expression “faux pas,” that would have been yet another faux pas.

As someone from a privileged background with a wealthy wife, Kerry, of course, faces the Regular Guy Dilemma. George W. Bush, another child of privilege, has regular-guyness down pat– dropping his “g”s with abandon, saying “bring ’em on.” As Jonathan Alter wrote in Newsweek: “President Bush is a regular guy who doesn’t care a whole lot about regular people. The first is a political asset; voters like his guyness. The second is his greatest vulnerability, and he offers more evidence for it almost every day.”

Bush’s father, on the other hand– despite his efforts to convince us he enjoyed eating pork rinds and listening to country music– never quite got the hang of it. In an earlier time, FDR and JFK didn’t even try. And they didn’t need to.

Another triumph of style over substance?