Every candidate for office dreams of the day his opponent is tagged with an unforgettable, indelibly etched, iconic moment. Usually it’s a photograph, but it really doesn’t matter what the moment consists of. The opposition is doomed because the event is emblazoned on the voters’ memory and nothing else computes. It’s no use. It’s over. Speeches are no longer remembered, policy statements fall on deaf ears, the candidate’s protests and explanations automatically muted. The candidate is doomed.
Who can forget helmeted little Michael Dukakis with his dopey grin riding in M1 Abrams tank? How could the guy who released Willie Horton pull off a warrior stance? It was a risible and unforgettable image. Dukakis never recovered.
People are still laughing over Jimmy Carter and the rabid swamp rabbit incident. According to the eye witness account, the rodent came at the canoe, “hissing menacingly, its teeth flashing and nostrils flared and making straight for the president.” Would the beast had been a bear instead of a rabbit, as the image of Carter flailing at the desperate creature with a canoe paddle seemed to define his timid presidency perfectly.
Or, who could conceal (admittedly undeserving) snickering over President Ford’s pratfall down the stairs of Air Force 1? To make matters worse, he even fell up the same stairs while wearing ...well,uh…an extremely unattractive and clownish brown and gold plaid jacket. The apparent clumsiness of someone who was actually a fine athlete was a godsend for the opposition, who used the images to their own nefarious ends. Ford was not helped by the fact he made a serious foreign policy goof by claiming during televised debate that Eastern Europe was not under the control of Russia. The clumsy image stuck. He was done for.
But iconic images are in the making for today’s races, most notably one gifted by Harry Reid to the O’Donnell campaign. Reid has called Mr. Coons, O’Donnell’s opposition, “My pet.”
No sooner had he spoken than Michelle Malkin had the perfect photo shopped image up on her web site, the headline saying it all: “Creepy Harry Reid Hands O’Donnell her First General Election Ad on a Silver Platter.” Here is the unfortunate and soon to be iconic image of Ms. O’Donnell’s opponent:
My guess is that Coons won’t recuperate any time soon from this image, as Reid’s fatally condescending and diminishing words indicate to every voter that Mr. Coons is not his own man, but is merely a pet for Harry Reid and the Democrat establishment. Many commentators have said and written as much, but the iconic Gollum image will fix that perception in the mind of the public as nothing else would.
In a way, that’s too bad, as the policy differences between Ms. O’Donnell and Mr. Coons could not be more starkly delineated or more deserving of deep and serious discussion. After all, one candidate stands for Reagan style conservatism and the other stands for the Obama agenda. They are, regardless of iconic images, representative in symbolic and real terms of the politics dividing our country.
Nonetheless, we can doubtless expect more photo shopped images of Mr. Coons, whose physiognomy will now appear in a burst of creative and unflattering images put together by busy computer geeks working in their basements.