Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tom Pauken Asks, "Where's the Beef?"

Quick, who is Clara Peller? If you can answer that 1980s' trivia question, Tom Pauken just might be your candidate for governor.

Tom Pauken is running for governor. He's an underdog. Greg Abbott is the favorite. So, naturally, Pauken takes potshots at Abbott, like this one uttered in a Texas Tribune TribLive conversation: "He is good at raising money, but in terms of substantive ideas, where's the beef?"

After the jump, where's the beef?

Ignoring the substance of Pauken's question (he may very well be right that Abbott is so confident of victory that he's avoiding substantive issues), I was struck by Pauken's choice of words. "Where's the beef?" is a television commercial catchphrase from 1984. Wendy's used it to criticize the small size of other chains' hamburgers. Walter Mondale picked it up and used it in his presidential election campaign to criticize Ronald Reagan's own ideas-free "Morning in America" election campaign.

So, why is Tom Pauken using a decades-old TV catchphrase? It's certainly not because he wants to be associated with Walter Mondale. Pauken is constantly name-dropping Ronald Reagan into his conversation. Pauken served in the Reagan administration and, like many veterans, likes to rehash old war stories. For Pauken, that goes back even farther than the Reagan years. He's also constantly re-fighting the Vietnam War. Like his inability to get past those long ago political issues, "Where's the beef?" is another verbal reminder that Pauken's mind is still stuck in the past. Age should not be a disqualifier from public office, but if your mindset is stuck in the past, that should be a disqualifier. Tom Pauken is a dinosaur.

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