Politics is a mix of show biz and public policy, but lest you think with the entry of Beto O'Rourke into the race that the coverage is only about the former, the Sunday shows did talk to other candidates, who showed what serious and sober presidential candidates can sound like.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., in particular seems like the anti-Beto. She said on "Meet the Press" on Sunday that she wouldn't have ever said she was just "born to run."
She is comfortable talking about health care, which she did at length:
CHUCK TODD: What will you make - what is number one, in your mind, that you've got to, that you know - that is going to be the hardest thing to do, so you're going to do it early? Health care was Obama's. What is yours?
KLOBUCHAR: Bringing down health-care costs with some much-needed changes to the Affordable Care Act. And that would be, first of all, pharmaceutical prices. I have been on this for over a decade. And neither during Democratic or Republican administrations, have we had any significant votes in this Congress. Pharma may think they own Washington. They don’t own me. And this means everything from unleashing the power of 43 million seniors to negotiate lower prices under Medicare, bringing in less expensive drugs from Canada, stopping the pay-for-delay practice, a bill that I have with Senator Grassley. ... I believe in bringing out universal health care to all Americans. And we’re not there yet. And the fastest way -
TODD: But you want to use the, but you want to use the structure of Obamacare?
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, I do. And the fastest way you get there is with a public option. You can do that with Medicaid. You can do it with Medicare. I would get that done in the first year as president. There's no reason we can't do that, as well as immediately using reinsurance and cost sharing, things that would really help here in Iowa, where they've had some major issues with their premiums.
TODD: What do you tell the folks that say, "No, no, no, no, no, no. You know, stop that. Obamacare isn't the answer. Go to Medicare-for-all"? What do you tell those folks?
KLOBUCHAR: I tell them that we have had some major successes with the Affordable Care Act. We have made sure kids get on their parents' insurance until they're 26. We have stopped people from being thrown off their insurance for preexisting conditions.
Clear, direct answers based on experience. It's not impossible, you see. She also answered questions on reparations, Venezuela and the Paris accords. (Oh, and she got into politics after she went through the experience of getting kicked out of the hospital 24 hours after giving birth despite her daughter having a serious medical condition. She has written a book and talked publicly about her own experience and that of other working mothers, but it seems she has never gone on a solo road trip to lick her political wounds.)
She also sat down with Jake Tapper on Sunday’s “State of the Union” to talk about President Donald Trump’s role in the propagation of white nationalism. (“There has been an increase in hate crimes. There has been an increase in very negative rhetoric at groups. And ... no matter how someone looks, it happens to them. They could be Orthodox Jews. It happens to them. They could be Hispanics. It’s been happening to them.”) She went after tech companies. ("I want privacy legislation to basically say, hey, we have a right over our data. Stop messing around with us, and then also put in plain language what your rights are, instead of 50 pages. And then, finally, notify us when there’s breaches. And when it comes to hateful violence like this, they should have to get this off the Internet immediately. There is no place on the Internet for people watching murders. ") And she defended her prosecutorial record on race:
"We worked very hard on several fronts. The first is to diversify the office and to add more people of color to the ranks of prosecutors. And I did that.
"The second was to look at how we were handling drug court and make sure that we were doing it in a way that wasn't racist. And you can always do better. I can tell you, you learn in retrospect, when you look back, things you can do better.
"The third thing was to up our focus on white-collar crimes. Things that are committed in the boardrooms are just as bad as things that are committed with a crowbar if someone is trying to break in a house.
"And so I really made a major effort on that. And then, finally, I was one of the first prosecutors in the country to work with the Innocence Project to do a DNA review on our cases, to do something differently when it came to eyewitness identification, so you would have the police officer who was not involved in investigating the crime show the photos. And you would show the photos one at a time, instead of all at once.
"And then, finally, we had videotaped interrogations in Minnesota. We were one of the only states that did it at the time to make sure that suspects were treated fairly, Miranda rights were being read."
When she talks about herself, she talks about what she's done, not her destiny to run for president. "[I] was just ranked by Vanderbilt as getting the most done for any Democratic senator on 15 different metrics. And that's because I have been able to find common ground to get bills passed and to respond to my constituents. And I think that's what we need in the White House."
That’s about the most substance, aside from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., you’ll hear from any candidate. And yet many outlets run the same story (was she a hellish boss or just tough?) over and over — with no inquiry into the supervisory skills of others. Is this sexism or just superficiality? Maybe some of both.
Voters who say they want an informed and competent president need to look for presidential candidates who exhibit those attributes. If they don’t want a president who thinks he alone can fix things or who has gone through life coasting and talking a good game with little to show for it, they’d better find someone who talks authoritatively about issues, not himself, and has been a work horse, not a show pony. Otherwise, we’ll wind up with another president whose self-regard is radically at odds with his or her capacity to govern.
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post.