Hey, know what happened at CPAC this weekend? I sure do. Apparently a bunch of has-beens said the stuff they said back when we cared more about them, for the most part. Also we discovered for the first time that white supremacists in the movement long for the good ole days of Jim Crow and the Republican Party’s only problem is messaging. Clearly we need massive coverage of this phony news event, which up until a few years ago could come and go like the proverbial ghost in the night with only FOX News and a wisp of media attention.
Yeah, I’m a little bit cranky and it’s Monday, but somebody has to question all this attention. Now, I get that someone like Dave Weigel does this for a living, so he obviously should be there reporting. It’s his beat, his specialization. But dozens of discrete items in my RSS feed for days? Really? Quite a few sources find this blow-fest absolutely newsworthy with seemingly little pushback that I can see. So here’s the argument against all this attention.
- The CPAC audience isn’t representative of the conservative base.
- Their straw poll is pretty much worthless. Come on, Rand Paul is not going to be the 45th President of the United States. Neither was Mitt Romney in 2008, or Ron Paul in 2012. My guess is that Rand Paul’s campaign ends about when the filing deadline for his Senate re-election comes up, and he’ll maybe beat his dad’s numbers in the primaries before then. But, you know, it’s just not going to happen.
- Nobody really cares about the thoughs shared by Mitt Romney, Palin, Rick Santorum, or whatever other losers showed up to take a defeat lap this year. Santorum is the only one of these three who might conceivably run for president in three years, but the idea that he’d be well positioned in that contest is laughable. Santorum was so many choices removed from first or second in 2012, he was sort of the last other man standing by the time the primaries occurred. His second fifteen minutes are nearly done. 2016 will see him a decade out of public office, with that many more questionable utterances and sartorial choices inbetween. All three are merely trying to extend their time in the limelight, and there’s no reason to humor them.
- Any liberal who writes about Sarah Palin at this point in history would be better off just sitting in their chair for an hour playing internet Hearts. That would be a more productive use of time than writing about Sarah Palin. She’s like the Westboro Baptist Church at this point. The word is out, the verdict has been delivered, critical mass has long been attained in the fight against them, and liberals who “keep the pressure up” are merely helping feed the sense of controversy the shockingly small fan groups of these entities cherish. The Palins don’t even cut the mustard on cable reality television anymore. Either it’s lazy people writing stories or desperate people trying to find something, anything, interesting going on there. But really.
- Every speech–every speech–was chock full of boilerplate red-meat attacks. It wasn’t like we didn’t get enough of them over the last year, where there was this never-ending presidential election, now, right? It was deja-vu to such an extent that they probably just delivered the same ones they did five months ago.
- The two conservative Republicans who might actually have some strong appeal among non-rightwing voters weren’t even invited to participate. Given how focused the event was on the presidency, that is silly. Could you imagine a Democratic 2016 forum that didn’t invite Hillary Clinton or, let’s say, Andrew Cuomo to participate?
Admittedly, the Scott Terry white supremacy story is awful, and bizarre, and newsworthy in its own right. But this is my point. I have no objection to covering legitimately newsworthy events that happen at CPAC. But it doesn’t seem like very many actually newsworthy things actually happened at CPAC! But we got volumes of coverage because it’s CPAC!! It’s now a bona-fide press event like a party convention. Clearly this is because it’s been built up that way deliberately, but the reason why Scott Terry popped so much is probably because, well, it’s really just an event where the same people we always see say the same things they always say. Why don’t we just go back to the way it was?
Victory in NYC for liberty-loving soda drinkers. To politicians with too much time on their hands we say: Govt, stay out of my refrigerator!Via. Now don’t get me wrong, Palin still doesn’t know anything substantive about this issue — or any semi-related issue — and is an ignorance-proud twit to boot, but at least she knows what a soft drink *is*. I think.
This doesn’t make sense to me:
Romney’s aides — resigned to the current news cycle until after the Olympics end — said in interviews this week that they see a safe landing: The vice presidential announcement, followed up by the Republican convention, offer Romney a chance to retake control over his own narrative.
And this squares with the “bland, white guy” approach how? Either these guys are stupid–which is a possibility that can’t be ignored in the light of current events–or they’re pulling a fast one on just about everyone. The latter makes more sense if you give them the benefit of the doubt. Picking Rob Portman as VP will provide Romney with some amount of press attention, but if he’s looking for something like a Palin-level media-political earthquake, he is sorely mistaken. When Palin was selected she had no reputation as a right-wing attack dog (“with lipstick”), she was known as a young governor with some independent reformist tendencies that could have been interesting (like oil socialism!) had they played out. Not really all that radical a selection on paper, but not exactly like the names bandied about, Tom Ridge, Pawlenty, Lieberman. The reason she was selected was because she was a “game changer,” and McCain aides figured that selecting a complete unknown would make the media go nuts, and change the contours of the race. It did–it took away McCain’s central argument and saddled him with a running mate hopelessly out of her depth. But it worked tactically because of an incredulous, “Who the hell is she?!” reaction from the media that immediately scoured everything about her, and found a number of hooks for interesting stories.
If Romney plays it safe, he’ll pick either Portman or Pawlenty. Both of whom are well-known to the press, unknown to the country, and suffer from lukewarm popularity in their own states (according to a bunch of polls, 1/3 of Ohio voters like Portman, 1/3 do not, and fully 1/3 have no opinion). The press’s reaction would likely be one of anticlimax–after a frankly insane choice last time, picking a dull but competent running mate will attract modest attention, and since both men are well-enough known to the press, there just won’t be much reason to kick into overdrive. The contours of the race would not be altered by much, though picking Kelly Ayotte could plausibly swing New Hampshire over to Mitt. I just don’t see how picking an unexciting, expected choice is going to result in a news frenzy.
On the other hand, let’s say that Romney is planning to perfect the concept that McCain tried–find someone unexpected and energizing, only someone who isn’t deeply ignorant and a drag on the ticket. Given how solid the conventional wisdom is for a bland pick, a Nikki Haley selection would provoke a lot of attention. Haley wouldn’t exactly win over the country, though it could scramble the race for a while, get the Tea Hordes all riled up again. Or perhaps he could bite the bullet and just name Republican Senate nominee Ted Cruz to the slot. I’m assured he’s a genius, and since Tea Stars like Rubio don’t do anything there anywhere, why not fast-track him? Successful government to the Tea Party just means applying the same principles regardless of effect, so what does experience have to do with it? Or maybe even Condi Rice, whose only talent is in remaining popular despite being one of the worst high-level staffers in the Bush Administration! (Well, no, because she’s pro-choice.) But you get my point. It’s not just the media, it’s practically everyone who’s convinced that Romney will pick one of a handful of bland, boring, white pols because he’s completely risk-averse. It would be a masterstroke if he’d set all that up just to shock them with a VP pick. But in general, Team Romney isn’t all that big on elaborate strategies or secret plans, preferring mostly to fumble about from one thing to another. So…I don’t expect it to happen. But it could! And if he goes this route, it could pay off…for as long as it paid off for John McCain, at least.
Great observation by E.D. Kain:
Romney won tonight, and I suspect that Palin picked the losing team on purpose. She plays the underdog well. This way she can be in that seat regardless of whether its Romney or Obama in the White House next year. The perpetual underdog, forever whining at the margins. She’s shrewd enough to see what Newt’s campaign represents – the resurgent grassroots conservatism that is propping it up; the remnants of the anti-establishment Tea Party, or at least that sentiment. It’s a sentiment of loss – of preservation against all odds.
See, Palin doesn’t want to win. She doesn’t even want her guy to win or her cause to win. There’s more to gain from losing. That’s her entire shtick, and she knows it.
I can’t remember the last time I wrote anything about Palin, which isn’t a bad thing. But I have to say, it’s been pretty fascinating to vaguely follow what she’s been up to, to follow this downward slope to the end. It’s pretty clear that Palin wants to be famous for being famous, to be a Britney Spears/Kim Kardashian type who was always being buzzed about, whose life has every detail just relentlessly picked apart and obsessed about. That’s why she gave up her post for a reality show that failed. But it turned out that Palin as a person really wasn’t all that interesting, even to people more kindly disposed to her than I ever was. Her talent wasn’t an overpowering personality, it was that she could work people into a constant lather. That was her one skill, and why I figured that a likely unsuccessful Palin presidential run was inevitable. In fact, Palin would have been the biggest “business plan” candidate of them all! She’d be able to work people into a frenzy without having to actually be president, playing to all her strengths and none of her weaknesses. It would have been the smartest possible move for her to make, but Palin turned out to be seriously deluded: she thought her most marketable trait was her personality, and has been abundantly proven wrong. This belated attempt to insert herself into the election feels half-hearted and pitiful by comparison to the old stuff. Almost defeated. Which fits I guess.
- This post about Herman Cain reminds me of Mike Huckabee ca. 2007: they both came out of nowhere to have a fairly prominent role in the race, and then didn’t bother to actually staff up with professionals to take them the rest of the way. After all, if they got this far… But at the very least Huckabee can rest on the excuse that he had no money at all to hire such people. Cain’s a rich businessman. Then again, my guess is he’s running for veep anyway.
- Matt Yglesias’s appreciation of Steve Jobs seems about right to me. Jobs wasn’t necessarily an innovator, as there were MP3 players before the iPod, phones that played music before the iPhone, and so on. But he was able to make the experience of using these things seamless, appealing and fun. Which puts him ahead of Bill Gates in my opinion, who also is not a huge innovator but also lacked Jobs’s particular skills, and succeeded despite widespread antipathy toward his company and products. Which makes the Jobs cult make some sense to me–he got successful selling people stuff they actually like, not with some admittedly impressive leveraging of PC markets.
- For all the hoopla around Sarah Palin not running for president, is anyone actually surprised by it at this point? I’m actually asking.
- No kidding. I’ve been informed by smart people I was wrong about that. I’m unconvinced.
- UK Prime Minister David Cameron would have you believe that, among other things, he’s a super-environmentalist. But his actions to date suggest he only cares about austerity. In the case of a critical climate-change project, the rest of the world gets to suffer along with his constituents.
- Scott Brown is a dick. Always has been, if you looked closely enough.
Gloria Steinem tells it straight:
We were curious what the feminist icon thinks about women like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, who are not housewives, yet support traditional values and oppose abortion. “They’re there to oppose the women’s movement. That’s their job,” Steinem said, accusing the two politicians of “selling out” the women’s movement. “That’s just the way it is; it’s inevitable. Think about Phyllis Schlafly; there have always been women like this.”
Later, during a speech, Steinem elaborated. “I can testify, the very same things people were telling me 30 or 40 years ago — it’s against nature, you can’t do this, my wife is not interested — all these [people] are now saying, well, feminism used to be necessary, but it’s not anymore. That is the new form of obstruction. And, of course, it’s accompanied by the other natural thing that happens if you have a big social justice movement: You make jobs for people who sell it out. So we have Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, who are on my list of ‘the women only a man could love.’”
Palin and Bachmann are what results from when a movement gets co-opted by self-interested parties for their own reasons. They only count as feminist if you reduce the concept to some sort of generic assertive attitude, which was not exactly the point of the enterprise going in. A lot of that shift has to do with consumerism. Rest assured, in a decade there’ll be all sorts of people trying to make money by exploiting the gay rights movement to sell shit, and there’ll surely be reactionary conservative politicians tying themselves to Harvey Milk’s legacy. You’ve been warned. ‘Tis the way of things.
How’s everyone going to celebrate the big anniversary this weekend? And by big anniversary, I mean the two year mark since Sarah Palin heroically quit her post as Governor of Alaska with that weird, incomprehensible speech. Remember that? Seems like it was only yesterday. It’s great we get a day off for that, as it’s a landmark well worth celebrating.
Anyway, have some fun everyone, and I hope no dead bad folks wind up visiting you this weekend:
Tossup between posting that song and posting Soundgarden.
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