Monday, December 19, 2005

Paul Bucher - The Prince of Darkness

Let me just say up front that I have absolutely no stake in the Republican Attorney General primary, and I have no idea who I’m going to vote for. Not that it would matter – I would think a candidate would rather have an endorsement from NAMBLA than me. All I know is, whoever wins the primary, I will be voting for in the general election.

That being said, I was struck by the contrasting styles between the two candidates when I watched the webcast of their recent debate. While J.B. Van Hollen seemed likeable and reasonably knowledgeable, Paul Bucher was combative and irritable. He looked angry that he was even there, and fidgeted with his watch, his pen, and his glass of water throughout the entire event. His answers were short, fast, and tight lipped, and he abruptly dropped his microphone each time he finished talking. After each answer, it looked like he wanted to end with “does that answer your question, jackass?” before biting the head off a terrier. When I finished watching the webcast, I looked around hoping I hadn't just been prosecuted for something.

I was first struck by Bucher’s prickly style when I was one of the seven people watching “Here and Now” on public TV a few weeks ago. The Fabulous Frederica Freyberg asked both candidates whether they would use the film of Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager’s drunk driving arrest against her in the general election. Van Hollen said that he thought other groups would probably be using the video, and that he wouldn’t authorize his campaign to do so. Bucher essentially said (and I am paraphrasing), “Hell yeah, I’ll use it,” almost foaming at the mouth at the chance to embarrass Lautenschlager even more than she has done so herself. If he does use the ad, I respectfully ask him to pay CBS to run it on a one hour loop in place of “The Ghost Whisperer.”

Now, I totally get Bucher’s demeanor – he sees the Attorney General’s office as a position where you don’t mess around. He sees being friendly and approachable as antithetical to an office where you have to be red assed. And he sees this as an opportunity to contrast his style with not only Van Hollen, but his two Democratic challengers, as well. Unfortunately, given his performance on the webcast, the only thing he is contrasting himself with is a human being.

Of course, I’m a law and order guy myself. I obviously think the Attorney General has more important priorities than suing cranberry growers and handing out giant checks to senior citizens. But voters also elect their legislators, who actually write the laws that the AG enforces. And what these voters want is someone like them, who they can talk to and relate with. A little charm goes a long way when electing lawmakers, and I think the same would be true of an AG candidate.

Not that Van Hollen is without flaws, either. Granted, debates these days aren’t really heavy on details, but he could offer a little more insight into his practical experience. He is young looking, so he could make a little more effort to seem a little less easygoing. But on the whole, I think Bucher needs to move in Van Hollen’s direction a lot more than vice versa. I think both of these guys are electable, but Bucher would do himself a big favor by making more of a personal connection with voters.

UPDATE: Jessica McBride offers a spirited defense of her husband here.