Monday, October 18, 2010
The Silly Season Is Also
Mean, Dumb & Delusional
A Simple Rule: Don't shake hands with people who hate you.
THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE. Although polls try to suggest there is, there's no grand perspective that conveys what's going on in politics, the media, and the electorate at large.
All we have are fragments. all of them sharp and deadly in an overall environment that is hostile to the point of murder. I've got a handful of fragments to reference, but here's my context: an underground world documented by the National Geographic Channel.
The Cave of Swords, Naica, Mexico
We're talking thickets of killing blades in every direction. Covered in one of the most riveting Nat Geo documentaries I've ever seen: Into the Lost Crystal Caves. For once, the story is as much about the courage of the explorers as it is about the importance of their objective:
It takes genuine bravery to enter such dangerous territory. (I urge one and all to explore the host of photos, videos, and other content associated with the documentary. It's eye-opening and mind-blowing. Pedantic, pedestrian-seeming geologists really do care enough about minerals to put their lives on the line for them. What we can only call passion. The Chilean miners aren't the only courageous ones of the underground. And the song I linked earlier isn't only for them.)
Metaphor established. We're seeing something unprecedented this year. An incursion by private citizens into a realm that is reflexively hostile and generally fatal to all but the purest Narcissists. I've resisted commenting on particulars of late because it all gets so ugly and mean and irrelevant to the larger issues as it rolls like a tumbril toward the Guillotine of personal assassination we call the democratic process.
But it is time to take note of the environment private citizen politicians are daring to enter -- the Cave of Swords -- and to acknowledge the bravery of the unlikely victors and even of those who are likely to be done in via ridicule and life-destroying slander en route.
Something I should save for the end but can't. (I try to sequence things in logical builds, but I also obey my intuition...) I'm referring to the appalling interview Chris Wallace conducted with Carly Fiorina on Fox News Sunday yesterday. I've heard the man describe his interviewing technique on multiple occasions, particularly in response to the question, "What do you do when a politician won't answer the question?" He replied that his practice is to follow up one, maybe two times, just enough to establish that the question isn't being answered, then move on. On Sunday, though, with Fiorina, he followed up not one, not two, not four, but six times on the same absolutely phony question: How was she going to make up for the 4 trillion dollar federal revenue shortfall created by her proposed tax cuts?
The mild-mannered, baby-faced Fox star seemed to be channelling his raving leftist father. He kept repeating, almost viciously at times, "4 trillion dollars" as if the figure had some absolute value. For anyone who knows anything about economics, it doesn't. It's just an annoyingly brainless exercise in the kind of static analysis that makes a joke of all liberal economics. Raise tax rates, revenues increase. Reduce tax rates, revenues decline. The analysis is static because it fails to recognize that changing tax rates alters behavior in the economy. Everything doesn't stand still in perpetuity the way the CBO is required to pretend it does. Which is why tax revenues increased when JFK cut taxes, when Reagan cut taxes, and when GWB cut taxes. And why tax revenues declined when FDR (and Hoover before him) increased taxes on the rich people who might otherwise have reinvested in the private economy.
Channelling Mad Man Mike WallaceI concede I was almost equally pissed at Fiorina for not raising the static analysis argument, but conservative politicians across the board seem unwilling to risk confounding the comprehension of voters on such a seemingly counter-intuitive point. She probably, private citizen that she is, has too many professional advisers at this point to remember that voters do possess common sense. And she's walking a tightrope with the wiftiest voters in the country, the airheads of California. Which is another reason why Chris Wallace's blatantly hostile interview raised my eyebrows. He knows she's running against the stupidest, most unqualified senator in the nation, in the weirdest electorate there is. Ask your gotcha question twice. But why six times?
What's his beef with Fiorina? (Aha! Why I began rather than ended with this.) He resents her as an amateur. Politics is for professionals. He'd rather spar pointlessly with a corrupt pro like Barney Frank than deal with an intruder like the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. She doesn't belong. Regardless of his own probably centrist-right-leaning political views. Her very appearance in the arena compels him to demonstrate the difference between an amateur clubfighter and a professional prizefighter. "I must break you."
This is the thing beyond ideology that animates the anti-Tea Party bias of the mass media and professional politicians and pundits in both parties. Professionals -- people who have made a lifelong living at some discipline, regardless of their actual competence -- don't like being challenged let alone taken down by amateurs. They dislike it so much it causes them to behave like amateurs themselves.
Thanks to Hotair for the following exemplary "fragments":
Harry Reid thinks he can get away with a flat-out lie because his opponent is a housewife. Never mind that the lie is easily exposed and readily available all across the Internet.
Meghan McCain (and her liberal colleagues on TV) sees no irony in slamming Christine O'Donnell because she hasn't accomplished anything and feels somehow "entitled." (See Mary Katherine Hamm's perfect tweet...)
Maureen Dowd thinks female Tea Party types invented the politics of mean. Dana Perino begs to differ.
Channelling Bill Bradley lecturing Clarence Thomas on what it means to be black, Charlie Crist lectures Marco Rubio on what it means to be Hispanic.
Rand Paul's opponent, Jack Conway, decided to attack Paul's Christian religious faith and family values, because all's fair in love, etc, and politics.
Except, it backfired. (See video above.)
Which brings us full circle. The founders didn't really mean for politics to be the province of professionals. What, after all, were the aristocrats of the British Empire and the courtiers of the European thrones? They didn't want Talleyrands. They wanted Washingtons, Jeffersons, and, yes, even low-born Franklins, who took time away from their real passions -- home, architecture, music, science, business, etc -- to participate in sustaining the republic.
For an absolute certainty, they never meant to create the government of the United States as an environment so hostile that mere contact with the intent to participate or influence it would call down the scathing fury of the elites like antibodies against disease.
This country does not belong to Maureen Dowd, Chris Wallace, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Brown (son of Pat Brown), and all the political whores (sorry Gretchen Carlson, Tom Brokaw, and all the neo-prigs of the left and right -- 'whore' is a word everybody knows and uses and you are its media definition, or does the rightwing cast of Fox & Friends have something exculpatory to share with the rest of us about their unbridled on-air enthusiasm for lefty 20th Century Fox movies like Avatar and Oliver Stone's Wall Street 2). The country does not belong to the media stars or the professional politicians. It belongs to us.
I was always uncomfortable with senate collegiality: "my good friend from Montana, my very good friend from West Virginia, with whom I disagree at times...) Yecch. It led to the moral contradiction of political debates in which candidates levelled the most horrific charges against one another, only to conclude with the honorable handshake at the end. But honor is not accomplished by a handshake. It can be betrayed by one, however. The handshake conveys acceptance of what has transpired previously.
If you're a narcissistic sociopath like most professional politicians, it may be acceptable to nod and smile at the vicious personal attacks of your opponent in the aspiration for high office. But that carries politics itself into the realm of the crystal caves. Not a place for ordinary, decent human beings. Only the Schumers, McCains (and progeny), Cuomos, Clintons, Kennedys, Pelosis, Wallaces, Dowds, and the legion of unscrupulous nouveau courtiers (Kerrys and Reids) can breathe that air.
Everyone else is gasping, at a loss. But for the few. I doff my hat to Rand Paul. You're right. Don't shake hands with a cobra. I bow low before Sarah Palin. You can spit in the eye of a spitting cobra, but you have the sense to wear glasses while doing so.
Sorry this has taken so long. My point is infinitesimal (not really). No matter how much you're tempted to join in the laughter at the Christine O'Donnells and Sharon Angles, give them credit for their almost unbelievable courage. Carly Fiorina is almost certainly twice as shrewd and competent as Chris Wallace. He's a talker and a critic. She's a doer and a maker. If he can make her look bad out of spite, snobbery, irrational hostility, and ruthless exploitation of his media platform advantage, what chance have the Angles, O'Donnells, and Palins?
Oh. That's right. A good chance. Sarah Palin isn't afraid of them. God, how terrifying that must be... to them.
Now. When will smart conservatives start recognizing that Sarah Palin has the most important credential of all? Bravery. We've asked for volunteers to invade the crystal caves of Washington politics. Would you? Would I? No. But there they are, advancing into the heat and peril of an environment that is unanimously determined to kill them. Could we at least vote for them, flawed and human and inexperienced as they may be? I think so.
P.S. I forgot the "delusional" part. Democrats are now beginning to pretend that they'll have a 2012 presidential electoral advantage if the Congress goes Republican. Why? Because Clinton got reelected after the bloodbath of 1994. Cool strategy eh? Except for one slight fatal contradiction. Dems today think a Republican congress would allow Obama to paint Republicans as obstructionist, the reason for no improvement in things like the economy. Problem is, that's not how Clinton got reelected. He took credit for Republican accomplishments like welfare reform, the balanced budget, and other improvements legislated by that Republican Congress. What will Obama do with a Republican Congress that seeks to overturn his policies on taxation, healthcare, and business regulation? Veto, veto, veto. Who will be the obstructionist then? In the fourth year of recession, he will suffer a repudiation worse even than Carter's.
Repudiation? I meant Refudiation. What happens when an entrenched authority encounters an, uh, snafu:
"I guess maybe you'll have to kill me." [beat] "It'll hurt if I do."
Purely metaphorical. Like the crystal cave thing. Only cooler.
Only Sarah has hair. You heard it here first.