Barrack or Mitt — Will You Come for Dinner?

Before you jump to assumptions, please be aware this is NOT a political rant. This is not about one political party being better (or worse) than another. This is not a campaign ad. It is merely some observations. And an invitation to dinner.

FULL DISCLOSURE: From 1990–2006, I served 17 years as an elected local government official in a rural area of about 4,000 residents. For more than half of those years, I held the highest office possible in that form of government.

The other day, I was surfing home pages of different news organizations and I came across a photo of Mrs. Romney. As I write this, I cannot recall what the event was, or where, other than it was outside and there was lots of sunshine. I cannot tell you if there were other people standing behind Mrs. Romney. She was facing the photographer, but her eyes were focused on someone else. And she had an absolutely gorgeous smile that went all the way to her eyes. Can I tell you the color of her eyes? No. I faintly recall she had on a rose-hued lipstick. Beyond that, I cannot provide many details. But that smile was unforgettable. And it has hung in my thoughts for several days now.

Perhaps I was attracted to her smile like a moth to light for the simple reason that I have spent three afternoons of the last month in my dentist’s chair having assorted dental work done. Mind you, my smile isn’t model gorgeous but it is an attractive and warm smile. People have commented on it all my life. But no one has ever told me it was gorgeous. Mrs. Romney’s smile was gorgeous. Now maybe she inherited incredible “tooth” genes, but my guess is rather that for all of her life she had access to good dental care.

And any time I see a photo of Mrs. Obama, just like most women I am envious of her muscle tone and her fashion style. Mrs. Obama has often said she likes to purchase clothes from J. Crew, as if telling all of us that J. Crew is affordable. I looked once. It’s not in my budget, even if I am part of the “middle class.” And having good muscle tone requires effort and self-discipline, not to mention energy and time. On my best days I can only come up with one or two of those four things.

President Obama was on the David Letterman show recently and Letterman commented on how wonderful the President looked—indicating a fit and trim body. He did look fine indeed! It gave me pause to look at President Obama’s shiny leather loafers, dark (probably Gold Toe) socks, and elegant suit. Most people “clean up well” in those kinds of trappings. Most people don’t have access to a kitchen full of award-winning cooks, a personal trainer and staff who second as teammates for a game of pick-up ball, or an assortment of other aides. Okay, President Obama has one of (if not THE) toughest jobs I can think of. But the fact remains, he has access to things most people can only dream about.

And as hard as I try, I cannot lose the image from my brain of Mr. Romney piloting his overly large speed boat with a hull full of grandkids. It was clear from his posture and his expression that he felt very much at ease in the pilot’s seat and his designer-label clothes.

Headlines have been screaming for months about Congress’s record-low approval ratings. And lately it seems there’s a minimum of three polls each week giving us Obama’s and Romney’s approval/disapproval ratings, more often than not in less than stellar territory. Americans clearly feel their leaders are out of touch. Sure, we listened to Mrs. Romney talk fondly of their first “small” apartment and Mrs. Obama’s sweet story about an end table pulled out of a dumpster. But the fact remains those memories are from many, many years ago. During this summer’s political conventions we didn’t hear a single elected official or candidate for higher office discuss the difficulty of choosing between spending money on gas to get to a job or using that money to buy milk and meat and fresh vegetables for the week. We didn’t hear any of those speakers talk about waking up at three in the morning from nightmares about a health scare, knowing there isn’t any medical insurance. And for months, we haven’t heard any such talk from a single member of congress. Remember four years ago? All we heard every time we turned on the TV or the radio was talk about choosing to buy medicine or food. I haven’t heard that slogan in any campaign ads recently.

Local government officials—county board, city council, township—are in the trenches with us and are much more in tune with how most of us feel on a given day. Local government officials (usually) don’t have a staff that screens calls 24/7, or an on-site chef, or a personal driver. Locally elected officials sit alongside us at church, pump gas at the next pump over, buy groceries at the same store. They often greet us by name and ask about our sick child or if we’ve had any job prospects. They’re on the ground running with us. They’re in the trenches fighting with us.

And so as I jot down these musings, I’m pondering ways to create communication channels from main streets in America to two official buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. How can we eliminate the middle layers of staff and assorted others who essentially serve as filters to keep the “riff raff” from bothering these officials? How can we get around those people who serve only to guard a Congressman’s time? How can an average American—not an Olympic athlete, not a war hero, not a civilian hero—be invited to have a freshly brewed honey beer at the White House?

I am so concerned that our voices are not being heard. I am so worried that all the filters put in place to protect and triage priorities have instead silenced the messages from the trenches. We need reinforcements and assistance! We don’t need partisan politics nor billions upon billions of dollars being spent on campaign ads.

If by any chance the Obamas or the Romneys (or any Congressional leaders for that matter) are drawn to these silly musings of mine, please call and tell me when you’re coming for dinner. My husband and I will make you the best Italian spaghetti you’ve had in a long time. And we can toast to better times with some homemade lemoncello. And we will ask for nothing in return except for a couple of hours of your time to listen to the messages from the trenches.

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