Jill Lawrence has an interesting article concerning George Will’s use of the phrase “the charisma of competence” in talking about Republican governor Mitch Daniels.
She mentions that this approach is similar to that taken by Michael Dukakis, whose decision to stress his “competence” failed to get him elected.
I’d never heard the phrase “charisma of competence” before; but I think that, in general, stressing their “competence” is often the last refuge of an anti-charismatic politician.
Charisma isn’t just being good-looking and attractive (though that helps) but the effect is very much the same: it produces an exciting “vibe” around the charismatic person in a way that no record of achievement ever really can. As Lawrence herself writes: “…let’s be honest, competence is not in itself charismatic. It’s boring.”
Indeed; though that is a little troubling if we accept the Paul Graham theory (as I do) that charisma is what determines the outcome of Presidential elections.