A Rare And Welcome Thing

My mother used to say that you should start every project with two things: a shine on your shoes and a smile on your face.

Now, I didn't see Joe Lieberman's shoes when he announced he was running for president, but in every picture he was smiling.

Mind you, he has a head start on the rest of us, that friendly, golden retriever-kind of face with a mouth that goes straight across and turns up at the ends in a perpetual grin.

But still, in today's sour politics, a touch of good humor is a rare and welcome thing. Our campaigns have become so mean, courtesy of those awful commercials, that we forget our most successful politicians have always been those with a sense of wit and humor.

Franklin Roosevelt could be partisan all right, could he ever. But he was the master of the needle, not the jackhammer that is the tool of choice in today's campaigns.

Remember how he stuck it to the Republicans for attacking his little dog, Fala? One of the most effective political speeches ever.

And remember how Democrats accused Ronald Reagan of being too old and dotty to run for reelection in 1984, and how Reagan responded during a debate that he would not hold Walter Mondale's youth and inexperience against him. It brought down the house. And a lot of political reporters believe to this day that Reagan won reelection over Mondale that very night.

Becoming the nominee of either party takes more than a smile and a shoeshine. But I like Lieberman's smile. The whole process needs it.