There is very little in this life we can be sure of: did Saddam Hussein really have Weapons of Mass Destruction? Would Donald Trump still be the GOP frontrunner if there weren’t five other candidates to divvy up the leftovers? Does the FBI really not know how to break into an iPhone, or do they just want terrorists to think they can’t? (I’m hoping it’s Jack Bauer up there at the head of the Bureau and not Elmer Fudd, but wishful thinking is probably as close as I’m going to get to the truth.)
Thank heaven for sports and political jockeying. I don’t even like sports, but I watch them because at least what I’m watching is real (WWE excepted). Sure, you have your Pete Roses and your Lance Armstrongs, but the attention given their high-profile cheating only proves the rule that what you see is what you get in sports.
Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump during the third CNN Republican debate on Thursday in Houston. (Getty Images/Michael Ciaglo-Pool)
Political jockeying is a sport of a different feather; a blood sport where what you see is not what you get, but is painfully decipherable nonetheless. Hillary Clinton barking like a dog; Donald Trump calling it “Two Corinthians;” Jeb Bush pleading, “Please clap” all reek of overreach if not quite actual desperation. But it’s early. Plenty of time for frantic desperation later on. For now, it’s just low blows and cock fights.
Nothing reveals the inner person so much as outer ambition. We can hide our feelings, our finances, or our true political leanings, but ambition is by definition a look-at-me endeavor. Nothing is more ambitious than running for president of the United States so no one is more exposed right now than the eight candidates still out there mudslinging. Well, six mudslinging, one claiming the lofty perch of positivity, and one running a political campaign without employing politics.
Ben Carson wants us to know that he has no personal ambition; that the only reason he’s running is because the people “asked” him to save the country. Altruistic. Okay. But when you have to advertise your altruism, is it? I’m not sure. Asterisk.
John Kasich claims the moral high ground of “running the most positive campaign of everybody” because he doesn’t refer to other candidates by name when he slings hash at their campaigns and policies. So, passive-aggressive punch-puller. Good to know.
Donald Trump is the poster boy for ambition, so nakedly hungry for it that he admits to leveling “You’re not a citizen” guns at Ted Cruz only after Cruz’s numbers began to rise in the polls. In Trump’s case, ambition and arrogance are Siamese twins; his comment that he could shoot someone in the middle of Times Square and not lose any votes is proof of both. Ambition and arrogance—buckets and buckets of each. Check.
Ted Cruz is wily, and I think I mean that in a good way. Yes, CNN gave him the opening, but he exploited it full bore with calls to Ben Carson’s volunteers and his own activists in Iowa telling them that Carson had suspended his campaign and to vote for Cruz instead. He then apologized to Carson, not for making the calls but for not sending out the Carson campaign clarification when it became available. Sincere? Maybe. At odds with Breitbart’s timeline showing the calls were made after the clarification was issued? Suspicious.
Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton participate in the PBS NewsHour Democratic presidential candidate debate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Feb. 11, 2016. (Getty Images/Win McNamee)
If Jeb Bush has ambition, it’s not obvious to me. He acts like he’s on a miserable blind date he just wants to be over already. (For his sake, I’m also anxious for him to call it night). Pass.
Hillary Clinton barking. I could say something really clever and memorable, but it couldn’t possibly do justice to her actual barking (which, did anyone else notice, sounded more like a seal than a dog?). Ambition for Hillary Clinton is part tractor beam, part bulldozer. It’s like a special needs ambition that resembles naked drive but is far more devious. No words. Just. No words.
Marco Rubio has his own brand of ambition, roughly equivalent to Hillary Clinton’s in form without quite so much slashing and burning of individuals along his way. Constituents, yes. “He saw his path to be speaker, and it came at the expense of his constituents, literally,” remarked a Democratic strategist and legislative aide at the time.
Whatever Bernie Sanders has, it isn’t personal ambition; he seems hell-bent on crushing every last bit of individual power, and dissolving us into a touchy-feely Kumbaya where everything is free and nothing is reality.
None of the foregoing data points have anything to do with politics. In fact, the degree and nature of a candidate’s ambition has no predictive value for any particular political positions. Or should I say consistent political positions. So many flip flop flips over the years: Donald Trump and abortion; Marco Rubio and the Gang of Eight; Hillary Clinton and the right of every sexual abuse survivor to be heard. Some things we the people can never be sure of.
What we can be sure of is the color and intensity of each candidate’s ambition, and the window to their soul that it is.
Donna Carol Voss is an author, blogger, speaker, and mom. A Berkeley grad, a former atheist, pagan, and hot mess, she is now a Mormon on purpose and an original thinker on 21stcentury living. Her memoir, “One of Everything,” traces the path through one of everything she took to get here. Follow her on Twitter @donnacarolvoss or stop by www.donnacarolvoss.com.
Feature Image: Nevada Policy Research Institute
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