Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Shape of an Unearned Smirk! Form of a Dweeb!

I finally understand why the Times has William Kristol and David Brooks write columns on back to back days: they're the Wonder Twins of idiotic political discourse. Much like Zan and Jayna were added merely to appease the nebulous Exxor lobby (look it up), Kristol and Brooks exist on the editorial pages to appease conservatives, who still routinely call for the death of each and every individual even remotely connected to the paper.

Need anymore proof than me just saying so? Fine, spoil sport, I give you first Bill Kristol's "A Heartbeat Away," which aside from being a ridiculous argument also sounds like the worst Boyz II Men song ever.

Will that coverage continue to be as belittling of Palin as much of it has been so far? Probably. It’s not just that many in the media don’t like her politics and don’t identify with her socially or culturally. They’re offended that McCain picked Palin without, so to speak, consulting them. The establishment media take pride in their role as gatekeeper to our political process and social discourse.

Bill Kristol writes for the Weekly Standard and , I say again, the New York Times. He won't admit it, but he is one of the gatekeepers. Then again, this is a specialty of rich, deluded jerkoffs, their being in love with the idea that they are in touch with the common man.

So the gatekeeper media’s reaction has been: Who is Sarah Palin to suddenly show up on the national stage?

Funny thing about that: that was my reaction too. Actually, because I'm truly in touch with the common man my reaction was a little more blue. As in: who the fuck is Sarah Palin to suddenly show up on the national stage? And considering that maybe .0001 percent of the population knew who the governor of Alaska was before Palin was made the veep nominee, I don't think the media's reaction was out of line.

Thus Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of the venerable New Republic for the last 34 years, wrote a blog post Thursday while he was “still reeling from last night’s malign hysteria at the Republican convention. This is a rotten crowd, even the pious Christian Huckabee and certainly Mayor Giuliani and the aspiring vice president, Sarah Palin.”

The New Republic is stupid, but Peretz is spot on here and Kristol makes no attempt at correcting Peretz. Want to know why? He can't, because those speeches were calls for blood, angry howls at a government that those people fucked up royally.

Despite reeling from the speeches, Peretz was able to “give [Palin] her due: she is pretty like a cosmetics saleswoman at Macy’s.” He continued that it was “good to see that the Palin family didn’t torture poor Bristol, at least in the open.” And he concluded: “Yes, please God, do bless America and rescue us from these swilly people.”

That Macy's line is gold, and is much better than the alternative narrative of "OMFG PALIN'S A BABE FAP FAP FAP FAP!" Though I like going a bit farther, so I subscribe more to the Exiled's Eileen Jones's takedown of the "Palin's a hottie" meme.

The Obama campaign, which would like to get votes from some of these very Americans, isn’t going to follow Peretz down that rabbit hole. To the degree they have to address the Palin question, they’ll stick to the argument they made in their first reaction to the Palin announcement: “Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency.”

Well duh. If one of the media approved talking points about Barack Obama is that he lacks experience, one can't possibly expect them to get a dig in after a selection of a person with even less experience.

According to Safire’s Political Dictionary,

Truly the go-to guide of a man of the people

the “heartbeat away from the presidency” locution may date from 1952, when the Democratic nominee, Adlai Stevenson, attacked the Republican V.P. candidate, the 39-year old Richard Nixon, “who asks you to place him a heartbeat from the presidency.”

What a curious comparison to make here. If I were a politician, the last president I would want to be compared to is Richard Milhous(e) Nixon. The man who turned the Oval Office into a gin soaked nightmare, the man who recorded himself saying that you can't trust the Jews, the man who resigned instead of being impeached. Yes, what a wonderful comparison for Sarah Palin. Hell, not only that, Nixon had served in the House and Senate, so at least the paranoid fruitcake had some experience.

A half-century before, William McKinley’s campaign manager, Mark Hanna, alarmed by the prospect of the 41-year-old Teddy Roosevelt as the V.P. nominee in 1900, is reported to have warned “that there is only one life between the Vice President and the Chief Magistracy of the nation.”

Replace "curious" in the first sentence a paragraph earlier with "fucking retarded" and that's what I think about this thought. Teddy Roosevelt was more accomplished at age 41 than any of us will ever be in our entire lives. For starters, he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He led the Rough Riders (and oddly enough, the Ruff Ryders. Seriously) and was then the governor of a small, insignificant state called "New York," wherever that is. As DMX said when he heard this argument, "I knew Theodore Roosevelt, motherfucker, and that bitch ain't no fucking Theodore Roosevelt."

Should voters be alarmed by a relatively young or inexperienced vice-presidential candidate? No. Since 1900, five vice presidents have succeeded to the presidency during their term in office: Teddy Roosevelt in 1901, Calvin Coolidge in 1923, Harry Truman in 1945, Lyndon Johnson in 1963, and Gerald Ford in 1974. Teddy Roosevelt took over at age 42, becoming our youngest president, and he’s generally thought to have proved up to the job. Truman was V.P. for less than three months and had been kept in the dark by Franklin Roosevelt about such matters as the atom bomb — and he’s generally thought to have risen to the occasion. Character, judgment and the ability to learn seem to matter more to success as president than the number of years one’s been in Washington.

Coolidge was lieutenant governor and governor of Massachusetts back when it mattered, Truman was a Senator for ten years, Lydon Johnson was the master of the Senate and Gerald Ford was a fucking dullard and was also in the House of Representatives. Of all the people listed, only Calvin Coolidge didn't spend much time in Washington before he became veep.

But — shocking to say! — both Obama and McCain also took political considerations into account in making their selections.

How is this shocking? Is this a joke I'm not getting?

McCain didn’t just pick a politician who could appeal to Wal-Mart Moms. He picked a Wal-Mart Mom. Indeed, he picked someone who, in 1999, as Wasilla mayor, presided over a wedding of two Wal-Mart associates at the local Wal-Mart. “It was so sweet,” said Palin, according to The Anchorage Daily News. “It was so Wasilla.”

I just started working at a Trader Joe's. One of the people who's been there longer than me told my orientation group that he met his girlfriend at Trader Joe's. Hands up if you think a Mayor Obama presiding over the wedding of two Trader Joe's employees would draw sneers of liberal elitism from Bill Kristol.

A Wasilla Wal-Mart Mom a heartbeat away? I suspect most voters will say, No problem. And some — perhaps a decisive number — will say, It’s about time.

Yes, because the experiment with the president we can drink a beer with worked so goddamn well. Fuck it, what's the other Wonder Twin have to say?

None of us have ever lived through an election at a time when 80 percent of voters think the country is headed in the wrong direction. But now that we’re in the thick of it, a few things are clear. From voters, the demand is: Surprise Me Most.

Jesus tapdancing Christ. Really, David? Not Fix the Economy, End the War, Give Us Healthcare or Save Us? Surprise Me is something you say when you're drunk and you're presented with toppings for a hot dog.

Last winter, Barack Obama succeeded by running a weird campaign. He wasn’t just a normal politician aiming for office, he was going to cleanse the country of the baby-boom culture war mentality. In his soaring speeches, he denounced the mores of both the Clinton and Bush eras and made an argument for unity and hope over endless partisan warfare.

Only in the world of David Brooks, a man who I imagine can't hold his liquor, could Barack Obama's campaign be characterized as "weird." It hasn't been conventional, but it's not as if his supporters raised money to launch a blimp equipped with a mind control device.

But over the course of the spring, Obama’s campaign got less weird. The crucial pivot came when he failed to seize on McCain’s offer to do a series of joint town-hall meetings across the country. Those meetings would have elevated the race and shown that Obama is willing to take risks in order to truly change the way things are done.

Or he realized that plays directly into John McCain's strengths, that town halls are bullshit with carefully selected participants and that it would most likely get bogged down in petty details about which pre-screened participants to let in.

Instead, Obama’s speeches became more conventional, more policy-specific and more orthodox. His Denver acceptance speech was different from his Iowa speeches. It was more traditionally anti-Republican and pro-Democratic. In the speech’s crucial contrast Obama declared: “It’s time for them to own their failure. It’s time for us to change America. You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.”

Obama, a man who was mocked for not providing substance to his soaring rhetoric, is now being taken to task for having too much substance in possibly the most important speech of his political career. While it's true it would have been weird if Obama had declined to add policy proposals into his convention speech, can you imagine how savaged he would be by pretty much everybody? Not to mention, it's not as if Obama is running as some kind of independent. He's a Democrat, so of course he's going to say that Democrats have better ideas.

But by campaigning in this traditional way, Obama ceded the weirdness edge to McCain.

And man is that guy weird. You ever seen his wife? It's like the Botox has spread to her brain.

The old warrior jumped right in. Think about how weird last week was. The Republican convention was one long protest against the way the Republicans themselves have run Washington. McCain’s convention speech barely mentioned his own party. His vice-presidential nominee came out of the blue and seems totally unlike the regular crowd of former eighth-grade class presidents who normally dominate public life. McCain’s campaign ideology, exemplified in a new ad released on Monday, is not familiar conservatism. It’s maverickism — against the entrenched powers and party orthodoxies.

This is not weird. This is evil and cynical and a complete inability to own up to the failures of your party and your ideology. And yet he's campaigning based on the tax cutting no matter what, keeping the war going, overturning Roe v. Wade, drilling ideology. The maverick McCain is as dead as Cindy McCain's ability to wipe that creepy smile off her face. And as for Palin, Tex nailed it on the phone a couple days ago when he called her an "organically grown party hack," right down to her roots in the P.T.A. The only thing David Brooks got remotely right in this paragraph was in calling McCain old.

And it all worked. McCain got a huge postconvention bounce in the polls.

"There's a sucker born every minute," etc. etc.

Now the campaign has become a battle between two different definitions of change. The Obama camp has become the champion of policy change — after eight years of failed Bush-McCain policies, it is time for different, Democratic ones.

What crazy idea, especially in light of the Apocalypse staring us in the eyes.

The McCain campaign is the champion of systemic change — after two decades of bickering and self-dealing, its time to shake up the whole system in order to get things done.

By implying things like Barack Obama wants to "lose" in Iraq, whatever the hell that means, so he can win the election. By hiring students of Karl Rove to run your campaign. By picking a veep choice who's in bed with the Religious Right. Yep, sounds like the Change Train is being conducted by John S. McCain.

The Obama change is more responsible and specific, but it has all the weirdness of a Brookings Institution report. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) The McCain promise of change is comprehensive and vehement, though it’s hard to know how it would actually work in office.

If David Brooks writes "weird" one more time... And let's not forget the idiocy of his idea here, that somehow John McCain's idea for change is comprehensive, despite sticking to Republican orthodoxy when he even bothers to talk about issues.

It will still be hard for McCain to win in this environment, but his emphasis on broad systemic change may appeal to swing voters.

See above Phineas Taylor Barnum quote.

Independent voters do not believe the country’s problems can be solved merely by replacing Republicans with Democrats. They cast a pox on both houses. That’s why they’re independents.

David Brooks obviously doesn't get out much. People are independents because they thing it's cool to talk about how all politicians are just power hungry and corrupt. It doesn't matter if they can't make a cogent argument to you about this theory, they just like to say it. I just had this very conversation on Monday. Instead of researching a party which they think would fit their values, they just tick off nothing and expect to be congratulated for their boldness. No, bold is registering as a Green in 2001, when everyone is still fuming about Ralph Nader. Yeah, fuck yourselves independents.

Furthermore, the maverick theme allows McCain to talk directly about character. Obama can hint at his values when he describes his tax cuts and health care plans, but he is indirect. Most voters, especially ones who decide late, vote on character over policies.

Is that supposed to be a good thing? These "gut decisions" about who you vote for based on some hazy definition of "character"? We don't know these people. Not in a way where we can truly judge their character. Who would have known Nixon was an anti-Semitic paranoid from his stump speeches? Or that Bill Clinton would never keep it in his pants based on his town hall meetings. This is why an election needs to be about issues. If you're so indecisive you can't tell the difference between the guy with policy prescriptions and the guy who tells you he'll just wing it, but trust him and he'll throw the bums out, then you get what you deserve with that vote. Unfortunately for me, I end up getting it too, so hey, don't fuck it up.

If I were advising the candidates, I’d tell them to double down on weirdness.

I am going to kill you...

Obama needs to occasionally criticize his own side.

No thank you. There's a whole political party doing that right now. They're called the Republicans, perhaps you've heard of them?

If he can’t take on his own party hacks, he’ll never reclaim the mantle of systemic change. Specifically, he needs to attack the snobs who are savaging Sarah Palin’s faith and family. Many liberals claim to love working-class families, but the moment they glimpse a hunter with an uneven college record, they hop on chairs and call for disinfectant.

When I took a speech writing class in college with a brilliant professor who used to write speeches for Al Gore (yeah, I'm big time), he gave us a packet for the learnings. One thing the packet taught us was what not to do, such as, oh say, a straw man argument. This is a textbook, or should I say in this case, packet, straw man. This is also David Brooks once again lionizing the common man he's never met, as in the case of his trucker love.

Obama needs to attack Bill Maher for calling her a stewardess and the rest of the coastal condescenders.

That is so stupid my brain almost shut down after I read it. Bill Maher is a comedian, not an Obama staffer. And let's not forget the first thing Obama did when faced with Bristol Palin's pregnancy was to unequivocally say he would stay away from it and reminded everyone he was born to a teenage mother. The first thing Sarah Palin did at the RNC was to disparage Obama's experience as a community organizer. It's people like Sarah Palin who are always first to tell me I'm not living in the real America, so maybe she should quit condescending me.

If I were McCain, I’d make the divided government argument explicit. The Republicans are intellectually unfit to govern right now, but balancing with Democrats, they might be able to do some good. I’d have McCain tell the country that he looks forward to working with Congressional Democrats, that he is confident they can achieve great things together.

God this is so frustrating. How can McCain work with Congressional Democrats if he no longer agrees with them on anything? In 2000 I would believe this, but for the millionth fucking time, John McCain is not the man he once was.

The candidates probably won’t take this kind of advice. But remember: Weirdness wins. Surprise me most.

You want surprise? Go to the glory hole off I-15 you motherfucking closet case. You know what David Brooks? Fucking kill yourself. An hero. Just quit writing this inane, insipid garbage. Donate your salary to charity, because you aren't earning it.

Wonder Twin powers activate!

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