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We Report... You Deride

Saturday, March 06, 2004  
Babbling Brooks

Kevin Drum is much more generous than I am. My chain of thought about David Brooks's column was:

1. What a total waste of space. A Times column is a precious thing-- it can be used to educate or persaude or enrage-- and this jackoff just wastes it.

2. What a slanted presentation. Kerry tries to come off like a regular guy, but he doesn't try to pretend he isn't a blueblood. It's W. who wants to claim he's a man of the people.

3. If you write the column evenhandedly, you stupid bastard-- referring to both W. and Kerry-- you've got a fairly clever, insightful column.

4. Your s second paragraph-- that rich people don't become prime minister of England-- is 100% right. And if you'd think about why that is, you'd have a really clever piece.

Under the parliamentary system, the Prime Minister is the majority leader of the party with the most seats in the lower house of the legislature. It's like putting the Speaker of the House of Representatives in charge of the country and the minority leader as the opponent.

I have issues with the parliamentary system of government. The big ones are the lack of checks and balance (the upper house can't really overrule, and there's no executive branch). Since the leader of the party rarely changes, the ooprtunity for sweeping change doesn't really exist... imagine if the only candidates for president for about 20 years were Tip O'Neill or Bob Michel.

But the nice thing about the system: Since any member of parliament can become Prime Minister if their party is in power and if they can get enough support from other members, all MPs are (in theory) equal, and you only need to raise enough money to win one seat.

In 2002, a winning congressional candidate raised an average of $966,670 and spent $898,164. And that is a lot of money. But it's peanuts compared to a Senate seat. Getting one of those required you to raise $5,029,904 and spend $4,812,159.

And the presidency? Bob Graham raised $5 million. Dennis Kucinich had $7 million. Dick Gephardt raised $20 million. John Edwards spent $22 million. So did Wesley Clark. John Kerry raised $32 million. Howard Dean spent $47 million.

And good old W. has raised $145 million.

It costs a lot of money to run a national campaign in England, too. But that money is being raised on behalf of the party and anyone who can become leader of the party has access to it. If you can just get the money to become an MP, you're on your way.

And that's the real reason you don't need to be a blueblood to become Prime Minister of Great Britain, but you do need to be super-rich to become President of the United States, Mr. Brooks-- you lamebrained, sophomoric, lamebrained wingnut dipshit.

10:12 PM

There He Goes Again....

Well, folks, we blew it: The Democrats lost Michal J. Totten again. Totten-- lauded as one of the most important populist voices in the country--intends to support W. in the election.

His announcement continues the losing streak. Totten believed that it was essential to beat W. in 2000, but was so disturbed by Gore's campaign that he voted for Nader in protest. His disgust at Bill Clinton's lack of character forced him to vote for Dole in 1996 and Perot in 1992. Dukakis's stance on defense drove him asay in 1988; Mondale's intention to support a tax increase did it in 1984. And Carter's handling of Irad in 1980 and his lack of experience in foreign policy in 1976, and of course McGovern...

Totten is, as you might guess, one of those clinical cases who guys who consistently voices the opinions of the Republic party, but insists that he's a Democrat, an independent or someone who doesn't consistently follow anyone's political norms. To support his contention, Totten's home page includes critical raves from liberal icons like Andrew Sullivan, James Lileks and Roger L. Simon .

Sadly, he took down the one from his employer, David Horowitz, because it would be too much of a tipoff. Totten is a writer for Front Page Magazine , where he serves as the "Fox Democrat".

A friend of mine--a licensed psychotherapist too, just like Charles Krauthammer-- has termed these folks "Closeted Republicans Avowing Progressivism". Not sure if it's clinically accurate, but I do like the acronym.

Totten's stands on issues evolve, using storylines akin to the WWF plots where the good wrestler goes bad. He'll kick an issue off by taking a centrist position, but his essay will admit that he has "misgivings" or "concerns" that might force him to change his view. Veteran readers know these words mean a flip-flop is on the horizon, and then you can debate on which thing is going to do it and what rationale he'll use.

Here, for example, is the start of his primary storyline. Totten is one of those guys that Robert Ringer's Winning Through Intimidation described as a "Type Two": "I didn't want to screw you", he'll tell you, "but what happened made it unavoidable." And unlike some of the other C.R.A.P. I read, he's really longwinded--and he feels the need to create different excuses to exclude different candidates:

Joe Lieberman? Too moralizing. Kerry? Hasn't explained his foreign policy.. He doesn't think Wesley Clark is really a democrat, so he's out. Howard Dean and Al Sharpton are beneath him. Dennis Kucinich is "the Pat Buchanan of the Democrats".

So if he wins and "as long as he doesn't backpedal" on his 2002 op-ed in the Washington Post, Totten supports Edwards.

And, of course, if Edwards had somehow pulled it off, he would have backpedaled to the point where he couldn't be supported. Or maybe Totten would have explained that you don't change commanders in a war.

Or maybe he would have explained that since he liked both Edwards and Bush on foreign policy (his #1 issue) that he felt free to look to their stands on his #2 concern-- and there, regrettably, he found Edwards wanting.

It's almost a shame that Edwards didn't win-- the rationalization probably would have been masterful.

I know I'm sandblasting a cracker, but I'm going to try to focus on more C.R.A.P.-- maybe Instaposter and certainly MickeyMaus-- because it's important that we begin to distinguish these folks, so that we're not taken in by them.

What we say and do-- not what we claim, or what other people think--is going to be the theme of the 2004 election. So its important to get the currency straight.

6:31 PM

Wednesday, March 03, 2004  
The Race is Dead-- Long Live the New Race

Here's a quick "heads-up" for the Kerry campaign: pick your VP candidate fast, folks.

The media loves to fixate on style, sizzle, process and gossip (because it's easy to write)-- and they need to have something to write about every day. That's why their absolutely most favorite thing in the whole wide world is a horse race.

Horse races give them an easy story-- one they can do almost every day-- for months. Better yet, the "who's ahead, who's behind, who's making a move, who's thrown a shoe" angle gives them a frame--a built-in justification-- for airing all the garbage that Matt Sludge, MickeyMaus and the other wingnut sleazebags dig up.

If you write about what John Kerry did in grade school, you look infantile. But writing "Peggy Nooner says the Pope told her that John Kerry's third-grade classmate says he used to dip her paigtails in the inkwell-- 'Dick' Morris says this may cost him the womens' vote" almost sounds like a legitimate story, doesn't it?

By winning the nomination months before they wanted it to end, Kerry took candy from a baby. They're going to want to replace it with something--and what they'll choose (because they always do) is the VP Selection Derby. Until Kerry fills the #2 slot, not one word about substance will get mentioned-- it'll all be about who was seen with who and what this campaign functionary said at a lunch.

Meanwhile, W. will be spending half a jillion to run ads accusing Kerry of holding Vince Foster's arms while Hillary put the gun to his head.

So do it fast, guys, and do it right. Drag it out and you'll give the media time to convince itself (via its internal feedback loop) that the only life-form in the universe who can help you beat W. is John Edwards.

So when you don't pick the guy (because he's a lightweight and he goes bland when he's in front of an audience larger than 250 and his people are idiots) theyll get really mad at you for not doing what they told you to do-- and tear your choice to shreds, no matter how good he or she is.

My suggestion-- because he's geographically balanced, gives you more gravitas on foreign issues and would cause nightmares for W. in Florida (he's been governor and senator)-- would be Bob Graham.

But anyone will do, as long as you minimize the leaks, don't pick anyone with baggage and get me a name before April 1, OK?

11:08 AM

Monday, March 01, 2004  
Nature of the Beast

Atrios is rightly p.o.ed about Elizabeth Bumiller's behavior at the debate and the Times's employment standards. And the more I looked at her background, the more pissed I get.

Why on earth was this woman at the debate? Why was she given the title of "White House Correspondent"? What experience or qualifications does she have to justify her position-- which is, after all, to report on the seat of government in the most powerful nation in the world for the newspaper of record? Let's walk through it, shall we?

Her bachelors and masters are both in journalism, which tells us she has no grounding in any intellectual discipline. Given how skullcrackingly dull journalism classes are, we can infer that she probably isn't too bright, as well. Obviously ambitious, though-- the Northwestern-Columbia pedigree is about as distinguished as it gets.

She took her two degrees and went to the "Style" section of Washington Post--which, in the sexist era, was called the "Women's Page". After six years there, she went to India for a few years, where she wrote a book about what it's like to be a woman in India.

When she left India, she went to Japan-- where she wrote a book about what it's like to be a woman in Japan. Took a few years off (let's guess, to raise a family) and then got back in the profession as a correspondent in NYC.

Soon afterward, she built on the resume by moving to the country's other nationally-known paper. After a few years on the Metro desk, she got to run the City Hall Bureau for two years. Admittedly it's a big unfair to characterize someone's tenure from looking at results from a search engine, but the stories seem to be mostly about art museums and decency panels and Donna Hanover.

In 2000, the Times put her on the campaign trail, covering Laura Bush. After Long Dong Silver and Renchburg issued their little ruling, Elizabeth Bumiller became a White House correspondent.

Meaning no disrespect to feminism, gender issues or equal opportunities, but what the hell kind of preparation is this? No degree in history or economics or history-- or even philosophy or art history? No assignments to cover a legislature, or the chief executive of a state? No "beat" assignments--where you have to cover the subject every day, develop sources, analyze events and adjust your perspective? No stint in the Washington Bureau for a second-tier newspaper-- or a supporting cast role in the Times bureau? Just a background in feature writing--and mostly about women and womens' issues-- and off you go to the White House?

Makes you wonder if everyone in the Times lineup is so underqualified for their task. It's almost enough to make you develop a higher appreciation for the media criticism of Andrew Sullivan.

10:35 PM

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