Mark Shields: Doesn’t look as if he’s from around here
When John McCain, after graduating from Annapolis and spending 22 years in the Navy, made his first run for Congress from Arizona, he was challenged by a Republican primary opponent for not having lived long in the state. McCain, who, as a POW for 5 1/2 years, had been tortured by the North Vietnamese, effectively countered, ”The place where I’ve lived the longest is Hanoi.”
That brings us indirectly to today’s question: Which American public officials do look like the places and the people they represent? Some are easy. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, both Democrats, look and sound like New York. But so, too, do both GOP Rep. Peter King and the proud son of Queens, our 45th president.
No offense intended, but Gov. Chris Christie — whose most recent disapproval rating among his constituents, after the state’s 11th credit rating downgrade, is up to an alarming 72 percent — does bear a striking resemblance to his home state of New Jersey. Florida is interesting; both U.S. senators — Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson — take after their Sunshine State, as does the state’s former governor who’s now a freshman House member — he of the perpetual tan and the mane of white hair — the honorable Charlie Crist.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, so buffed and burnished, brings to mind a younger Mitt Romney protege from the latter’s days at Bain Capital more than he does the cities of Kenosha and Racine, which he represents in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. Ryan’s most prominent House adversary recalls her hometown of Baltimore, where both her father and one of her brothers, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr. and Thomas III, were elected mayor, but the Democratic leader, with her stylish wardrobe, captures the San Francisco she has represented now for 29 years.
Speaking of California, that state’s longest-serving governor, Jerry Brown, who was first elected to that office at the age of 36 in 1974, does not bring to mind the image of a surfer or the Golden State. But as arguably the nation’s most successful chief executive — with a record of 2.34 million private-sector jobs created in just the past six years and having rescued Sacramento from the financial precipice — the still-contrarian Brown, with a 61 percent job approval rating, has forged a state that bears a likeness to him.
Vice President Mike Pence bears a likeness to more than just his home state of Indiana; he resembles the entire Midwest. Republican Gov. John Kasich is very Ohio, and so, too, is the Buckeye State’s Democratic U.S. senator, Sherrod Brown. A former governor, presidential candidate and Fox News Channel host, Mike Huckabee always looked and sounded a lot more Arkansas than did that state’s most accomplished native son, Bill Clinton.
Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona singlehandedly reminds you of the great American West, but transplant Bernie Sanders doesn’t look — or sound — at all like Vermont. However, Sanders’ Green Mountain State colleague, the Senate’s senior member, Pat Leahy, is right out of central casting for Ethan Allen’s stamping ground. The Senate’s majority whip, the polished John Cornyn, does look like Texas. But Ted Cruz really does not. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley looks like an Iowa that once was.
He doesn’t nearly so much as Richard J. Daley always did, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel does bear a strong likeness to Chicago. Newt Gingrich does not look like Georgia or suburban Atlanta. No, the former House speaker looks more like a gated community. And White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who has lived everywhere, looks like trouble.