WASHINGTON -- It must be a grown-up thing, but every time I see Beto O’Rourke, I want to fix him a hamburger. He’s precious.
And, if my eyes serve me, he’s hungry.
Call it maternal instinct; call it age. But, let’s call the Texas Democrat’s nascent presidential campaign what it is: a youthful folly. If only the media machine weren’t already doing its dang-est to advance a narrative primarily of its own making. No one in recent memory, save for Donald Trump, has received so much free advertising by simply showing up.
From near-constant chatter on cable-news shows to a recent cover-story splash in Vanity Fair, O’Rourke is the newest celebrity politician. In a telling quote in the magazine article, he declared: “Man, I’m just born to be in it.”
O’Rourke did grow up around politics. His late father, Pat O’Rourke, a Texas county judge, co-chaired Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign in Texas in 1984 and 1988, and later ran unsuccessfully for Congress after becoming a Republican. The younger O’Rourke often tagged along on campaign stops and has recounted hating it when his dad urged him to speak to people. I leave the rest to Dr. Freud.
Don’t get me wrong, the boyish man whose mannerisms and speech patterns ricochet between Robert Kennedy and Barack Obama (Berto O’Bama?) is -- have I said this? -- precious, the preferred fallback term when, upon peering into a bassinet at someone’s new baby, there’s nothing else to say. For a reason, Beto metaphors and similes are found in the nursery.
When he flails his arms, often in front of his own face, he reminds mothers everywhere of the moment when an infant suddenly realizes that the hand bobbing in front of his nose belongs to him, whereupon he remains mesmerized until he realizes there’s another one!
O’Rourke apparently hasn’t quite made the connection, but some coaching may help. If not, we’ll be listening to the hand.
None of this is to say he isn’t perfectly qualified to be president of the United States. O’Rourke, after all, has served three terms in Congress and barely lost his Senate bid last year to Republican Ted Cruz. Previously, he served as an El Paso city councilman and otherwise has worked for a startup Internet-service provider, been a nanny, art mover, proofreader and, when time allowed, a writer of short stories and, briefly, an alternative-weekly publisher. He also played bass in a punk rock bank, Foss. I’m no soothsayer, but I’d gamble on a late-night-show bass performance real soon.
In fairness, as columnists like to say when they’re midway through a political evisceration, he is precious. But are we sure his dosage is correct? To the untrained eye, O’Rourke’s jumping, dancing, lurching pogo-stick histrionics seem more manic than high-energy. I’d offer a beer with that hamburger, but I fear being accused of contributing to the delinquency of a minor leaguer. (Search O’Rourke’s DWI and burglary arrest history if you want to.)
Otherwise, I confess that I like O’Rourke as the person he actually is -- a dreamy-eyed Libran with whom I happen to share a birthday (Sept. 26), if a few years apart. He also shares my husband’s high school alma mater, Woodberry Forest. In a star-gazing, palm-reading, karma-kind-of-way, he’s a pretty irresistible combo, but mostly for dating.
As presidential material, O’Rourke has offered little substance except to say that he wants to make the country a better place and save the planet, which no other politician has ever said. He’s against walls, at times favors expanding Medicare for those who want it, and suggested climate-change warriors are like our troops who fought in World War II. No, they’re not.
Going forward, the O’Rourke campaign’s operative word is “positive,” which is why columnists rarely run for public office. That said, I am positive about one thing: O’Rourke is a composite character churned out by a Google analytics algorithm that specified a youngish, Spanish-speaking, tall, skinny guy whose nickname sounds Latino, even though O’Rourke is 100 percent white, from a privileged background, and the husband of a hundred-millionaire’s daughter, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
In this anti-white-male era, I suppose a white mother of three white males and one white grandson should be gratified that so many young people are drawn to him. As I may be someday, too -- in about 2032 -- when the still boyish O’Rourke will be a more-seasoned 60 -- and I’ll be trying to get out of a chair, assuming a lot.
In the meantime, a burger has Beto’s name on it.