“Optics” appears to mean a politician’s steady concern for how, what he says or does, will be perceived by the audience, the media or the voting public.

When I was much younger, I staged magic shows for children’s birthday parties. Mothers were glad to have the cake and ice cream stay in the kitchen while I set up my little magician’s table in the living room, thus keeping the cake and ice cream off the living room rug.

However, children 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 years old are the toughest audience any one will ever face. They are so focused on growing up and mastering their social and physical surroundings, which are full of lumps, bumps, sticky spots and some sharp edges, that they are resentful when you show them something new that they cannot rationally understand and have not yet mastered for themselves.

With Air Force One as a backdrop, President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at the Duluth International Airport on Sept. 30 in Duluth, Minn. Jabin Botsford photo/Washington Post

The best you can hope for in response to a classic trick smoothly done – such as rice bowls, linking rings, or multiplying little red balls between the fingers – is a frown. They don’t vote, so you might as well just pick them up give them a kiss and hand them back to mommy. Politicians understand this. It’s part of what makes optics what it is.

In their early teens and high school years, the kids have grown into young people still concerned with their social and physical realities, and other things, such as “Does he like me?” “Do I smell good?” “Does it matter if you’re not athletic?” “How do I get rid of freckles?” and “Is my left foot bigger than my right foot?”

Even before a fully packed high school auditorium of kids this age, the best you can hope for is scattered applause and a the look of a frown and a smile combined. But they don’t vote. Politicians understand this. It’s part of what makes optics what it is.

By late teens and early 20s, they are mostly complete and well formed, managing their social and physical realities pretty well, even with the lumps, bumps, sticky spots and sharp edges, and ready for something new, exciting and challenging, such as the Elysian Fields, aliens among us, life after death, the transmogrification of the soul, out of body experiences, mind control, the new world order, and the truth behind religion.

These people make a fine audience for a magician. They will applaud a classic magic trick smoothly done, and will ask you to mislead and fool them some more. And they vote. Politicians understand this. It’s part of what makes optics what it is.

The toughest audience are the kids 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 years old.

Orrin Frink is a Kennebunkport resident and can be reached at [email protected]

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