Around the Bend: Do presidents make good neighbors?


Issues, character and experience aside, I believe the personalities of our presidential candidates have made an important and, in one case, a deciding difference. Put simply, undecided voters often may vote for the man they feel most comfortable with. The Democratic party has a number of nominees whom I think of as cerebral, even professorial.

Stevenson, Humphrey, McGovern, Mondale Dukakis, Gore and Kerry. All lost. The winners were more folksy, simple answers to complex problems candidates. Al Gore is the prime example. A very studious, diligent politician, steeped in government functioning he was far more qualified to be President than George H. Bush. Unfortunately for his sake, he was all to aware of the disparity and, in the third debate a hubris rose up,that was very off putting. People on the fence went for the "stop by for a beer " guy.

Continuing with this Presidential personalty theme, for the fun of it, I will project these men into my everyday life and speculate who I would prefer as neighbors. Not much is demanded of a good neighbor. Friendliness as we come and go, and occasional help when we are away. In most cases, good neighbors have never set foot in the others’ homes and they have never discussed politics.

Kennedy vs. Nixon: This is the biggest surprise of all. Newsman Bob Schieffer found Richard Nixon "the strangest man I ever met." Mary McGrory, cogent columnist, on learning of more Nixonian chicanery, headed her column,"Worse than We Thought." However, given the criteria for a neighbor, Nixon is ok. The doorman at the White House said that Nixon was the friendliest President. I can see that. This distrustful
introvert needed friends of sorts and chats with the doorman about the Redskins was safe. It’d be the same with brief exchanges in the driveway. JFK had a detachment, noted by many, and I think that it would show in this context. HIs charm was immense but he gives me the jitters. Besides, he’d always be on the go.

LBJ vs. Goldwater: My wife went to Barry’s home for an interview and found him very likeable and direct! Johnson was one crude character. In this case, not "all the way with LBJ"!

Nixon vs. HHH: Hubert, an irrepressible spirit. "When I wake in the morning, I say whoopee." (from a parody about Hubert). A welcome change after RMN moved out!

Nixon vs. McGovern: George loathed Nixon from their long association in Congress. To lose to him was galling, but it has nothing to do with this judgement. As mentioned in a previous column, I had personal contact with McGovern and was deeply impressed. And, who wouldn’t want to have a man of such integrity next door?

Carter vs. Ford: That White House doorman said that Jimmy Carter was the least friendly. I can see that. His highminded and sanctimonious stance on life. There was a coldness one saw in those eyes. Hard to measure up to his standards. Ask Rosalyn. Gerald Ford is the ideal neighbor of all these candidates. There is a guy you’d look forward to borrowing a rake from and shooting the breeze over the fence. A model
"good guy." No contest.

Reagan vs. Carter: Given the above about Carter and Reagan’s easy and limited affability, this also is no contest.

Reagan vs. Mondale: I would welcome the switch to Fritz, someone with more substance, and he is an upbeat sort.

Bush vs. Dukakis: George I is of the old patrician club of social grace. And, he would be game to throw a football around. Michael, probably a decent man, just seemed so wonk-like, so serious.

Clinton vs. Bush: A wife of a high school friend and a very guarded, conservative person, went to the Chappauqua hardware store and there was Bill! She had to admit that he was "very charming." You’ve got to go with Bill. It was not surprising that after the dust had settled, these two became friends. Both social pleasers.

Clinton vs. Dole: Wild Bill still wins. Dole is such a dour, cynical guy. Funny to a point, but a point of view to avoid after a while.

Bush 2 vs Gore: This is a tough one, but given the limited requirements for good neighborship, I vote for George. I don’t know if I could be comfortable talking with Al.

Bush 2 vs. Kerry: Recently seeing a documentary on John Kerry’s courageous, thoughtful, articulate stand against the Vietnam war makes me leap over my spare neighbor criteria. Having someone of his character next door is enough. Connecting optional.

Obama vs. McCain: In these two, one sees the contrast first presented. In John McCain I see a likeable guy but quirky and highly volatile. I would be on guard with him. In Obama, I see a very grounded and well-rounded person. I can imagine a very smooth relationship.

And the results? A surprisingly close race considering my obvious political allegiance. This complements a letter I wrote to the Daily Progress about my harmonious neighborhood. In 20 years, I cannot recall a political conversation with neighbors, a circumspection that is automatic. We have gotten on very well.