Opinion by Matthew Dowd, ABC News Political Contributor
So, I am sitting by the shores of Lake Michigan with my feet in the warm sand relaxing, reading and wondering about life and what to make of the latest events in the presidential campaign.
It is great being back here in northern Michigan (I grew up in this swing state), and there is nothing like a sunset over Lake Michigan.
I recall as I sit here that it was on a vacation in northern Michigan that I got hooked on politics and my love of it bloomed 35 years ago at this exact same time of year.
Driving north from Detroit up Interstate 75 in one of those huge station wagons back in 1973 with four brothers and four sisters (we ended up 11, but two more boys came later in the 1970s), all I was thinking about was watching the Watergate hearings on television.
My brothers and sisters played on the beach while I tried to discuss the latest questioning of White House officials; my siblings thought I was crazy and they probably were right, though more than 80 percent of Americans watched some portion of the famous hearings.
Back to this political environment and a few observations as I listen to the waves come in on the shore:
First, for an election whose dominant value desired by the public is authenticity, it seems to be greatly missing on both sides of the campaign.
Obama seems to have real difficulty admitting a mistake (didn’t we just go through that with another President?) and admitting some of his policy positions might have been wrong. The public sees politicians admitting a mistake and learning as a sign of strength, not a weakness.
McCain seems to have lost his way a bit about providing uplifting politics and being one who can change Washington. The public is OK with hardnosed political tactics, just not ones that don’t feel and look authentic to the candidate.
Second, both the presidential candidates through their careers and in their run for president have talked about putting a premium on rebuilding the community we call America. Bringing people to a common sense of purpose and getting past the nastiness and labels and bickering, and rebuilding the American campfire so we can all gather around it and help each other solve the problems in our country and the world.
And what have we heard recently –- name calling by both sides, release of attack ads that don’t seem to have much to do with our problems, and attacks on each other related to celebrity and ignorance.
(Though having Paris or Britney around a campfire would definitely be entertaining –- oops, I digress)
Third, isn’t it amazing that we have two Presidents available to each party who won more raw votes in their reelections than any other previous member of either of their parties, and neither campaign wants them close by or around much.
Bill Clinton won reelection in 1996 with more votes than any other Democrat before him, and George W. Bush won more votes in his reelection in 2004 than any other Republican before him. And both are being benched by the campaigns.
One counter intuitive thing to do is for McCain to give a speech congratulating and lauding Clinton for all that he has done in the world on health and poverty, and for Obama to give a similar speech highlighting what Bush has done on AIDS and Africa. It is by far his best singular achievement and one that no president came close to doing.
Just some musings from Michigan, and the next stop for this column will be on the upcoming conventions.