Originally Published on NevadaNewsmakers.com, 7/16/2007 11:23:36 AM
Chris Dodd’s khaki slacks are frayed at the hems, as if he’s worn them repeatedly with shoes that allow them to drag on the ground. They’re neatly frayed, if such thing is possible, not ragged, and there are no hanging threads. All the same, it’s a distraction. Is it charmingly unpretentious? Or is it horrifyingly unpresidential when the chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban affairs seeks the White House in a pair of khakis with frayed hems?
The Reasonable Reporter can’t help but wonder whether the slacks are a conscious wardrobe choice. Pulled, perhaps, from a closet hung with dozens of pairs of perfectly frayed khakis, calculated to underscore Dodd’s down-to-earth start as a Peace Corps volunteer. Or is this the same brand of wardrobe oversight regularly committed by men from all walks of life? (Whadya mean? I’m just breaking them in!) The kind that spurs a wife to plow unmercifully through his closet with a Salvation Army donation bag, in order to save him from himself?
But this is, after all, a Friday afternoon appearance at a downtown Reno brewpub. And Dodd’s fiery style doesn’t permit audience attention to linger at the hem of his pants. He stands on a slightly raised platform at the end of the room, and rails against the Bush approach to foreign policy. He rails at American auto manufacturers, for balking at the mention of a 50 mile-per-gallon fuel efficiency standard. He rails at Hillary Clinton (Oh so gently, he rails at Clinton… She was right, but she went about it all wrong.) for trying to accomplish health care reform in the basement, in the middle of the night.
He touts his own leadership on the Family Leave Act. It took seven years, and three presidents, he bellows.
Dodd’s voice carries without a microphone, and he turns from side to side to include the entire audience. He jokes about George W. Bush, who, after September 11, told Americans to go shopping. Dodd prompts the assembled Nevadans to say it, too. What did Bush say at a terrible time like that?
“As long as I live, I’ll never forget what he said.” A few voices fill in the blank. He said “go shopping,” and the crowd laughs. The effect is a bit like the opening moments of a Seinfeld episode, where we see a sliver of Jerry’s monologue, delivered to a small, but appreciative group of comedy club patrons.
This is the essence of retail politics. The coffee shop in Iowa, the living room in New Hampshire, the brewery in Reno, Nevada.
Never mind that recent polls show Chris Dodd tied with Dennis Kucinich, pulling about one percent support. He’s here, frayed khakis and all. Many of the 50 or so Nevada Dems gathered at the brewery say they’re doing exactly what the party hoped they’d do, given lavish attention by presidential hopefuls. A handful had also been present in the Latino Business District at noon Friday when Bill Richardson opened his new campaign headquarters, and showed up again on Sunday, at the christening of the Edwards HQ in South Reno. Nevada caucusers, braving July heat, undaunted by tight downtown parking, shopping earnestly in the marketplace of retail politics.